Does Anyone Actually Read Software EULAs?

If you've used a computer for any length of time, you've probably clicked through hundreds of End User License Agreement (EULA) dialogs. And if you're like me, you haven't read a single word of any of them.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

You forgot my favorite one:
“You will not work around any technical limitations of the software.”

Seems to me someone should set up a test case. Do the keylogger thing and wait around for the lawsuit… Seems like such lawsuits tend to lead only to more such crap, though, not less - but it might be worth a try.

I don’t know if there is a market for software that sleeps with your wife, but there is a potentially huge market for email chat bots that initiate cyber foreplay at 4pm using your account.

I think you’re on to something…

Because even if you don’t read it, it may still be enforceable in court as a contract of adhesion. [Courts have ruled both ways]

contract of adhesion:
“A contract drafted by one party and offered on a take-it-or-leave-it basis or with little opportunity for the offeree to bargain or alter the provisions. Contracts of adhesion typically contain long boilerplate provisions in small type, written in language difficult for ordinary consumers to understand. Insurance policies are usually considered contracts of adhesion because they are drafted by the insurer and offered without the consumer being able to make material changes. As a result, courts generally rule in favor of an insured if there is an ambiguity in policy provisions.”

wikipedia has more information:

Admittedly being a contract of adhesion means that ambiguities are decided for the user… but still, given sufficent backing I would want to bargain for something better… Particularly about the “No Working around Technical limitations in the product” and “No reverse-engineering” clauses.

[I am not a laywer, the above understanding gleaned from /.]

What if Webdesigners started including such outrageous EULA’s in the comments of their html?

By downloading the rest of this Website, you are agreeing to have spyware installed on your computer without notice… any attempts to remove such spyware may result in the installation of more such spyware as well as (but not limited to) a keylogger, several hard disk eating viruses, and a few gB of that bloatware Dell PCs come preinstalled with.

RE #5
I suppose that kudos are in order for Blizzard because of the way they handle the EULA for World of Warcraft. I haven’t actually read it so I can’t comment on what it says, but they at least give you the opportunity to change your mind if the license changes.

Every time that they release even a minor update to the software, you have to re-agree to both the software license and the online service terms of use agreement. Both have a clearly labeled “Last Modified” date at the top.

They even use the somewhat lame device of forcing you to scroll to the bottom of the document before you can click the agree button.

It doesn’t do much for any of the other points. However, it is somewhat reassuring, provided that you read the whole thing once, save old versions, and run a diff on each new version before you agree to it.

Having read lots of EULAs, my least-favorite provision is the one that prohibits the user from making more than one backup copy of the software. This is essentially a prohibition of normal, sane backup practices. Maybe it could be read as only prohibiting backing up the distribution CD, but it seems to prohibit full system backups – or, at least, having more than one of them.

This is not at all a rare provision, either; it has been present in most of the EULAs I’ve read.

This obviously curtails free speech

As an aside, in a strict, Constitutional kind of way, the idea of guaranteeing free speech is aimed at governments, not at private parties. The EULA is, at least in its designers’ minds, a contract between parties, and it’s hardly unheard of for contracts to include provisions for what can and can’t be said about something – that’s what an NDA is, for example. I’m not sure that the idea of “free speech,” as commonly understood, is even applicable in civil law, or perhaps in contract law. (I’m no lawyer.)

I mention this only because people occasionally get confused about constitutional rights, which, as noted, are designed to curb the US government, and people occasionally think that rights like “free speech” et al are absolute rights that always apply in all circumstances. Not so. Else such a contract would be unconstitutional, which it is not.

Ok, back to EULAs.

This came up just today as we showed our CEO the EULA added to our installer for a soon-to-be released product. She bemoaned the lame user experience, and the team agreed with her… but no one had a better idea. Our legal team suggests that it’s the appropriate way to protect the company. What to do? Ideas?

As an aside, in a strict, Constitutional kind of way, the idea of guaranteeing free speech is aimed at governments, not at private parties.

Thank you! I am becoming tired of people thinking that their Constitutional rights apply in private situations. Now if only the government would respect right #2…

Regardless, the EULA is one of the most annoying things I have ever encountered in the computing world. They are becoming more and more deceptive by using legal jargon, and they are beginning to extend their influence to limit parts of a system that are completely unrelated to the software. I easily expect the next version of Windows (if there is one) to limit the types of software you can install to “Microsoft-certified” software. That’s why the GNU GPL is as great as it is, it does not disparage the end-user from using the software as he wants. s=Some day, open-source will be as ubiquitous as Microsoft software today.

We are not anymore software developers, programmers or artists. We have became now lawyers. Tons of license and patents I have to read and understand like a lawyer before I begin to code a simple GUI Button. Software became a contract not anymore a product. I’m very dissapointed where we are heading with the Software, Computer and IT industry.

That’s why the GNU GPL is as great as it is, it does not disparage the end-user from using the software as he wants.

The GPL makes more restrictions than other open source licenses. BSD style licenses limit freedom far less than the GPL, especially GPLv3.

Of course, if you want the maximum amount of freedom you could always use the WTFPL (

I hate EULA’s! – especially how they limit everything that you can do.

The fact that they say I can’t do something angers me, even if I never planned to do it. Often, I don’t consider what the license says I can or can’t do when I do something questionable. I don’t even bother with what the EULA says.

I do occasionally read EULA’s, for instance, I did in fact read the EULA for Vista, which got to me where it prohibited working around limitations of the software.

Part of the Second Life EULA got overturned recently because 1) the EULA was non-negotiated, 2) the terms were overly harsh, and 3) Second Life is the only service of its kind.

The Google Toolbar EULA isn’t much better:

I liked the EULA for earlier versions of the Google Toolbar, which said something like “Read this carefully: it’s not the usual Yadda Yadda” w/r/t the opt-in anonymous tracking.

whew, thx Jeff for the rant. I thought I was the ONLY one who doesn’t read those.

I love it especially when the default is on the “No”. Wonder how many hours the lawyers charged for that decision on most softwares.

Back in the NT 4 days when I was still an MCSE, I tried to memorize it for the nerd humor of it. Beyond that, no, nobody reads these but you still have to have them to placate the lawyers.

Although they don’t prevent you from moving forward on a site like the installation examples given here, German websites require an extra one on top of privacy settings and terms of use on other country specific pages:

The “Impressum” link on the leftmost part of the footer is mandatory for all pages focused on people within Germany while only the privacy and terms links to the right of it are used elsewhere. Why? I have no idea. I just do what I’m told by the JD’s.

Pete Johnson Chief Architect
Personal Blog:

Does this make you think twice about using the VS.Net stuff? MS has some of the nastiest EULA’s out there.

I have never read an EULA; I have also not read this article.