A Random Walk Through The Microsoft Vista EULA

from the user-unfriendly dept

CoJeff writes in to point out Wendy Seltzer’s quick analysis of the new Microsoft Vista EULA. While, as she notes, it’s nice to see them put the EULA in plain language, rather than all legaleze, there are problems with it. Basically, it seems like a case where they’ve realized they can put whatever they want in the EULA, and you have no choice but to agree to it. This has been an ongoing argument, as people point out that a contract you have no right to negotiate over shouldn’t be considered an agreement on both sides. Most of the provisions aren’t really that surprising — as they relate to Microsoft’s overactive spying/copy protection. However, the broadest, and most worrisome term is: “You may not work around any technical limitations in the software.” As Seltzer points out, while it’s intended as an anti-circumvention tool, you have to imagine there are other technical limitations people are going to have to work around (such as crashes, security holes and bugs). Seltzer asks: “Can you work around a document’s failure to save properly?” The bigger issue, really, is that, as you look down the list of restrictions (oh, how nice, Microsoft can suddenly make the software I paid for stop working!), not a single one of these are features that a customer wants. They’re all limitations that make the customer experience worse, and decrease the value of the software. You can get away with that when there’s no real competition, of course. But, it sure seems like an opportunity for a more user friendly provider.

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Comments on “A Random Walk Through The Microsoft Vista EULA”

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DittoBox (user link) says:

Re: Arrogant...

I use Linux (ubuntu) on my laptop and I love it. Great and helpful community out there too!

The only reason I still use Windows on the my desktop though is because I literally can’t work without my adobe apps and I have a couple of games I really enjoy, that aren’t available on Linux.

Some might say “get a mac” but I refuse to use a platform that ties their OS down to their hardware. Otherwise I’d be saving for a nice MacPro.

leftblank says:

Re: Arrogant...

Since you’re going to learn Linux, I suggest starting with Debian or Ubuntu and try different versions of Linux until you find the one that works best for you. Right now my flavors of choice are Ubuntu 6.06, Debian 3.1 sarge, FreeBSD 6x, CentOS 4x and Fedora 5. Remember the byline- “Have Fun!”

You can get almost any distibution you want via distrowatch.com
Ubuntu is what I consider the first Linux distro that is ready for the Windows “Power User” right “out of the box”.

nobody important says:

Re: Arrogant...

If you or anyone else are serious about trying out Linux, try starting with a live cd distro. No installing or configuring necessary. Knoppix, Slax, and DSL are all good. Just boot the CD .

At least with open source software, you don’t have to worry about EULAs. There are only licenses covering how you are allowed to redistribute the software (which for profit companies don’t allow you to do) and if there is a parasitic feature, you can take it out, or someone else probably will if you are not a programmer.

Beefcake says:

Don't Like EULA, Don't Use the Software

It’s only a problem because we let them get away with it by buying it anyway and bitching about it in blogs. By that point they have the revenue, so if people are complaining it doesn’t really matter. They can tell me I have to give them a monthly blood-draw to use Vista and if everyone decides it’s easier to give blood than take a stand, MS will keep doing it.

What if no one bought Vista? MS would first try to force it by pulling support for XP, but if we held firm and refused, they would cave faster than Coca Cola did with New Coke.

But we won’t take a stand because it isn’t the path of least resistance and we’re lazy, so we get the EULA we deserve.

Betaflame says:

Re: Don't Like EULA, Don't Use the Software

well seeing as how MOST of the world doesn’t even see the EULA for windows (most people dont install it themselves) it makes it incredably difficult to get the majority of people to switch to an OS they dont know, have no interest in learning and have life “change” around a product that should adapt to them.

Guy says:

Re: Re: Don't Like EULA, Don't Use the Software

well theydo everyone has to see it….. when you buy a new computer the install of windows is not yet coomplete you first agree to the EULA enter Screen names for log on and set a few more things…… so i mean you get those people who take it to compusa to have and os installed are not that many and even if they don’t install it tem selves but have a friend do it are usualy standing there when the friend is doing it…… but seriously as a friend i wouldnet install windows for them….. im a FRIEND not their Enemy

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Don't Like EULA, Don't Use the Software

I’m sure microsoft could put something like “I hereby give microsoft the title to my house and my first born child” and most people would still click the accept button.

PC pitstop put a statement in their eula one time stating that anyone who sent an email to the specified address would recieve 1,000$ from them. It took some insane amount of time for someone to find that statement and call them on it.

and go figger, it was a lawyer.

I’m just as guilty… I dont ever read them. I like to read the M$ ones, but only so I can explain to people that microsfot doesn’t offer licensing for what they want to do. (go ahead, try and obtain a license to use M$ office over ctirix/TS/anything remote at all… it can’t be done, you must license (in advance) every machine that will ever use that software. there is no remote license available)

Stu says:

not until forced to

In my humble opinion, there is no reason to change operating systems until you are forced to by factors beyond your control. For instance, if you need to use software that absolutely requires the use of a certain OS (or version).

Anything else is opening the door to potential trouble regardless of the EULA or any other factor.

It’s not about the OS. Having the latest OS (or equipment) should not be a matter of fashion. It should be about what work or play you are trying to accomplish.

If you’re hoping for better security, any new OS (or application) will only protect you until the bad guys learn how to beat it. Security problems will never end.

There are plenty of good security tools right now – if people would use them. By the way, I am not in favor of being forced to use OS features designed for the least advanced user. Such “features” impose heavily on more advanced users, including system admins.

ZA says:

Re: not until forced to

I would have to agree with Stu. I evaluated Vista in Beta and have no desire to upgrade. XP has got to be the most stable (Microsoft) OS yet, and to think they want to cram multimedia down your throat. Why? Because they think this is what we want?

People will upgrade because they think it is cool or because it is trend. “Everyone else is doing it!” I for one will not be upgrading any time soon, not on my personal computer or company wide.

Joe Mally says:

Re: not until forced to

“By the way, I am not in favor of being forced to use OS features designed for the least advanced user. Such “features” impose heavily on more advanced users, including system admins.”

Amen, brother. One of the things that bugs me about Windows is the way things had to be “dumbed down” so that Joe Shmoe and Sally Mally could use it. A highly inefficient OS for an advanced user … but at least you don’t have to THINK.

bleh …

Overcast says:

“You may not work around any technical limitations in the software.”

So – if Vista is ‘technically’ limited to say… not read a specific type of archive file or media file, you’re not allow to write an app to allow it to ‘work around that technical limitation’?

By strict thought on this – that would be correct. Almost any 3rd party app is in essence, working around a technical limitation of the OS..

Can Vista out of the box provide a gaming experience such as Civilization 4? If not – the app itself works around this ‘technical limitation’ to be technical.

Printers? Hmm – what if Vista cannot – out of the box print to a brand new printer. Would a driver be considered a ‘working around’ Windows technical limitation that it cannot print to this device out of the box, as it is unaware of the proper data that needs to be sent to the printer?


check out http://www.ubuntu.com – I know I’m going to, I’m about fed up with Microsoft’s greed – and I never really have gone that far yet, I was always pretty happy, overall with windows, in spite of the fact that I am able to run Linux fine.

So I’ll “work around the technical limitation of my desire to not run windows”

Long as I can get Linux to run a few of my video games, I have no need for Windows anyway.

Aaron says:

Bad Business...

You know, I have been a long time Microsoft customer, since 1989 – in the OS department and later in the Office and development subscriptions (MSDN Universal). Vista marks the first revision of Windows that I won’t be purchasing unless I absolutely need it for development purposes to support clients and even then it will only be through a VM.

I know it’s an overused cliche, but absolute power corrupts absolutely – enough is enough already. There is no way in hell I am going to have my primary machines vulnerable to an ongoing “authentication” process that may decide to disable a machine based on a arbitrary decision by Microsoft.

Stu says:

pulling support for XP

Beefcake says, “MS would first try to force it by pulling support for XP.”

Aside from security patches, what support does one need?

Furthermore, most security issues are of minor “real” importance, since you have to go to some lengths to actually be affected. I never see statistics on their actual effects – only potential ones.

Although all the threats we read about can happen, you have to wonder about the true level of danger.

Remember, the security industry has an interest in keeping us scared.

I’m an IT Mgr and I pay close attention to security at my company – including educating my users.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: There were two mentions....

Just to clarify: running games under Linux generally involves WINE or Cedega. They do not require you to install Windows, they provide compatibly for Windows executables.

On new Macs, they run on Intel chips. Apple graciously provides the Parallels software that allows you to dual boot Windows and Mac OS X.

So Windows isn’t running “under” either OS. However, in the case Mac OS X, yes one would have to agree to the EULA.

Xiera says:

They can't be that stupid can they?

I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they (Microsoft) overlooked many of the things we’re talking about here. I’m also going to stick with XP Pro because, as Stu mentioned, there’s no reason to change.

That said, I’m also going to look into several Linux/Unix OSs. (Currently have Fedora Core 5 VM and the installer for Solaris 10.)

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

One Sided Contracts

“This has been an ongoing argument, as people point out that a contract you have no right to negotiate over shouldn’t be considered an agreement on both sides.”

What do you think your insurance is? One-sided contracts are legaly enforcable, so long as both sides have agreed to the terms of that contract. And by clicking “I Accept” on the EULA, you are agreeing to those terms.

Is it ethical? Probably not. Legal? Yup.

Aaron says:

Re: Re: One Sided Contracts

I was wondering that myself, not saying there hasn’t been one, but I really can’t remember hearing about a mainstream case involving the testing of a EULA in court. Most of the piracy cases involved do not involve the EULA at all.

The other question is now that Microsoft, our lord master apparently, is sending out software and actively disabling installations that it doesn’t like, what kind of liability are they opening themselves up to?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: One Sided Contracts

Doesn’t anyone get the fact that the EULA has no legal standing?

why do you think the banks have you sign all the paperwork for a loan BEFORE you get the loan.

even for how powerfull the bank is they can’t force an agreement after they have rendered a service!

thats why there are no court cases over it!

they can say what ever they want, but unless its given to you to SIGN, BEFORE you perchase the software it has absolutely NO legal grounds

you can’t force a contract on some one AFTER they have paid for a product/service, they must agree to your terms before hand

microsoft knows this, every company knows this – but they also know (quite obviously) that the everage person and even advanced user hasn’t a clue that the EULA is irelavant

so keep clicking ok, your in good standing and the EULA is meaningless

Nobody Important says:

Re: One Sided Contracts

IANAL, but I think EULAs are highly questionable. It is much like a blank contract (where you sign a contract before it is written or you see it). You buy something without seeing the EULA, then take it home. You can’t see the EULA until you get home and open the package. You are required to agree to the EULA before you are allowed to use the software you already paid for.

I remember once I bought a cheap, low quality digital camera from aiptek. There were all sorts of clauses in their EULA for the camera (said something about the ROM is licensed, so they could do that). They were so absurd, like one said no one but my immediate family were allwed to use it. So if I’m in Paris or the Grand Canyon, and I want a picture of me and my family in front of some monument, I’m not allowed to ask a stranger (or even a friend) to take my picture. This is unreasonable. I didn’t sign on for this when I took the camera to the checkout, why should I be forced to agree to this “contract” after I buy?

The Kid says:

Sorry, I don’t know my statistics here, but how many EULA violations have actually been pursued in a court relative to how many have been committed?

Let’s face it, MS will get themselves into huge trouble if they are thinking about making business upgrades difficult and painful and then formulating an early demise for XP by ending support. THAT will end up in court and it wont fare well for the big “M.”

Besides, you could always just accept the EULA and then do what you please, just like everyone else.

BillGod says:


Apple does too have it.

Apple has windows (for your gaming needs that aren’t already supported to osx). reboot to os-x when not gaming.

Problem solved.

of course, if you played wow, it already comes with mac support.

Are you insane.. you just said APPLE HAS IT… just boot into windows?? does that really solve the problem of getting off windows? NO.. you can run linux and dual boot windows anytime.. you have been able to do this for years. That does not fix the problem.

If anyone is wanting to try linux. or even those who have tried it a year or more ago. If you have not tried it recently you have not tried it at all. UBUNTU is the best OS I have found. I am a windows administrator. I run Ubuntu at home on my machine. I have every app replaced (by a FREE app) that I used to use. WINE emulator has come a long way and my diablo2 works just fine. I know its not a new game but I have found many programs that work fine in wine.

Dusty (user link) says:


Linux is not much better than windows when it comes to preformance, security, and reliability. Its a myth. There are other alternatives, better alternatives. Apple Macs are amazing!!!
If you want a unix, try FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Darwin etc etc etc
If you really want linux, there are many flavours to choose from.
http://www.google.com search for “alternate operating systems”

Anonymous Coward says:

to those who stated about OEM instilations and whatnot.

my sister got a computer from best buy (i know i know. but it was for school, it was inexpensive, yet powerful, and more than she’ll ever need. it has the one stip repair, due to warranty, so that’s nice for her). and before we could take it out of the store, the “geek squad” had to “test” it. they said it’d take about 30-45 minutes for the complete system check/upgrades and whatnot.

we left, came back picked it up. when we got home, booted the system, no ELUA. Best buy agreed to the ELUA, not my sister (or the rest of the family for that matter) nor were we informed of best buys intent (specifically) to auto agree w/the elua, nor were we given a chance to read the ELUA before it was accecpted.

now, what would happen if my sister “violated” the elua? she never accecpted it, nor was told explicitly that the elua was going to be accecpted.

anyone think of that?

riggs says:

i think most of the people posting dont read the eula’s they just go off of what people say about them… my firends sposta be burning vista for me although i still havent gotten it… but wasent the beta verson sposta be somthing so people could test it find problems get around them and tell microsoft so they can fix them… since i havent read the eula i cant really make many comments but most of the eulas are totaly bogous and not many people under stand them cause its all in leagal terms…

Anonymous Coward says:

I won’t be switching to Mac. I may go with Linux IF someone can point me in the direction of a simple installation WITH the best flavor of Linux that is most game compatible. If it can configure itself that’s all the better.

I liked MikeR’s solution but since we’re not able to alter the EULA prior to pressing “I Accept”, I think MS would just snicker and remind us of that fact. However, if someone wants to write a little utility that allows us to alter the EULA prior to installation and save a copy on the pc then that sounds more acceptable. I think Gate’s head would explode when he finds out. Let’s try!

To be honest, I’ll likely wait a year after Vista is released and find a hacked copy that has 90% of the media garbage axed out. All I really want is an OS that runs my programs and consists of efficient code. Do we really need an OS that pushes us to buy new hardware? I was happy with DOS!

Beefcake says, “MS would first try to force it by pulling support for XP.”

While ending update support would be on the agenda, I wouldn’t put it past Ms to insert snippets of code in updates that break XP (by either making it run sluggish or develope “compatibility” issues).

ebrke says:

Re: Re:

To anyone looking to linux for “easy installs” or “configures itself”, yes, the modern distros will do this, but PLEASE remember that there are driver issues, particularly with cutting-edge hardware. Use the distro’s website or linuxhardware.org to research and see if a particular distro has issues with your particular hardware. Using a live cd is also another good option. It’s just a fact that many hardware manufacturers either won’t provide linux drivers, meaning they have to be reverse-engineered which takes time, or the manufacturers may provide the drivers in their own sweet time. To be honest, you’re better off with hardware that’s a year or two old when it comes to linux installs.

Please be aware of these issues going in and do some research. Linux is great, but you’re going to set yourself up for a frustrating experience if you don’t find out the facts before you try it.

Paul says:

Wisconsin State Law

Does your state have a similar law?

See Page 5 of the PDF document for Wis. Stat. § 402.302(1-2)


If I follow this correctly any EULA represents a lack of meaningful choice because it is take-it-or-leave-it with no choice to negotiate (previous posts not withstanding).


Peter da Silva (profile) says:

Last version of Windows I bought is Windows 2000

Windows XP already tripped my “you gotta be kidding” circuit breakers with “activation”, so I haven’t upgraded from Windows 2000. The consequences?

1. The Bluetooth dongle I won as a website “door prize” doesn’t work.
2. I had to reinstall when I upgraded to a dual-core processor, so I did my periodic reinstall-windows-to-clean-out-the-crud long weekend six months earlier than I was planning on.
3. I don’t get the Fisher Price Desktop look.

I think that’s basically it.

Rob Schoenbaum says:

Vista EULA

The opening paragraphs of Microsofts EULA for the Vista operating system contains the clause that users who do not wish to abide by the terms of the EULA can get a full refund from the vendor from which they bought it. Interesting. Well, I’m one of the growing number of Vista users who wishes he had bought something else.

So, I called Dell to request a refund. I spoke with several Dell phone reps from various departments, each of whom gave me a different reason, or no reason, why Dell wouldn’t refund my money or replace Vista with XP. One said that it was too late to complain. Even though my computer was still under warranty I needed to tell them soon after I got it but mostly the answers were in that annoying conditional tense that doesn’t answer anything. “Dell wouldn’t do anything like that. Can I help you with something else.” Eventually, and surprisingly, one rep offered me a $100 coupon, their price for Windows Vista Home Edition, which I have used to buy more RAM.

Plaudits to Dell. Their name is now off my never-again list. It is, of course, only partly their fault that they sold a buggy, defective product. But I’m curious what implications the terms of this EULA create for Vista users who shopped from a vendor who are themselves unwilling to live up to the terms of the EULA?

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