Mozilla: We goofed on the EULA, let's talk

Mozilla: We goofed on the EULA, let's talk

Summary: The Mozilla Foundation is making changes to its EULA display for Linux distros. After a bunch of complaints on Monday, Mozilla Foundation chairperson Mitchell Baker has indicated that the project will be making some changes both in the license and reconsidering the way the EULA is displayed.

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TOPICS: Browser
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The Mozilla Foundation is making changes to its EULA display for Linux distros. After a bunch of complaints on Monday, Mozilla Foundation chairperson Mitchell Baker has indicated that the project will be making some changes both in the license and reconsidering the way the EULA is displayed.

Baker acknowledged that there were some issues (including, apparently, displaying the wrong license) and says, "We’re certainly trying to figure this out.  We’ll do this with public input; you’ll see posts about this shortly as well."

I think Baker and the Moz folks are responding well to this, despite the histrionic tone of some of the responses. The project is clearly willing to work with its downstream vendors and end users to make sure that they're hitting the right tone for their audience.

As I said yesterday, I think the bulk of complaints were a bit off. Most people seemed to be complaining about the display of the license, rather than the EULA itself. Given the barrage of EULAs you see on Windows and Mac OS X, I'm not sure if this means that Windows and Mac users are overly complacent, or that Linux users are overly touchy. Maybe both.

But, I'm not at all disappointed that the Mozilla Foundation looks to be rethinking the display of the EULA. One program does it, it's just a tiny little nuisance, and completely out of character with other apps on the Linux desktop. But it'd be an ugly trend. People complain all the time about usability on Linux -- this is at least one area where we're head and shoulders above Windows and Mac OS X: The Linux desktop is usually a EULA free zone. Unlike iTunes, I don't have to see a new license agreement every time I update Banshee on my openSUSE boxes.

But this issue does raise a basic question about how companies and projects interact with end users. Do you really need to see a EULA if all the licenses are triggered only by distribution? This is something that's come up with the openSUSE EULA that's displayed at install time as well. It's a good thing to make users aware of what FOSS licenses allow, above and beyond use, but is it necessary to present a EULA when end use isn't governed by the licenses?

Instead of asking users to agree to a EULA, we ought to be asking them to acknowledge their rights, or just present a license screen without asking for acknowledgement.

The new text for the Mozilla license is also up for review and comment. If you have thoughts on the EULA, I'm sure the Mozilla Foundation would love to hear your feedback. So would I -- was this a big deal, or tempest in a teapot?

Topic: Browser

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9 comments
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  • No kidding

    You don't need an EULA to protect your trademarks. If you did, people would have to click through an EULA to install the Linux kernel itself (the name "Linux" is also trademarked).

    Not having to deal with 60-page incomprehensible EULAs is one of the advantages of free software; Mozilla doesn't need to make their product less valuable by copying the worst practices of the proprietary developers.
    John L. Ries
    • Very well said ...

      ... I couldn't have put it better myself.

      On the one hand, clicking through a EULA is not that big of a deal.

      On the other, it's a nuisance, and I get tired of doing it with Windows, iTunes, and the like.

      That's one of the selling points of using Linux and other open source software - you don't get bothered by EULA's, or other proprietary nuisances.

      Finally, EULA's tend to be totally draconian, and, buried in an ocean of legalese, basically state that you (the end user) have no rights, and are being granted permission to use this product by the good graces of the vendor, a privilege that can be revoked at any time for any reason. EULA's tend to be a violation of "fair use" rights, and much worse, constitutional rights.

      I'd love to see the obliteration of EULA's. If not, at least have every EULA subject to constitutional review, at the cost of the vendor.
      super_J
      • Exactly

        [i]"Finally, EULA's tend to be totally draconian, and, buried in an ocean of legalese, basically state that you (the end user) have no rights, and are being granted permission to use this product by the good graces of the vendor, a privilege that can be revoked at any time for any reason. EULA's tend to be a violation of "fair use" rights, and much worse, constitutional rights."[/i]

        My thoughts exactly.The only purpose EULAs seem to serve is to leave the end user confused by all the legalese. One thing I've always wondered is just what validity an EULA would have in a court of law(the terms of the EULA are after all contrary to fair use and impinge on the user's rights), especially since the user has no say whatsoever in the matter except to totally avoid using the software.

        [i]"I'd love to see the obliteration of EULA's. If not, at least have every EULA subject to constitutional review, at the cost of the vendor."[/i]

        So would I.
        balaknair
  • Banshee

    Of course, when you use Banshee, you are using 'Mono' which is a another whole 'ball of wax'.

    Many FOSS Folks won't 'touch it with a barge pole'.
    As for myself, I 'avoid it like the plague'.

    ;)
    D T Schmitz
  • Good to hear that Mozilla

    has realised that they did indeed ?goof? on the EULA question, and that circumspection here is the better part of valour. Good as well that they listen to their users and partners. Hope more firms learn from their example....

    Henri
    mhenriday
    • It would also be good if

      they made it freely distributable to Debian too...
      Jxn
  • RE: Mozilla: We goofed on the EULA, let's talk

    It is a big deal. But, only because it seems to be a "Take away" EULA as it is presented.

    If Mozilla.org actually feels it necessary to present this to further their recognition factor, then they should present the EULA like this:

    "Here is the list of your rights to this copyrighted software as outlined in the GPL (or LGPL) as applicable.

    FIRST, You may NOT sell it as your work.
    SECOND: You may:
    1.)( Start the list here and extend it as needed.)
    Update victim
    • Uhu?

      If it's GPL, which it isn't. It's not distributed with Debian for a real reason. It's not free, as they was not allowed to do security updates to old version of Firefox in Debian repositories.

      IF it was GPL, you may very well sell it to others, or give it away. No matter what, you MUST make the source to the software and also any changes you done, available to the reciever. No need to make your changes public to anyone else but the reciever of the source though.

      But you should not have an EULA, you should have an posting that tell the RIGHTS of the reciever, in easy terms. And a button to make the splash screen with the information go away. No confirmation or other irrelevant demand, as the user don't need to agree on anything as long as she don't distribute it.
      Jxn
  • Not a EULA anymore

    The EULA is going to be replaced with a simple notice on the start page, with a link to the licenses: http://blog.lizardwrangler.com/2008/09/16/firefox-without-eulas-update/

    The EULA was a dumb idea, not surprised they thought better of it - after all the vitriol from the Linux geeks.
    Greenknight_z