Dell's Software License Policy: Dude, You're Getting Screwed

from the lovely dept

Been seeing this story get passed around a lot this morning. Dell has apparently started including a “clickwrap” license agreement on all of its computers that you need to agree to before you can actually use the machine. The license screen starts up at the beginning and tells you that you need to agree to the license terms on all the software included on the machine before you can use it. Of course, they don’t actually give you those license agreements for you to read, so you have no clue what you’ve agreed to. Most of the licenses are probably on the computer itself, but you (obviously) can’t read them until after you’ve “agreed” to them by clicking through. This reminds me of a case a while back on whether or not people “agreed” to software licenses just by opening the package (even if the software license was inside the box). If I remember correctly, a judge eventually ruled that this practice was illegal. Anyway, this seems like more typical big computer company bad policy when it comes to license agreements. I’ve had an ongoing battle with the computer company who I bought my laptop from to get them to send me the Windows XP software I thought I bought with the machine – so that I can use it to troubleshoot. They insist that they can’t send me such a CD, and I have to use their “recovery” CDs, which are only designed to wipe out your machine and start again. What ever happened to treating the customer like a customer and not a criminal?

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Comments on “Dell's Software License Policy: Dude, You're Getting Screwed”

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LittleW0lf says:

Clickwrap crap...

Being that we’ve bought Dell servers recently, and I don’t remember seeing this, I cannot confirm or deny this. However, the likelihood I would have read something like that would have been nil anyway, as usually the first thing we do when we receive the machine is blow away the partition (who knows what evil lurks in an operating system installed by the vendor,) and start over from scratch. Unless they modified the BIOS to do this, I wouldn’t have seen it anyway. (I even do this with Windoze, ’cause it is unsafe to trust that the vendor hasn’t installed something dangerous into your brand new server even if it runs on a crappy OS.)

These have never stood up in court, so the only thing I can assume is that it is there for the “scare factor”…to scare someone into doing, or not doing, something that is not legally enforcable.

LittleW0lf says:

Re: Re: Clickwrap crap...

Read the article – you would not have been able to do what you suggest.

I read it. And I am still unconvinced they found it where they said they found it. There are a few things stated which just don’t make sense, and I think the clickware is not in the BIOS, but in the boot sector.

The page is no longer available as of 23:27 PDT on Saturday, August 30, and I read the article yesterday. But I seem to remember they said they had to go into the BIOS to set the CDROM to boot, then they rebooted the machine and it loaded Windows. That may have bypassed the legalware.

I cannot see them filling up vital BIOS space with worthless legalware, only to turn it off after the first boot.

Bastard SAM says:

Re: So what if I dont agree?

Remember that case against netscape where they would mention a license, and say you must agree to it before using the software, without linking to or displaying the text of the actual license itself? This is EXACTLY the same thing. A New York Circut judge threw it out as completely invalid and non binding because the liceses referenced in the agreement were not provided. It’s very well documented.

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