Is Using Anti-Spyware Software Illegal?

from the the-other-side-of-the-coin... dept

Just as Microsoft worries that new anti-spyware laws will get them in trouble for naming applications as spyware, some are bringing up the old question of whether or not removing spyware is “illegal” in some cases. The argument is that many of the malware apps that people get are actually installed in association with another application (such a file sharing app) and part of the “conditions” a user agrees to in the unread EULA is that they’ll accept these malware products on their machine. Using anti-spyware apps that remove these programs, then, would “break” the contract agreed to with the other application providers. By itself, that would just be a private dispute, but the article goes further to suggest it’s similar to using a hacked card to get free cable — as you’re getting the free use of services (the main app that was downloaded) without paying the fee (letting the spyware do its thing) — so it could be a “theft of services” type of crime. That seems like a pretty far stretching of the law — and, in fact, many spyware-supported applications will apparently stop working if you remove the spyware, so it seems like there’s an easy technical work around. More importantly, though, this article brings up (and then buries!) the important point about all of these spyware laws. Since many focus on whether or not the spyware was installed with “permission,” what constitutes permission? If you agree to an unread EULA, is that permission? Perhaps it’s time to make clear what rights cannot be taken away in an EULA.

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