Today, I was emailed a copy of the EULA I'm supposed to include in the piece of software I'm developing. I read it over, and it's the kind of thing I would never want to agree to, let alone impose upon other people.
It's actually not nearly as bad as some of Microsoft's stuff, but it's still pretty offensive. I'm going to use the analogy of a book to show how ridiculous these terms are.
- "Licensee may install and use the Software on one host computer... [You agree not to] (f) export the Software beyond the United States." - This is a moderate example of a worsening trend I've been seeing. Companies want you to use the software in only one physical location. In fact, the guys that make Quickbooks are so insane that they want you to purchase a new copy every time you reinstall your operating system or do a major system upgrade. Perhaps one would want to install a copy on his desktop and his laptop so that he can work while he's on the road and import the data back to his home machine. Sounds reasonable, don't you think? Restricting where the software can be installed is like saying that if you want to read this book in your bedroom, in your living room, and on the bus, you need to buy three copies. Not allowing the software outside the US seems like an extension of that lunacy.
- "[You agree that you won't] (a) sell, lease, assign, lend, sublicense or otherwise transfer the Software..." - Attempting to restrict the right of first sale is also a disgusting practice. That's like saying that you aren't allowed to sell your book to a friend (or on eBay/Amazon), lend it to him, or even just plain give it to him. That's like saying video rental stores should be illegal (Hollywood spent loads of cash trying to make that a reality).
- "[You agree not to] (d) decompile, disassemble or otherwise analyze the Software for reverse engineering purposes, (e) modify or change the Software in any manner..." - This one is not so clear cut, but I still disagree with it. A book doesn't make for a good analog here, but a car does. That's like selling cars with the hood welded shut because they don't want you to look inside. Or a computer with an unopenable case for that matter. I bought it -- it's mine. I should be able to study how it works, or even modify it, so long as I don't attempt to pass my modified work off as theirs. I'm already barred from using or disclosing any of their Intellectual Property, so what's the problem? And for the more paranoid, if I can't see how it works, how can I be sure that the software isn't mailing my credit card numbers back to the lawyers that wrote the EULA? And as for not being allowed to modify it, that's another seemingly arbitrary restriction imposed upon me. Software often goes unsupported, either because the company goes out of business, or they want you to pay for the bugfixes. For instance, my company uses Quickbooks for its accounting, and we need to use the Quickbooks Timer to keep track of our time. It crashes about once per day and refuses to work until the system is restarted. It's incredibly annoying, but Intuit refuses to fix it. If I were to fix their software or write my own version (which requires reverse engineering the import/export formats), that would be illegal according to this agreement.
- "Licensee further agrees that [we] or [our] agents or representatives are authorized to enter upon the premises of Licensee in order to inspect the Software in any reasonable manner during regular business hours to verify the compliance by Licensee with the terms hereof. Licensee agrees to reproduce and include all copyright, trademark, and other proprietary rights notices on any copies of the Software and accompanying and associated documentation." - Jesus. So we're allowed to enter the premises of the user to inspect their software and verify compliance with the EULA (among other things). So we can just show up and start going through people's computers, without any suspicion of wrongdoing? And what does this mean for a home user? We can just barge into his house? Who do we think we are?!