The EULA Menace

from the watch-out dept

As part of the EFF’s 20th anniversary, it’s hosting a screening of Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues, a movie we’ve spoken about quite a few times, due to both the copyright questions around it, and Nina’s subsequent business model choices. As part of her appearance, Nina also created the latest of her “minute meme” animations for the EFF, this one about EULA’s, and how they make you sign away more than you realize. We figured many of you might enjoy the short video:

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Comments on “The EULA Menace”

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Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:


The entire concept of an EULA is bogus.

A copyright protected work may provide a license.

That’s it. No agreement required.

You have purchased a copy and copyright law does not require any agreement prior to use. Therefore tick any boxes as may be necessary to use the copy you’ve purchased – holding the user hostage is duress and invalidates any aspect of agreement.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: EULA != contract

I don’t know where you live, but Connecticut state law requires it be available – not actually seen. Most software vendors would be happy to provide you with a copy of the EULA before you get the software.

In addition, software is actually returnable. It could be argued (although I’m not sure it has) that as a consumer, having the right to return the product if you do not like the enclosed EULA indicates you have agreed to it.

We need a better system. A trusted organization that certifies these agreements as not requiring you to give up your soul would be refreshing.

abc gum says:

Re: Re: EULA != contract .... & ianal

I thought that in order to have a binding contract, both parties needed to be in agreement, how can this occur when one party has not seen the terms of said agreement?

Based upon the complaints I have read numerous places, I doubt your claim of software being returnable.

In addition, I recall that courts have ruled that an unconscionable contract can be nullified.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: EULA != contract

in NZ at least, the software is NOT returnable. most shops will replace damaged disks and the like, but they’re not actually legally allowed to give you a refund or replacement product… or at least so they claim after the last change to the appropriate laws.

I’m Fairly sure that should completely invalidate the EULA in a lot of cases… but since I’m not aware of anyone ever bothering to try to enforce them here…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: EULA != contract

Every retail store I’ve worked in the States from sea to shining mother efing sea will not return your open software packages for years now. Sure late 90s I think there were a few places that did but havn’t been in a store or worked in a store in a decade that didn’t laugh at you for trying to return an opened box with software.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: EULA != contract

1) You’ve purchased a copy – the purchase ‘contract’ was ‘a copy for money’. That is the end of the matter.

2) The copy may also provide the purchaser with a license (gratis). The purchaser may or may not exploit it as they see fit.

3) The copy may also provide a unilateral contract (which the purchaser can agree to at any time, if ever), and that contract may provide a license subject to the purchaser’s agreement. The purchaser’s agreement cannot be inferred, e.g. by performing an act they’re entitled to perform anyway (removing shrinkwrap), nor by performing an act only permitted upon agreement to the contract.

Jim (user link) says:

Great video!

I think an important point is that it’s not necessarily ELUAs that are the problem; it’s the clauses that EULAs *might* (and usually do) contain. Believe it or not, sometimes EULAs can be reasonable and serve reasonable purposes, such as clearly defining the vendor’s responsibilities and privacy policies.

When it comes to online content, EULAs typically get a well-deserved bad name because they have “content usage” clauses that say the provider can do things like spy on the consumer and disable, or “brick” (as indicated in the video) content at any time and for any reason, or for no reason at all. Those types of EULAs also routinely try to take away consumer rights like fair use and first sale doctrine. Often, nasty clauses are inserted at the insistence of over-the-top zealous Hollywood lawyers (I know that may be redundant) in order to land content licensing deals. I’m clad that the video is shining a spotlight on the most nasty EULA practices.

Anonymous Coward says:

the eula is just the end result of literally hundreds of years of lawsuits, rulings, new laws, packaging requirements, informational requirements, and hundreds of other little things that have been piled up over time. if you take an eula apart, you will likely find a ruling, law, or requirement for each item, even if they make absolutely no sense.

as for eff @ 20 years, i wont go there except to say that more and more i see it as a bit of a sock puppet for someone whos views have been tossed out in court often enough. as for showing ninas masterwork, well, she certainly is the type of person who would benefit from a little legal advice from the sock puppet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

no, they write them that way to protect themselves from the stupidity of end users. as i said, the terms are there in part because of lawsuits, legal judgments, laws, consumer information laws, disclosure requirements, and yes, protection against lawsuits for unintended results of their software.

we are in this place because of your rights, because of your government(s), and because your courts have made it that way. you would think that someone like lessig would be smart enough to know this.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:


We are in this place where copyright holders pretend EULAs may bind recipients of copies because our right to copy has been suspended in order to grant publishers the privilege of a reproduction monopoly.

I would indeed think that Lawrence Lessig is smart enough to know this, but for some reason he remains a staunch advocate of copyright.

The judiciary, being largely sympathetic to publishing corporations, is also willing to err on the side of their copyright vs the individual’s natural right to liberty.

AdamR (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“no, they write them that way to protect themselves from the stupidity of end users. as i said, the terms are there in part because of lawsuits, legal judgments, laws, consumer information laws, disclosure requirements, and yes, protection against lawsuits for unintended results of their software.”

So you mean that releasing buggy software, making promises of what the application will but doesn’t, not fixing issues but instead coming up with a new version that forces people to upgrade at some cost, and abandoning support are not the reasoning why they need EULA’S.

abc gum says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Your generalizations tend to gloss over the many abuses perpetrated upon the unsuspecting public by EULAs. For example, by clicking the check box and installing the software you might be agreeing to the installation of spyware, the removal of which is in violation of the EULA. One outfit installed their spyware even if you clicked no. Then there is the EULA in which you agree to allow the collection and sale of your surfing habits. Some website TOS claim copyright upon all user submitted content. The hit parade goes on and on. So in summary, your one sided point of view is quite myopic.

Solomon Linda says:

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

I just am tired of living in a world with so many rules to fallow, they are not intuitive, they are not fair and almost always I find myself on the loosing end of such agreements, those I just choose to take the risks and ignore the whole thing.

For f”#$ sakes I don’t want to become a lawyer to buy grapes, or open emails.

Anonymous Coward says:

i must say too the video is horrible. it portrays every piece of software out there as some sort of trick, some sort of nasty government supported hack attack that will turn your machine into a brick if you do something bad. it is self-serving, self justifying crap, and probably more of a lie than most eulas, imho.

Nina Paley (profile) says:

Re: Can a brutha get a link?

That player doesn’t make it easy, does it? I’m not sure it plays in Facebook at all. Luckily the cartoon is also on Youtube:

The EFF page:

The “share” page to embed the ogg cartoon on html sites:

Thank you for sharing!

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