To quote the famous TV doctor Gregory House, “everybody lies”. Why do I say that, I do not know a single person that actually reads the whole end-user license agreement (EULA) on software products they buy. They are those things that everyone clicks “ok” to after scrolling through what seems like 100 pages of legal “mumbo jumbo”.
The question I often receive is, if it is all written in “legalese” is there any point in reading them? My answer is simple, ABSOLUTELY! This document not only tells you what you can do and more importantly cannot do with a particular piece of software. Not too long ago a company called GameStation slipped in a bit in their EULA to “grant Us a non transferable option to claim, for now and for ever more, your immortal soul.” The real take away from that addition is that 7,500 customers clicked agree to the EULA containing that statement.
Other than stealing your immortal sole, EULA’s give and take away other things too. Just a few months ago, the new Microsoft Windows EULA that prohibits “class action lawsuits” regarding the product. This is a HUGE move as Microsoft has had several class action suits against them. One recent lawsuit regarded the way the camera in Window Phones reported data.
Yet another example of EULA imposed restrictions is one that was used by Blizzard Inc the makers of MMORPG “World of Warcraft”. The EULA was recently used to shutdown a “private server” of their flagship product. Not only did they shut down the server but also received monetary damages from its operation.
With all the this talk of how restrictive EULAs can be, some are exceptionally open. The gold standard for this type of license is the GNU General Public License or GNU GPL, which is a specifically free to copy and share license.
Two of the largest issues I have personally seen are with people not reading the EULA of software specifically comes with the Microsoft Home Use Program (HUP) and Dreamspark Programs. With the Home Use Program, I have seen where people buy copies of the software for their extended family, which is outside of the EULA. One of the major portions in the EULA of the Dreamspark Program designed for college students in IT programs is that they are specifically for “non-commercial use”, so no you can’t use that copy of windows server 2008 to build a network for your friend’s small business.
While no one is ever going to read each and every EULA they encounter, it is important to know what they do and at the minimum give a quick glance over it to ensure that you are not accidentally selling your soul.