Do any of you read those EULAs that pop up before you install software? I'll admit, I usually only read the first paragraph or two (unless it's a company that I'm aware has a history of including particularly onerous terms - hooray for Slashdot), and that for only about half of them. EULAs usually really suck. Not only is the language so far removed from common English that it might as well be Martian a lot of the time, but there's a certain sense that, whether or not you have an issue with something in the EULA, you can't do a damned thing about it. Need that industry-leading software package for work, school, or to complete vital parts of a project that's important to you? Agree or pay the consequences. Did you already pay, and open the box? Click the disagree button, and you have a very fashionable, lightweight box to display in a curio cabinet - fantastic conversation starters at parties! "Yes, I paid $1299.00 for Adobe Creative Suite, but I didn't like the some of the terms of the EULA. But it's a pretty box, eh?" That nasty verbiage (because they would never use a word like "language" or "text") seems pretty damned ironclad, most of the time, the terms of the agreement more dense and solid than a metal baseball bat to the head. But they don't have to be. Downloadable Mac software is particularly good about softening up the legalese, and avoiding most of the crap that makes us want to take a vow of techno-celibacy. First, Mac software tends to come with, at the very least, a time-limited demo. If you don't like the terms of the agreement, you didn't already pay for it. There's no box to open, nothing to return - just disagree. Second, a lot of the best Mac software is written by small, passionate groups of people. Not being separated from the user by a thick barrier of lawyers and advisors, many can (and do) use much more human terms in their EULAs. Some even have a sense of humor - and thank [insert deity]! Compare this to your typical, software mega-corp EULA:
By accepting this agreement you promise not to be a scumbag software pirate robbing hard-working programmers of their livelihood. Sure, I have fun doing this, but if I'm going to keep it up I have to put groceries on the table, you know? You are welcome to install Jer's Novel Writer on any machines you own as an individual. Corporations, businesses, and what-not do not have that right. If you're part of some giant novel factory you need to pay for a copy for each machine. Heck, let's just be reasonable here. Jer's Software Hut (the Hut) is depending on people like you who know the right thing to do. You know the difference between sharing and stealing (sharing good, stealing bad). If you need to ask a lawyer if it's OK to do what you want to do, it probably isn't. Why bother? The lawyer will cost you more than dealing directly with the Hut anyway. Just to make it clear, while you can buy a license to use this software till the cows come home, Jer's Software Hut owns the code. (In geek-speak, you own your copy of the binaries, while I own the source.) It would be silly to do anyway, but you're promising now that you won't try to reverse-engineer Jer's Novel Writer or incorporate any subset of it into some other product without express written permission from the Hut. I will give you the right, however, to make as many copies of this agreement as you want, and modify it and use or sell it to your heart's content. If you publish it somewhere, I would appreciate credit. (I can see my EULA-writing career blossoming now.) Heck, you're not reading this anyway. I don't know why I bother. I could put in that I have the rights to anything you create with this software, and you wouldn't notice. You've already clicked "accept" like a good little robot. I'm glad I went with the cheap lawyer.(That takes the gold as my favorite EULA, by far. That's for Jer's Novel Writer, by the way - a fantastic little program that I use for far more than novel writing. I highly recommend it if you've got a Mac and any kind of thoughts you'd like to organize.) And finally, when nasty legal language (pardon me, verbiage) is necessary, some software houses make sure their users know that they're responsive to EULA-related concerns. For example, The Omni Group includes this text at the top of all of their license agreements:
The document that follows this paragraph is a license agreement. Why do we need such a thing? Well, to be perfectly honest, our lawyers have told us that we need to protect ourselves. We at The Omni Group pride ourselves on our low-key style, but the global nature of the software business means that one lawsuit from one user in a far-flung jurisdiction could put us out of business. It also means that, without this agreement, we might not have protection from people who misuse our software. We do not want to bet our entire company on such possibilities, however unlikely, because we like doing what we do and want to continue to be able to do it. And, so, we require you to read and agree to this license. We think you will find it quite reasonable. Obviously, if you disagree, click "Disagree." But, don't just stop there. Let us know. Send some email to <email@example.com> telling us what you find unacceptable about our license agreement. We can't promise to change anything, but we will do our best to get back to you.The straightforward, honest approach is encouraging. I don't have any issues with the rest of their EULA (which I actually did read in its entirety, due to that paragraph), but I'm glad to know that my concerns would not fall on deaf ears. Now, I see these things as mostly typical of Mac culture - but I'll be the first to admit that I'm fairly out of touch with Windows and *nix software trends. I know that in my 10+ years using Windows software, I never read anything like either of the above examples, but I haven't read any Windows software EULAs in the last year and a half or so. As far as desktop *nix goes, I don't think I ever saw a EULA, other than the straight text from the GPL or BSD license. If any of you have similar (or other good) experiences on any platform, I'd love to hear about them. Oh, and if you're a software developer - consider softening up that EULA, would you?