Rant: EULAs (nerding with the nerds in the nerdery!)

You know what annoys me? End User License Agreements (EULAs sometimes also called Terms of Service). They’re these giant legal documents that corporate lawyers draw up as the agreement between them (the software creator) and you (the customer). The problem with most EULAs is that they’re really one-sided. There is a big list of things that they insist you can’t do with the software you bought, and there is almost no reciprocation. And your only options as a customer are to either accept the deal carte blanche or reject it and go through the hassle of trying to get a refund.
They can get downright draconian too! Here is an excerpt from an EULA written by a popular game company (edited to protect their identity):

You agree that COMPANY would be irreparably damaged if the terms of this License were not specifically enforced, and therefore you agree that COMPANY shall be entitled, without bond, other security, or proof of damages, to appropriate equitable remedies with respect to breaches of this License, in addition to such other remedies as COMPANY may otherwise have available to it under applicable laws.

Did you catch that? The bit where you agreed that they can demand reparations from you if they think you violated the agreement, and they don’t even have to prove it! That’s ridiculous! Even when they’re not making ridiculous new demands, they insist that you agree to rights that are either a) already defended by law or 2) obvious. Things like “If your computer melts while visiting our website, it’s not our problem” or “don’t break copyright laws.”

Here’s my proposition: We need a bill of end user rights. We need a set of rules that are automatically appended to every EULA to protect the customer. Here’s what I’m thinking to get it started:
  • Security updates will be made available for free for the life cycle of the product - If your software breaks, you have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to protect your customers from your own mistakes.
  • Security updates will not be contingent on escalating privileges - I get this one with my phone apps a lot. A new update comes out, and all of a sudden my tuner needs to be allowed to make purchases and charge them to me. No. That’s not cool.
  • Privileges required by the software will be disclosed - This is one thing that smart phones do well. Every time I install or update an app, they tell me what permissions that app is going to need. I like that! All software should let me know what boundaries it has and make sure to stick to them!
  • The software will not install automated services without first prompting the user; non-necessary services may be left off - Apple software is really bad about this. Every time I update Safari or iTunes on my Windows computer, I have to go through and disable Bonjour, iPod helper, and half a dozen other services that I don’t want or need.
  • The software will not perform administrative functions without a prompt or previous permission from the user - Google software is really bad about this. You can’t turn automatic updates off for Chrome or Google maps. It updates silently in the background, often making administrative changes beyond the simple update function even. Chrome once messed around with the icons on my admin’s desktop during the update. Not cool!

So what else should go on this list? I’m sure there’s other important stuff that I’m forgetting. Leave a comment!
Oh, and also, since my page views tripled this week because of it: SOPA! SOPA! SOPA! (Why is everyone so excited about Spanish soup? Either way, come for the sopa, stay for the nerd rawk!)
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