It's time to bring the EULA madness to an end!

It's time to bring the EULA madness to an end!

Summary: Why is it that every time I install a bit of software that I end up having to trawl through, or ignore, pages upon pages of seemingly meaningless legal gobbledygook collectively knows as the End User Licensing Agreement, or EULA?

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TOPICS: Windows
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Why is it that every time I install a bit of software that I end up having to trawl through, or ignore, pages upon pages of seemingly meaningless legal gobbledygook collectively knows as the End User Licensing Agreement, or EULA?

Seriously, does software need to come with an elaborate "Licensing Agreement" in the first place? OK, maybe it does, but does that agreement need to be more than a few paragraphs long? A page at most? I'm pretty sure that if you can't condense everything important down into a few hundred words, then something's seriously wrong. The current EULA for Windows Vista SP1 jabbers on meaninglessly for a page on "Validation," two pages on "Internet-based services," and half a page on MPEG-4 and VC-1 standards.

Who cases? I know I don't!

[poll id="486"]

I've bought things, sold things, conducted business deals and even out my life on the line (or other people's lives on the line) based on far fewer legal words that I have to endure when installing software. I can't think of a single aspect of my life that's as dominated by meaningless legalese as installing software.

Note: OK, some of you are bound to point out other jargon and legalese-ladened areas of life, such as finance, tax and insurance. OK, I accept that, but these areas are usually quite self-contained, and it's actually worth paying for professional advice. Am I expected to consult a lawyer each time I install a piece of software? Give me a break ...

The truth is that the EULA isn't meant to be read by the end user. In fact, companies make it deliberately difficult for users to know what they are agreeing to. Take a look at this EULA for Microsoft’s Windows Media Center, as uncovered by PC Pro's Jon Honeyball:

Here you have the EULA spread over an insane 69 pages. Honeyball describes this as "entrapment," and I have to agree with him. Imagine if you were sent a legal document through the mail, but that document was shredded into tens of pieces. Would you read it? Would you agree to it? Would you feel it was fair? This is just one of hundreds of dirty tricks aimed at getting you to hit "I agree" without knowing what you are really agreeing to.

[poll id="487"]

It's time to bring the EULA madness to an end!

  • If it can't be said in a few sentences, it doesn't need saying!
  • If it can't be said in plain speak, it doesn't need saying!
  • If it can't be said without hyperlinking to more jargon and legalese,  it doesn't need saying!
  • If the EULA can't be presented in such a way as to make it easy for the end user to read, it doesn't need saying!

Thoughts?

Topic: Windows

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119 comments
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  • My gripe with EULA is when I'm patching software.

    Why do I need to read an EULA when I'm patching a piece of software (I'm looking at you iTunes)? Shouldn't the patch be covered under the same EULA agreed to when initially installing the software?

    As for understanding them I do. They are pretty much all in the same basic format with the same basic conditions. Occasionally there are nuances that differ but generally they're easy to follow (but I hate the small dialog box of 69 pages that you illustrated though I do see print buttons for some).
    ye
    • Its the dawn lawyers...:-(

      Legal depts want a thesis on EULA. I understand they have to have them due to protecting their Intellectual property copyrights etc..
      MLHACK
      • Shakespeare

        from Henry VI -- The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.
        zclayton3
        • Read the rest of the play

          Nice quote, but maybe you should read the rest of what is said - in other words, the statement is made in the context of how to overthrow a government - if we first kill all the lawyers, then we have anarchy...

          Though I do agree that the EULAs as currently formulated are absolutely meaningless and indecipherable to most of the computing public (including me, a lawyer) and, in my humble belief, they are intended to be that way - no one on God's Green Earth would ever agree to some of the drivel actually contained in these EULAs if they really knew what it meant.

          We won't even BEGIN to talk about GOOGLE.....
          cmkconsulting
          • Best line in the play

            I will make it felony to drink small beer
            Dippncope
          • I shun Google

            because its EULA's are especially dangerous. Case in point: Picasa. Go ahead. Read that EULA and then tell us all how happy you are to learn that Google now has complete rights to the photos you sent them. LOL
            nikacat
          • There's reasons for that...

            There are reasons for that. Otherwise, you could technically sue Google for making your pictures publicly available for viewing by other people. Also, that is one way to say that if they consider your pictures inappropriate, they have the right to remove them. That's the way I see it, anyhow. I'm no lawyer, but hey...
            sailor_0703
          • There should be EULAs on web sites

            If they put EULAs on every web site visited that would fix the issues.

            Ie www.google.com, www.yahoo.com, www.whitehouse.gov so that you have to agree to use the internet every time you put in an address.

            Some legal department would love the extra hours writing these EULAs up but it would dictate changes.

            One game I use to have every so often would ask for a word on a page in a paragraph at a certain place in the manual to verify that I actually had the code book and was reading it was a copy protection scheme but also was a way to make you read the EULA.
            oweno4
    • I may be wrong....

      ... especially since I refuse to use iTunes, but didn't I read that "patching" or "updating" iTunes actually means downloading the entire application again, with its new code, and installing it, or am I thinking about QuickTime (Which I also banished long ago)?
      Hallowed are the Ori
      • You're not wrong.

        The "patch" for iTunes 9.0 was to download version 9.0.1. The same held for 8.x and 7.x before that.
        ye
        • Besides...

          Although they [i]should[/i] write it so that "patches" are covered, many times, patches are not covered under the original license agreement(that way, new agreements are written for new features in patches).
          sailor_0703
    • That is not as annoying as..

      installing IE through Windows Update along with all the other patches. You set it off going and come back an hour later to find the whole update process stopped because it wants you to agree to the EULA before continuing.
      planruse
      • Agreed. And it's why I don't believe those who say it was...

        ...silently installed without their permission.
        ye
        • They have had automatic reboot upon timeout of the display.

          nt
          Patanjali
  • "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers".

    "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers". - (King Henry VI by William Shakespeare, Act IV, Scene II).
    pmcgrath@...
    • Do you understand the context of that quote?

      Obviously not.

      [u]http://www.okbar.org/public/judges/spspeech.pdf[/u]
      msalzberg
      • The wonderful thing about the English language

        is that phrases can be given new understandings that are more
        appropriate to the idea being communicated.

        For example, calling someone a scrooge is a slander designed to give the
        impression of heartless greed, when in fact, A Christmas Carol is a story
        of redemption and to be true to the context, as you fondly pointed out
        would mean calling someone a Scrooge would be a compliment on their
        change of character and giving and generous spirit.
        frgough
      • funny thing

        I just rebuilt my computer and had to accept the EULA from Adobe (since I had not yet installed Reader) to read your link.

        I never knew the context before so thank you!

        However, I do think the spirit in which some use it today is appropriate (bashing lawyers).
        steeleblue_cactus
      • And yet those same lawyers

        can litigate away those same freedoms.

        Is not the job of a criminal defense lawyer to pass the blame onto an innocent person?
        To have a jury doubt the guilt of a defendent in front of them?

        Though the lawyer may know the truth, in the end he is saying that his client did not do it, therefor someone else must be to blame.
        GuidingLight
        • Actually...

          ... a defense lawyer's sole duty is to convince the Judge/Jury that the prosecution did not meet its burden of proof. It has nothing to do with the defendent.
          Confused by religion