7

End User License Agreements, or EULAs are contracts that a user would have to agree to before that person uses a particular product (normally some sort of software).

Some EULAs for certain Open Source software products, and smaller time vendors can be small and simple, but many EULAs are either:

  • Too long for it to be worth it for the average customer to read
  • Too complicated for the average customer to be able to understand

If everyone read the entirety of every EULA they've come across they'd end up spending hundreds of hours just reading EULAs.

As a consequence of this, a vast majority of users agree to the EULA without reading it.


Even if a customer has troubles with the agreement, they're not an equal party, as they aren't in a position where they can negotiate the agreement.

You either "agree" to the terms of the EULA, or you go without the software.


Is there any existing or pending legislation, or is there any notable private initiative, to cause EULAs to be more manageable for the consumer?

  • I was under impression that validity of EULAs was never actually practically tested in court? – user4012 Mar 14 '13 at 18:50
  • Various aspects of EULAs have been tested in court (such as click-through agreements), and I'm sure enterprise EULAs have been through the courts on multiple occasions. The issue of EULAs and consumer choice cuts to the heart of who benefits from the Information Age and at what cost. – LateralFractal Oct 15 '13 at 21:27
  • You may need to port this question to a programming stack exchange - odd since this is a legislation question, but you will get a lot more eyeballs on the question (2,000,000 users vs 1,000 users). – LateralFractal Oct 15 '13 at 21:30
  • @DVK EULA's have been tested in court. There was a court case between Blizzard and some guy who was running a bot on World of Warcraft, contrary to the terms of the EULA. The court ruled that the guy was, in fact, in violation of the EULA and he was legally bound to what he agreed to. – Avi Oct 16 '13 at 4:20
  • Also, Sam, there are a number of kinds of contracts that aren't negotiated. EULAs, Terms of Service, cell phone agreements, warranties, etc. These contracts also tend to be, in my experience at least, a bit cumbersome. – Avi Nov 2 '13 at 18:41
3

Some countries have detailed regulations on Terms and Conditions, because they have long been abused for disadvantages towards the customer, abusive terms like non-disparagement clauses with penalties, or outright fraud, such as hidden costs or club memberships with fees. EULAs are basically (and in many cases, legally) the same kind of fine print.

Germany has a detailed listing of what may not be part of consumer T&C, including EULAs, in the civil code (BGB), which has grown over decades. Mostly due to abusive and deceptive T&C, so whenever a new scam, using some fine print, popped up, the law was extended. Even if certain conditions do not meet exclusion criteria, or are directed towards businesses, they can still be rated fraudulent, misleading and invalid by judges. In the USA, I think it's laws on state level.

In fact, most or all legal systems fail to realize that a huge textbook, coming with a simple deal, or software usage, can't represent a mutual contract, because nobody has a real chance to read and comprehend it. A checkbox demanding the user that he has "read and understood the EULA" and agrees, is effectively forcing him to lie. T&C should be treated as an unilateral declaration by the vendor, rather than a contract. Licensing software should be treated mostly like purchasing a material good, with no further restrictions than price and good, and nothing unrelated to this.

  • In general, Germany tends to codify boilerplate provisions of common contractual arrangements in statutes leaving much shorter contracts that only contain material terms that are the subject of negotiation at the cost of some freedom of contract, than in the U.S. in which greater freedom of contract means every contract needs to discuss everything from scratch. – ohwilleke Nov 29 '17 at 12:25
-1

Other than generalized opposition from open source software groups and the like - not really.

EULAs have effectively been waved through as legal entities, the terms of which are the intellectual property of the developer, with little opposition or scrutiny.

The only opposition thus far has been from international groupings such as the EU, though these concern anti-competitive practices rather than EULAs specifically.

  • 2
    citations? examples? – Avi Feb 2 '14 at 3:41

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