End-User License Agreements are documents that
are a written agreement between the software developer and the user of the software. It is usually presented during the
installation process or at the first execution of the software. It details such information as license information,
copyright and any restrictions the developer may put on the user's use of the software (Wikipedia).
EULAs are signed by the user by many ways. The most basic is when the user opens the shrink-wrap on the software.
Other methods include written and signed agreements mailed back to the developer or simply a step in the installation
The major ethical issues that are presented with EULAs are as follows (From About.com -
Know Your Rights and Restrictions. Read the EULA.):
- Is it ethical to sell an unwanted software program to another person?
- Is it ethical to use the graphics, fonts, and other stock files included with a software program in my commercial designs?
- Is it ethical to purchase software under an educational license and later use it in a business or for commercial use?
- Is it ethical to install a program on more than one computer?
- Is it ethical to sell my older version after purchasing a newer version of the software?
- Is it ethical to distribute works created with the software without paying additional license fees?
- Is it ethical to make an End-User License Agreement so long that no user will ever read it?
A major obstacle for developers and users is apathy towards the agreement. Most users do not even bother to read the
agreement they are signing. This can be seen from the article
"It Pays to Read License Agreements" where the developer hid a note in the agreement:
To prove that point, PC Pitstop included a clause in one of its own EULAs that promised anyone who read it,
a "consideration" including money if they sent a note to an email address listed in the EULA. After four months
and more than 3,000 downloads, one person finally wrote in. That person, by the way, got a check for $1,000
proving, at least for one person, that it really does pay to read EULAs.
EULA in the news.
Since the news is typically filled with information concerning things that have gone wrong, it makes perfect since that most issues involving EULA are of a negative tone. Sony had a few problems when they wrote their EULA that allowed the consumer that purchased their software to download the software even after they declined to agree to the EULA.
Similarly, the small VOIP company JaJah fell into some trouble after users read their EULA and decided that their product sounded more like spyware than a useful application.
Also, Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union, seemed wary after the change in the Microsoft EULA for their Microsoft's Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 (SP3) and XP Service Pack 1. It seems that they may be in violation of privacy laws due to Windows Update accessing information in the Credit Unions database.
Be careful what you click on though, in the past there have be stories of malicious programs asking to invade you computer in the form of a seemingly harmless EULA agreement.
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