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EULAs Don't Have To Suck

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the could-have-fooled-me dept.

Software 233

jfruhlinger writes "The ubiquitous EULA — reams of baffling text imposing draconian terms on software users — infuriate most Slashdot users and are routinely ignored by everyone else (until they suddenly cause trouble, of course). But it doesn't have to be that way. Several European countries are considering laws mandating user-friendly EULAs, and some companies provide them voluntarily."

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233 comments

Click-through GPL. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38088828)

Routinely ignored.

Re:Click-through GPL. (2)

flonker (526111) | more than 2 years ago | (#38088852)

I have to agree with AC here. WTF is up with click-through GPLs? You don't have to accept it, that's the whole point. Yet, you do have to accept it for the installer to function.

Re:Click-through GPL. (0)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089074)

You do have to accept it. The license is not optional on GPL software. The GPL is offering you the full source code to a program. It says you can do whatever you want with the program yourself, but if you want to redistribute it you must be bound by the license restrictions. How hard is that?

Re:Click-through GPL. (5, Informative)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089128)

You only have to accept the licence if you want to distribute, it does not apply if you are simply using the software...

Most commercial EULAs prohibit distribution altogether, and place restrictions on use too, and thus demand that you agree to them before you can use the software at all.

Re:Click-through GPL. (5, Informative)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089244)

The license is most certainly optional on GPL software - for the GPL v2, see sections 0 ("Activities other than copying, distribution and modification are not covered by this License; they are outside its scope. The act of running the Program is not restricted, and the output from the Program is covered only if its contents constitute a work based on the Program (independent of having been made by running the Program)") and 5 ("You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works.").

For the GPL v3, see section 9 ("You are not required to accept this License in order to receive or run a copy of the Program.").

If I do not wish to modify or distribute, I don't have to accept the GPL at all.

Re:Click-through GPL. (5, Informative)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089262)

No you don't. Not to simply use it. See ClickThrough [gnu.org] page which addresses this exact question. Shame on OP for not posting it.

Re:Click-through GPL. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38089908)

I click it but I don't accept it. Unless you mean accept=click. When I click accept I'm just lying.

Re:Click-through GPL. (1)

WorBlux (1751716) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089108)

Some installers just have the idea every piece of software will have a EULA.

Re:Click-through GPL. (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089608)

Some installers? Which one doesn't?

Re:Click-through GPL. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38089718)

Every installer creation program I have ever seen, and I have seen most if not all of them, gives you the *option* to put in the EULA screen. More modern ones will allow you to enable the installer to proceed without pressing the "I Accept" button, or even to not include an "I Accept" button.

Re:Click-through GPL. (1, Informative)

arielCo (995647) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089132)

Ahem, you actually have to *agree* to its obligations. You are granted a license, and there's a copyright holder:

Who has the power to enforce the GPL? (#WhoHasThePower)

Since the GPL is a copyright license, the copyright holders of the software are the ones who have the power to enforce the GPL. If you see a violation of the GPL, you should inform the developers of the GPL-covered software involved. They either are the copyright holders, or are connected with the copyright holders.

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#WhoHasThePower [gnu.org]

Re:Click-through GPL. (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089248)

Might want to read a little further: it specifically [gnu.org] says you don't have to agree to it unless you want to distribute or modify it. And agreeing doesn't put any obligations on you, again, unless you distribute or modify.

Re:Click-through GPL. (1)

migla (1099771) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089696)

The thing is that you don't have to agree to the gpl to agree that you do not have the right to redistribute the gpl-licenced product willy-nilly, since that is all ready covered by the law (where applicable). The law says there is copyright and a copyright holder. And you have to agree with the law. Or else.

Re:Click-through GPL. (2)

arielCo (995647) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089062)

Because I already know the gist of it, especially if I only plan to use the stuff as opposed to redistributing it.

Re:Click-through GPL. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38090156)

I'm amused by some of the older programs or more commonly websites and message boards that have an agreement of some sort, but allowed all of the text to be selected and deleted before clicking 'OK'. Or you can type in your own EULA. Not that anyone's going to see or know that you did either, but it was amusing.

Corporate Owned Government (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38088854)

Draconian, unethical, and immoral EULAs are just the natural extension of a political system that has long since been sold to the highest bidder.

I had to sign a contract for employment that claimed company ownership of projects completed on my own time. I had already turned down all the other jobs and needed my income, so I had to sign it.

It should be illegal to even write these types of contracts or EULAs, and it would be if not for our blindingly corrupt government.

Re:Corporate Owned Government (2)

Moryath (553296) | more than 2 years ago | (#38088916)

No kidding.

Anything created by lawyers, is not created for the public good. It is created deliberately confusing and inscrutable to further the goal of making more bullshit work for the leeches known as lawyers.

There's an old saying that goes "ignorance of the law is no excuse." Lawyers have taken this to its logical extreme: they have made the law so byzantine, so inscrutable, that it's impossible to understand what the fuck the law SAYS without consulting a lawyer. Therefore, ignorance is the norm, and the lawyers prosper despite not contributing one single fucking good to the economy.

Re:Corporate Owned Government (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38088952)

Then don't sign contracts that have terms you disagree with.

Re:Corporate Owned Government (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 2 years ago | (#38088982)

Sometimes the choice is between signing and starvation. Contracts should NEVER be unilateral- but I think they'd be a lot better if instead of being enforced by the courts, every contract dispute would have to be settled by pistols at 15 paces.

Re:Corporate Owned Government (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38089482)

You might want to reconsider that; you as an individual only have two hands with which to hold pistol(s). The company offering the software has a small army of workers that it can draw on, as well as enough funds to buy your opposition full ballistic body armour if they so choose.

Either way, the choice is against you. At least with the current system, you're likely to come away with your lungs intact.

Oligopoly (4, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38088986)

Then don't sign contracts that have terms you disagree with.

So what should one do when all providers of an essential service have disagreeable terms? Join the Amish?

Re:Oligopoly (1)

HarrySquatter (1698416) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089130)

And those essential services are what exactly? My water, electricity, etc services do not have EULAs. Last time I checked "software" was not an essential service.

Re:Oligopoly (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089260)

My water, electricity, etc services do not have EULAs.

That's because they're usually tightly regulated franchised monopolies.

Last time I checked "software" was not an essential service.

Isn't Internet access essential to get and keep a skilled job in 2011?

Re:Oligopoly (1)

HarrySquatter (1698416) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089510)

That's because they're usually tightly regulated franchised monopolies.

Maybe in your area but not mine. Regardless none of them make you agree to a software EULA so what's your point?

Isn't Internet access essential to get and keep a skilled job in 2011?

What does that have to do with software EULAs?

Re:Oligopoly (1)

Aryden (1872756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38090252)

There are EULAs attached to pretty much everything. For almost all ISP's you sign a contract which is a EULA. You have to use some form of software to access the internet, by doing so, you are agreeing to a EULA for that software. So unless you see the interwebs as binary data scrolling across your eyes, then being translated by your brain into images, you've agreed to a EULA.

Re:Oligopoly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38089358)

Except that, having bounced back to this conversation from another, I thought you guys were talking about broadband service.

Gives you a little perspective on the topic.

Re:Corporate Owned Government (1)

Quila (201335) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089192)

Contract terms against the public interest are considered unenforceable.

Now all we need is a good government to define "public interest" to be in the interest of the actual public of the people, not the corporations.

People own corporations (1)

unassimilatible (225662) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089734)

"Now all we need is a good government to define "public interest" to be in the interest of the actual public of the people, not the corporations."

As one of the 50% of Americans who own stock in corporations, I wish you'd learn about them and who owns them. The corporations are the people, or at least a large number of them. People who think there's more to earning a living than someone sending you a paycheck - then complaining about it.

They have their voices (1)

Quila (201335) | more than 2 years ago | (#38090312)

They don't get a second voice as part of a corporation.

Corporations exist at the will of the state, thus at the will of the people. Supposedly this should be under the terms the people find beneficial to them. However, since the corporations have gained an independent voice in government as virtual people, the terms are now what is beneficial to the corporations, not the people.

Re:People own corporations (1)

Aryden (1872756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38090392)

The company is NOT a person, the people working there are. Yet, the government has seen fit to give corporations the rights of the individuals. I think you will find, as I have, that most people really don't give a shit about the corporation other than keeping it going so that they can do what they like to do and/or get paid. And yes, I own stock in quite a few companies.

I will complain until something is actually done about it

Also, you are completely clueless if you think your paltry 1000 odd shares of stock in any major corporation actually means anything. It means nothing to them. Apple has roughly 929,000,000 shares of stock. hell, even if you owned 1,000,000 shares (valued at 329M), you would still only own .001% of the company. So no, you are most definitely NOT the corporation. It's a rolling juggernaut pressing it's agenda on anything in it's way until it get all that it wants, then sets new wants.

Re:Corporate Owned Government (2)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089298)

In some places the EULA:s may not be valid due to consumer laws. At least if you purchase as a private person. If you purchase as a company the EULA:s may still be valid.

Why should it be illegal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38089668)

Don't work for a company if you don't like its rules. It's called liberty. Start your own company or stop whining. That's also called liberty.

No go ahead, mod this "-1, I disagree with you."

They inherently suck (4, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 2 years ago | (#38088914)

They are an attempt to form a unconscionable (in the legal sense) contract with thousands of people. And almost invariably they try to convince you that you have less rights than you do under the law. They are basically about eliminating fair use, because every one I've seen uses the leverage of copyright law.

Now, if this were about terms of service, that would be something. I'm all for terms of service that are legible by ordinary human beings.

Re:They inherently suck (1)

sribe (304414) | more than 2 years ago | (#38088958)

And almost invariably they try to convince you that you have less rights than you do under the law.

In essence, they are fraudulent "anti-warranty" documents.

Re:They inherently suck (5, Insightful)

alostpacket (1972110) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089434)

Well I can see a valid use for a "This software is provided as-is" clause. It's clauses like this that are bad: "you can only use this yourself, never re-sell, rent, trade, and must only use it on one computer from the hours of 1pm-2pm with one hand tied behind your back..."

Re:They inherently suck (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089844)

They are an attempt to form a unconscionable (in the legal sense) contract with thousands of people.

I don't think that they are unconscionable by default. Sure the vast majority (every single one?) that I've bothered to consult has been pretty draconian, but there is nothing inherent in the idea of a EULA that makes it unconscionable.

I suppose this article is trying to point to the possibility that "hey, they don't have to be unconscionable, so why don't we start trying to fix it so that they're not!"

Re:They inherently suck (2)

Zironic (1112127) | more than 2 years ago | (#38090098)

They're non-negotiable contracts between unequal parties where the signature isn't even verified and the contract isn't presented until -after- money has changed hands. Nothing about them is conscionable

User Friendly Laws (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38088924)

Why not mandate User Friendly bills for congress too? Same legalese obfuscation happens there enough so no one knows what they are really voting for.

Re:User Friendly Laws (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38089402)

Problem is that many-to-most laws are as technical and specific as any large piece of software. There are patches, and interfaces to other systems. The downside is that the "programming language" is English, and colloquial meanings of many words or terms are instead formalized, just like you'd statically type variables and declare a function's signature. Most of the "legalese" is just technical "geek speak" for lawyers.

Not saying slimy lobbyists and politicians (or their staffers) don't intentionally obsfucate bills for their own gain, but there is a reason for the dense & hard to decipher language (namely, you're not trained to be able to read it). From TFA, I rather like the "Human Friendly Summary" sitting next to the legalese.

Re:User Friendly Laws (2)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089886)

Not saying slimy lobbyists and politicians (or their staffers) don't intentionally obsfucate bills for their own gain, but there is a reason for the dense & hard to decipher language (namely, you're not trained to be able to read it). From TFA, I rather like the "Human Friendly Summary" sitting next to the legalese.

This right here. I'm surprise at how many computer geeks think that making laws into plain English will accomplish anything. It's like, hey, fine, let's require you to do all of your programming in simple and plain English, rather than these arcane scribbles and symbols and grammars!

Legal documents are dense legalese for a reason: a bug in a computer program means a computer crash, but a bug in a legal document means a loophole. Everyone wants to close loopholes, but no one thinks about how that causes the dense legalese that we need trained professionals to interpret.

Re:User Friendly Laws (1)

jmauro (32523) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089998)

The reason people want simple laws is for the same reason you want simple code. The more complex it is the harder it is to actually spot loopholes/bugs and to understand what is going on.

A lot of the legalese exists solely to obfuscate what the law is actually doing.

Step 2 (3, Insightful)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38088928)

Several European countries are considering laws mandating user-friendly EULAs

While I think this is a great start, I think a better idea would be to take the common subset of clauses that both consumers and vendors can agree upon, and make them implied by law.

EULAs shouldn’t be an automatic, they should be an exception, for cases where something is radically different.

To an extreme, I don’t think that clicking “I agree” should even be legally binding. If you have some kind of special case, lawyers or at least something more substantial than clicking a button should be required. If your customers can’t be bothered, either learn to operate within the common set of agreed rules, or go into a different business.

Re:Step 2 (2)

Zironic (1112127) | more than 2 years ago | (#38088972)

It isn't legally binding. Which is why noone bothers to take you to court over the EULA. They know they'd lose.

Re:Step 2 (5, Informative)

HarrySquatter (1698416) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089020)

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2010/09/the-end-of-used-major-ruling-upholds-tough-software-licenses.ars [slashdot.org] >O Rly? This is an oft-related but false meme perpetuated on slashdot. Specific EULAs have been held up in court a number of times. Now certain clauses in certain EULAs have been struck down but that is not the same thing you claim.

Re:Step 2 (4, Interesting)

Zironic (1112127) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089080)

Meh, you live in a messed up country, I don't. Swedish contract law contains a number of stipulations that EULA fails to uphold, so they're not valid contracts here. Instead most of what EULA covers is covered by the copyright laws.

Re:Step 2 (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089152)

They, like many other "contracts" aimed at end users, are simply there to scare you into compliance...
Just because it has no legal weight, doesn't mean that a lot of people who don't know any better will feel compelled to comply with them.

Re:Step 2 (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 2 years ago | (#38090246)

Interesting link. Thanks for posting that! I hadn't realized that music sold on Amazon had such a restrictive EULA, forbidding resale. Unfortunately Google's new service sees to have the same problem. [google.com] Presumably they both have these terms because they were imposed on them by the record companies.

Re:Step 2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38089058)

It isn't legally binding. Which is why noone bothers to take you to court over the EULA. They know they'd lose.

Sadly, dead wrong. Clicking "accept" does indeed bind (at least here in the U.S.) you to the terms of the EULA. While you can try to invalidate any/all of the terms in court (e.g. on the basis of unconscionability), the default position is "you 'signed' it - you're bound."

IAAL

Re:Step 2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38089964)

You can't even accept contracts over the phone in several european countries, let alone anything on the internet.

Re:Step 2 (1)

fsckmnky (2505008) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089114)

+1 I second this idea. EULAs arent going to go away ... but given their increasing ubiquity it would be nice if they were standardized, like the preprepared forms the county hands out to comply with standard procedures like evictions, small claims cases, etc.

This would ease the burden of dealing with EULAs while still protecting the property rights of producers, and use rights of consumers. The EULA would move from the obfuscated custom party-party contract to a standard disclosure / disclaimer.

I hate EULAs (4, Informative)

weszz (710261) | more than 2 years ago | (#38088936)

Here at work EULAs have become an INCREDIBLE pain in the past month... We not need everything we download to use approved that it is free for commercial use if the company didn't buy a license.

I can't use Virtual Clone Drive since the website says it's free, the developer says it's free, everyone says it's free but the EULA doesn't specifically say that.

I hate EULAs. (Plus an interesting note, RealPlayer apparently cannot be used in a commercial environment at all, or so says the EULA.)

Re:I hate EULAs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38089084)

A) Why the fuck are you trying to use RealPlayer

B) RealPlayer can be used in a commercial environment, but the version you download off their website cannot be used for commercial purposes. If you want to use it for commercial purposes, you have to speak to them directly and get a version with a different license. Basically, you are free to use RealPlayer while sitting at your desk at work. You are not free to use the non commercial version of RealPlayer on a pay per view type kiosk where you charge someone to watch something on RealPlayer.

Truthfully, EULAs are not that complicated or hard to read, most people are just stupid.

Re:I hate EULAs (1)

weszz (710261) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089992)

That's the way our EULA lawyer guy ruled on it for us (can't use), so that's the way we went. The concern was if someone showed a video of something through it to someone who we are charging for services, it could be in violation. (not that a normal company would go after another for that, but Real is pretty slimy... I worked for them doing tech support for a year when I used to live in Seattle. Thankfully as a non commission person I didn't have to trick people into staying subscribed to it)

The one that gets me is Virtual Clone Drive... The developer says it's free, everyone says it is, but since it's not spelled out in the EULA they could say it no longer is and you then owe them licenses... They told me in the next version it will be spelled out and they may offer a pro version.

Re:I hate EULAs (1)

niw3 (1029008) | more than 2 years ago | (#38090124)

Truthfully, EULAs are not that complicated or hard to read, most people are just stupid.

Definitely. Last time I installed licensed copies of Windows 7 & MS Office 2007, for the first time, I fully read the EULAs, in my native language. Both EULA's were understandable. All terms were clear, I had no problems.

The best EULA I ever agreed to (5, Interesting)

liquidweaver (1988660) | more than 2 years ago | (#38088996)

When I bought IDA Professional, in the EULA it explicitly spelled out several things:
1.) I an install it on any machine I own
2.) I can make backups
3.) I can reverse engineer the software
If only the rest of the world worked that way. They trust their users - and it inpires a level of respect, at least with me, where there is absolutely no chance I would share a copy.

Re:The best EULA I ever agreed to (1)

hb79 (917595) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089272)

I'll top you with this. Luckily, the GPL has traditionally not been splashed in-your-face in most applications. Annoyingly, Android apps with GPL licenses seems to reverse that trend. I wish they would stop.

Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it means that the program's users have the four essential freedoms:

  • * The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
  • * The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • * The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
  • * The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

See also:

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html [gnu.org]

While they're at it ... (2)

rjmx (233228) | more than 2 years ago | (#38088998)

How about a law that requires a company changing its terms of service to tell you exactly what the changes are and how they affect you, rather than simply saying that they've changed them, with a link to the new version (and a fat lot of good it'll do you, too)? Back when I had a PayPal account, that was one of the most annoying things about them.

EULAs != Contracts (2)

tiberus (258517) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089038)

A EULA is a form of 'contract' but, I always though contracts implied some form of negotiation, not just blind (enforced, un-yielding, etc. etc.etc.) acceptance. Who's negotiating for us? At work, our Contracts Department can ask a vendor to change a EULA and there's a chance it will happen but, good luck calling up XYZ Corp and saying, I'd feel better if Clause 4.3.1.2 said foo instead of bar...

Re:EULAs != Contracts (1)

HarrySquatter (1698416) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089088)

I always though contracts implied some form of negotiation

Since when? Contracts imply no such thing. A contact is still valid without any negotiation.

Re:EULAs != Contracts (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38089186)

A contract is a meeting of the minds. A written contract is physical documentation of that meeting of the minds

  An EULA is a meeting of the company's mind and your mouse cursor over the ACCEPT button. Therefore, it is not, in fact, a contract.

Re:EULAs != Contracts (1)

Nemesisghost (1720424) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089306)

Actually, contracts are a negotiation. I learned that when I signed my latest lease from my roommate who was studying for the Texas Bar exam at the time. He told me it was perfectly legal to cross out parts of the contract I didn't like before I signed it. Then if the other party didn't like the changes I made, they could draw up a new contract for us to sign. And we'd go back & forth until we were both happy with the arrangements.

Now, normally the contract is pre-agreed upon before the parties come together to sign it, especially in the case like this. I don't think most people are aware of this, and so wouldn't know what to do if a lessee decided to start crossing out parts of the lease agreement.

Remember that a contract is supposed to outline the rights and obligations both parties have in the arrangement, not to take away rights from one person or another. In the case of a lease, the lease protects the lessee as much as the lessor.

Re:EULAs != Contracts (2)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089484)

You missed an option. Instead of going back and forth, either party can say 'this is my final offer, take it or leave it'. That is what the 'disagree' button is for. The EULA is their final offer. Take it or leave it.

Re:EULAs != Contracts (2)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089838)

Which is why, you should find the EULA in the installer package before you install it, modify it any way you wish, and THEN agree to the EULA when it is presented. If a EULA is enforceable at all, then you should be able to modify it before agreeing to it.

http://xkcd.com/501/ [xkcd.com]

Re:EULAs != Contracts (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089934)

Of course, since the other party did not agree, and did not even have the opportunity to agree or disagree, that action is completely meaningless and is pretty much fraud.

Of course they don't have to suck... (1)

orthancstone (665890) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089140)

But why would they want to tell you how they are screwing you in plain language when they can bury you in legalese?

SUCKS TO BE A LAWYER!!! (1)

spads (1095039) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089166)

:D

Re:SUCKS TO BE A LAWYER!!! (1)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089768)

Hahaha, you think so? Despite what many people think, a large part of a lawyer's job is figuring out (and fighting over) what people actually mean when they write agreements, legislation and the like in "clear, easy to read" language.

Drafting contracts and laws is a lot like programming; language that is clear and easily readable may not be the most powerful or effective language to use. "Plain language" languages are easy to use, but hard to do anything useful in. Those that are useful usually have a great deal of planning (and a more powerful programming language) hidden away from the user. Likewise with contracts.

Simple agreements help the parties know what they are agreeing to, but generally don't say anything about edge cases. So your nice simple one-pager, if it's a contract, is perfect when the parties are getting along, but if the relationship deteriorates it's trivial to get around that kind of contract by finding an edge case the contract doesn't cover and slipping out of it. That's when the litigation lawyers are brought in.

I'm sure that this push to simplified EULAs in software is going to make some lawyers very rich, when the companies that offer them start weaselling out of their clear, simple agreements.

and this saves money how? (1)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 2 years ago | (#38090144)

So... when involving lawyers to find edge cases and holes in the agreement, how does it save you money if most contracts have minor or major issues resulting in costly legal disputes? Unless you have a perfect iron-clad legal agreement some lawyer properly motivated ($$$) will find a way to cost you money disputing it. If you are small, a mega corp could likely tie you up in court until you are broke even if you have the perfect contract agreement and would win in the end.

Re:and this saves money how? (1)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 2 years ago | (#38090368)

Well, I have no numbers to back up a claim, so keep your salt grains handy, but from what I've seen, money spent up front on lawyers tends to save you money down the road on more lawyers. What having a good agreement does is makes it more expensive down the road to try to break the agreement. The harder your lawyer has to work to find a loophole in the contract, the more you have to pay her. The more you have to pay her, the stronger your incentive to simply fulfill your side of the bargain.

If you are small, a mega corp could likely tie you up in court until you are broke even if you have the perfect contract agreement and would win in the end.

This is a different problem. This problem arises when one bargainer has much more power than the other. In that case, it doesn't matter how clear and simple or complicated and tight the contract is, the party with less power is going to get screwed. The EULA could be 60 pages long, or it could say "We reserve all our rights and you give up all your rights." Very simple and straightforward, and the consumer is stuck with it because they need the software.

People don't click through EULAs without reading them because they don't understand the EULA, they click through the EULA because they know damn well it means "you're fucked if you try to mess with us" and they think they have no choice. Nobody needs a lawyer to tell them that.

Televisions with EULAs (5, Interesting)

MetalOne (564360) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089170)

I returned a Sony TV partly because the EULA said I had to indemnify Sony if I violated the EULA or was even alleged to have violated the EULA. I didn't want to deal with possibly being on the hook for million dollar lawyer fees. I know that the chances of Sony getting sued because of my actions would probably be nil, and two it would be thrown out of court as unconscionable, but still, I thought the indemnify clause was crazy. This indemnify clause also said Sony would have to approve of any lawyers involved. Additionally the TV came with Yahoo widgets, and the EULA for Yahoo widgets said the license was non-transferable. I assumed this to mean that selling the TV would violate the EULA. The EULA required arbitration for any disputes. The entirety of the EULA gave Sony all the rights and the user none. Well, the TV that I exchanged it for looked better anyway, so it was a win win for me.

Re:Televisions with EULAs (1)

starmonkey (2486412) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089900)

If you recall, please share the TV brands without unacceptable EULAs. I'm looking to buy a TV.

If you have to scroll (3, Insightful)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089228)

Oswald's rule of EULA:

If you have to scroll the EULA is no good and few people will read it.

Re:If you have to scroll (2)

Java Pimp (98454) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089332)

The other day I was updating some apps on my daughters iPod and a message popped up that the EULA had changed and I had to accept the new terms. After scanning over the first page I got to the bottom that said page 1 of 63... This of course brought out the "laugh of disbelief" followed by "whatever" and a prompt click on "Agree".

Re:If you have to scroll (3, Funny)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089632)

You do realise that Apple now own the naming rights to any household pets you aquire in the future and you must now name all of them "Steve".

- and that's not even the strangest thing hidden in that EULA.

Re:If you have to scroll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38089634)

Agreed. Postage EULA windows seem to be the developers saying that they don't want you to read their EULAs. I think a judge could probably be convinced that they are invalid if developers don't make a reasonable effort to make the EULA readable.

http://randomascii.wordpress.com/2011/09/01/zune-eula-window-size-fail/

Turbo Pascal for Macintosh circa mid-80s was okay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38089250)

It's licensing agreement was basically "treat this like a book."

They actually used those words in the agreement.

Comment Summary: EULA Summary's Would be Nice (4, Insightful)

kf6auf (719514) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089336)

I don't know why no one includes summary's at the top of EULAs. It's not like it's that hard of an idea to think of and I've yet to hear a single objection (though I'm sure /. can help with this). No one is actually saying you can't have pages and pages of precise details spelled out in pages and pages for the lawyers.

By the way, this is suggested on page 2 of the article for all of you who either didn't read the article, or refuse to bother going to page 2 of an article that has no reason not to be on a single page.

Re:Comment Summary: EULA Summary's Would be Nice (1)

Stalinbulldog (925149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089794)

Well a EULA summary would just make things more complicated, either it would be just as long and explain everything the EULA did, or it would have no legal bearing and companies could put whatever they wanted in it.

I, personally, wouldn't mind being re-compensated by companies for the length of their EULAs, but that is just a feeble token gesture that customers would end up paying for anyways.

Re:Comment Summary: EULA Summary's Would be Nice (1)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089826)

I can think of one objection: what happens if there's ambiguity between the summary and the mass of technical detail below it? If the summary is binding, then you will inevitably get conflicts in interpretation between the summary and the particulars, but if it's not binding, you still have to read the whole damn thing anyway, so why muddy the water with a summary you can't rely on?

Now as it happens I think it's still worthwhile to use a summary (indicate that the summary is to be used to resolve ambiguities in the more detailed drafting, but not binding in itself), but you do have to tread carefully.

I doubt that they would hold up in a court (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089390)

I doubt that any EULAs would hold up in court.
Everyone knows that you are not supposed to read them and most of them are several pages long.

They are a joke and no one takes them seriously, for example: I have agreed to EULAs that told my not to do drugs.

Re:I doubt that they would hold up in a court (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38089450)

There has yet to be a single EULA tossed out of court in the US, so precedent shows that no matter how Draconian they are, they are binding...

Re:I doubt that they would hold up in a court (0)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089508)

Since they already have been upheld in court, you are wrong.

Give me a contract to sign (2)

Teun (17872) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089416)

Give me a proper contract to consider and maybe sign or don't bother me.

As the article says something about European countries I'll limit myself to that subset of humanity.

Most European countries should explicitly invalidate Eula's as a legal and binding contract, as a matter of fact I don't think many countries or courts in Europe would even consider them as such right now.
There are some countries that already have stipulations about the readability of consumer contracts and according to the issuers the Eula is such.

Plus the EU law gives you the explicit right to return any product bought over the Internet within a 7 day grace period.

Re:Give me a contract to sign (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#38090012)

Give me a proper contract to consider and maybe sign or don't bother me.

I feel the same way about everything I purchase. That $0.99 candy bar? I want to sign a real pen-and-paper contract; I mean if you're so lazy that you fall back on implied verbal contracts, then why bother me? I'm happy to leave you and go get my candy bar from someone who cares enough to sell out even the most mundane of contracts in ink, with signatures, and lawyers.

Government intervention != win (0)

Pionar (620916) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089420)

Do we really want government saying what the EULA should be? I wouldn't want that as a developer, and not as a user, either. It's called reading. If you don't like it, don't use the software. Simple as that.

I don't want the government telling me what kind of legal agreements I can enter into.

48-page EULAs (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38089444)

I think most I come across are about that length. I'm not certain, but I think the iOS 5 EULA might have been that length. That would take, you know, an hour or two to read, which is rather unreasonable.

EULA suck because they exist (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089486)

For enterprise class software and systems licensing makes sense but telling an end user they do not own a product they paid for will get you horse whipped, tarred and feathered. The average end user doesn't understand the concept but if you tried to license a car to them and then showed up one day and tried to take the car away because they modified it in some way that violated the license they would bust you up. If more average users understood (and cared) about what that EULA meant we'd see some occupy EULA protests.

What bugs me about EULAs... (1)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089604)

...and the reason i stopped reading them is because there is NOTHING you can do about it if you disagree outside not using the program.
Say you don't like a clause in it and call up the company? You're just going to get laughed at and have them hang up.
Not to mention the only person who really even knows what's in it is the lawyer they hired.

We don't need EULAs at all (1)

HalAtWork (926717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089652)

We already have laws to cover most of the things EULAs are concerned about, making EULAs superfluous. The rest just is contradictory to existing laws and is unenforceable, so it doesn't apply. Not to mention that it's a one-way contract (in that you can't redact, as you can with normal contracts), so maybe it's illegal in and of itself. I'm glad I don't use software that has EULAs.

Speaking of which... (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089682)

Software EULAs can be just as irritating. But this link nicely demonstrates how things should be done:
http://lawactually.blogspot.com/2011/10/thats-interesting-approach.html

It should be the same idea to prevent all suing in the US. 'Everything's at one's own risk' etc.

The Attack Shark!!! (5, Funny)

Dogbertius (1333565) | more than 2 years ago | (#38089924)

Not all of them are bad. HavenTree did a humorous one some time back:

Text of software license
This is where the bloodthirsty licensing agreement is supposed to go, explaining that Interactive Easyflow is a copyrighted package licensed for use by a single person, and sternly warning you not to pirate copies of it and explaining, in detail, the gory consequences if you do. We know that you are an honest person, and are not going to go around pirating copies of Interactive Easyflow; this is just as well with us since we worked hard to perfect it and selling copies of it is our only method of making anything out of all the hard work. If, on the other hand, you are one of those few people who do go around pirating copies of software you probably aren't going to pay much attention to a license agreement, bloodthirsty or not. Just keep your doors locked and look out for the HavenTree attack shark.

Text of disclaimer
We don't claim Interactive EasyFlow is good for anything -- if you think it is, great, but it's up to you to decide. If Interactive EasyFlow doesn't work: tough. If you lose a million because Interactive EasyFlow messes up, it's you that's out the million, not us. If you don't like this disclaimer: tough. We reserve the right to do the absolute minimum provided by law, up to and including nothing. This is basically the same disclaimer that comes with all software packages, but ours is in plain English and theirs is in legalese. We didn't really want to include any disclaimer at all, but our lawyers insisted. We tried to ignore them but they threatened us with the attack shark at which point we relented.

EULAs are thorny. (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 2 years ago | (#38090394)

EULAs are thorny.

Suppose I work for a company and the IT department installed a piece of software on that computer. Must I abide by the EULA?

Or the reverse: Suppose I install a piece of software, must the company abide by the EULA, or just the individual? What if the EULA states that the publisher can remotely access my workstation or use our company trademarks in their promotional materials? The individual installing and using the software probably doesn't even have the power to make those decisions. So do they apply?

What if a minor installed the software?

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