Civil Disobedience and EULAs

I don't use a lot of proprietary software, but I know a lot of people who do. I've had to click "I Accept" on more than a few End User License Agreements (EULAs) in my time, on behalf of customers who thought they had no alternative but to use certain proprietary software. I know a lot of other people do so on behalf of people (like school techs on behalf of students in primary school...).

EULAs are the specific terms of access defined by a copyright holder for consumers of their copyrighted works, in this case software. The mechanism by which this works is Copyright law, a government granted monopoly which exists in most legal jurisdictions (although it differs in subtle ways around the world). In general, however, the clicking of "I Accept" initiates a contract between the "acceptor" and the copyright holder.

I've read bits of various EULAs and have been pretty horrified by what I've seen in those samples. They're also almost impenetrable to read - legalese is a different language. I've talked to several IP lawyers, all of whom sheepishly admitted that they've never once read the EULAs for various software products on which they depend professionally... So, as a way of conveying the terms of contract, I'd argue that EULAs are a great big fail. They make a mockery of the entire concept of "informed consent".

Something that's troubled me for quite some time is the difficulty in finding and reading the exact EULA terms after someone has clicked "I Accept" when installing software. I just tried, for example, to search for the text of the Microsoft Office 2016 EULA... I used the terms "microsoft office 2016 eula" and "microsoft office 2016 license agreement" in Google, and got... well, nothing useful. A number of people complaining about the terms being "just as bad as those of Windows 10" but not the actual text of the EULA. It seems that Microsoft (and I suspect it'll be similar for the other producers of proprietary software) don't really want their license terms floating around the web where anyone can easily search them.

To remedy this situation, I've decided to engage in a bit of civil disobedience. I'd like people like you, reading this article, to see if you can find the EULA text for proprietary software you use (Microsoft, Adobe, Oracle, Apple, Google, Facebook, etc.) and

  1. copy and paste that text (in its entirety) along with
  2. the name of the copyright holder (typically the software vendor, e.g. Microsoft),
  3. the software title (e.g. MS Word),
  4. the software version (e.g. 2016) and, if possible, the "build number" which will typically appear in the "about..." menu item for the application,
  5. the platform on which you're running it (e.g. MS Windows 9 or Apple OS X Sabretooth Tiger or whatever), and
  6. send the lot to me.

I will then publish the EULA in its entirety, and make it searchable on this site and by search engines. I will do this without express permission of the EULA's copyright holder... and if I should receive a takedown notice, I'll immediately comply and report the fact with great relish.


No comment...

I've suspended commenting on this site because I'm not happy with the proprietary Disqus platform I have been using as it is antithetical to much of the site's content and my own stated positions.

I originally chose Disqus because it helped to minimise the spam commenting that, previously, required a lot of administration time. I justified its use based on the idea that I always use Free and Open Source Software if a viable option exists in a particular domain. I haven't yet found something comparable that works with Drupal... but still, the cognitive dissonance of requiring people wanting to comment on my posts to sacrifice their freedom to do so became too onerous.

If you have a comment (or a suggestion on a Drupal 7-friendly, spam resistant commenting process with good admin and commenter notification recipes! - I recently tried isso, and it's cool, but sadly, not well suited to Drupal, although given it's open source, I might have a go at changing that) - get in touch!