Software vendors forcing unfair licences on users

The National Consumer Council has found that software licence agreements are biased in favour of vendors and full of confusing jargon
Written by Tim Ferguson, Contributor

Consumers are being forced to accept software licence agreements full of confusing jargon that are unfairly biased in favour of the vendors.

Of 25 software packages surveyed by the National Consumer Council (NCC), 14 had no mention in their packaging that the user must accept a licence agreement before the software can be installed.

The NCC's Whose licence is it anyway? report examined how licence agreements work in practice and found they are often full of jargon, making them hard for users to understand.

Many licence agreements are also presented in hard-to-read formats that discourage people from reading them.

The NCC also said it's concerned that many software producers have licence terms that protect their interests over those of the end user.

Some of these terms include immediate contract-termination rights for the provider, restrictions on transferring user rights to a third party and legal uncertainty around references to foreign legislation.

The NCC says this means licence agreements are more like legal mandates than real options for the consumer.

The software the NCC surveyed included Adobe Photoshop CS2, Apple iLife 06, GSP AA Route Planner and Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac.

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