Another one of those legal mumbo-jumbo type documents, generally attached to software. I'm convinced that the Evil Corporation developed these things to make more money than they deserved off of software. Oh, I'm all for paying software developers what they're due, but since they only make pennies for every shrink-wrapped boxtm, it's really a moot point to them. It's the publisher that gets the biggest chunk of the dough anyways, for doing the least amount of work. That is.. simply fronting the money for boxes and cd's, more or less. Disappointing, really, considering that I AM and plan on being for some time, a software developer.

But anyways, back to the evil of EULA's.. they used to only appear on the outside of packaging.. i.e. "By opening this, you agree to comply with our evil rules and laws and the way we think you should use this software", but now they commonly appear in every install program for every single piece of software written. Like most people, these days I click right through the damn things these days, since usually I am in too much of a damn hurry to read the latest version of the WinZIP EULA or the WSFTPle EULA. I have this sneaking suspicion that one of these days, a piece of software is going to screw me over by hiding something towards the end of the EULA, effectively in the "fine print", so to speak, that says they're going to collect lots of information about me and sell it to evil corporations that are going to simply use it to try to sell me stuff that I don't want or need.

Probably the most dangerous thing I do is not reading End-User License Agreements. I could jump off cliffs, shoot heroin - anything - but it won't top my relationship with these nasty documents.

And the thing is, they could be saying anything at all. And they're something like fifteen pages long! I'm not reading that much stuff unless it has a plot. I signed up to Hotmail and got a page with the 'You Will Agree With This' file and all the joy suddenly dropped from my life. "Oh, for fuck's sake...". Page down. Page down. Page. Down.

Pagedownpagedownpagedownpagedownpagedownpagedownpagedownpagedownpagedown. "How long?!".

17. By agreeing to the terms of this service, you are signing over your house to us every Tuesday.

Suddenly there's some sinister guys at the door telling me to get out. I'm sure there's some big corporate plan to make EULA's so long that nobody bothers reading them any more. Then they could move in and take over the entire world.

25. By even so much as scratching the cellophane wrapping of this box you enter an agreement whereby you think this product is the fabbest thing ever and you're not allowed to complain.

...While sitting broken-hearted in front of some bugged piece of crap that you just shelled out eighty quid for.

Be careful, people. The legal people are in a position where they can become gods. Seriously. Conspiracy theory, maybe. But it's bloody scary.

     |AGREE TO THIS EULA OR DIE                           _ 0 X|
     |Please read and accept the terms of the following EULA   |
     |                                                         |
     | ______________________________________________________  |
     | |I. This legal document represents a contract      |^|  |
     | |between you (the "Noder") and us (the "Gods")     |-|  |
     | |II. The "Gods" grants the Noder to use E2, provi- |x|  |
     | |ded the Noder forego personal hygiene and dedicate| |  |
     | |90% of their time on E2.                          | |  |
     | |__________________________________________________|V|  |
     |                                                         |
     |          .--------.          .------------------------. |
     |          |   BACK |          |I SIGN MY SOUL TO NATE  | |
     |          ----------          -------------------------- |

EULAs are those annoying little screens that accompany every program that uses InstallShield. While they may have something useful to say - see GPL - they are most often abused by companies looking to restrict your rights. Recently, with spyware being installed with many popular peer-to-peer programs, many people have questioned what allows these companies to install functional equivalents of trojan horses secretly alongside the program.

The answer?

You agreed to it when the program was installed

Many users simply click past the EULA screen when they come to it. EULAS are designed to be unreadable, as evidenced by the sample EULA above. Usually, a EULA will be chock-full of legalese, peppered with outdated terms like 'null and void', and capitalizing nouns spelled forth in the first part of the EULA. They are usually lengthy, and most users have neither the time nor energy to discover just how sneaky a company can be. Some programs will force you to scroll through the EULA - nothing a quick page down key can't solve.

A EULA will usually restrict the following

  • Reverse engineering
  • Use of third-party software
  • Distributing the program
  • Allowing the company to dodge liability for faulty software
  • No guarantee of warranty
  • The software is "licensed, not sold" to you
  • Usually allows the company to change the EULA without notice

Of course, with all these restrictions, a EULA's legal force could be compared to that of used toilet paper; some restrictions are utterly ridiculous. Of course, there's an alternative - return the product for a full refund - but many stores will not accept a return for opened software. So, you buy software, you read through the EULA, you discover several nasty clauses, you try to return the software, but no returns are accepted, so you're out $3000 or whatever ridiculous sum you paid for that software. To LICENSE the software - remember, it's not sold to you.

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