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!
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.
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!