EULA?

February 13, 2007 at 1:32 pm | Posted in Software Industry | Comments Off on EULA?

If you ask your average computer user what one of these is you’ll probably get a blank stare. This is despite that fact that every time you install a piece of software on your computer you will be asked to acknowledge that you’ve read the EULA (End-user license agreement) and agreed to its terms and conditions. The terms and conditions of a typical EULA will restrict the number of computers you can install the software on (usually to one), waive your rights to any warranty or technical support (i.e. the software is sold ‘as-is’, think of buying a used car) and exempt the manufacturer from any liability due to any conceivable misadventure that may result from the use of the software.

The EULA is usually displayed during the installation of the software and it’s at that point that you are supposed to read through the terms and conditions, and only proceed if they are acceptable to you. Now if you’re like me, this is what a typical EULA screen looks like.

A typical EULA screen from an installer 

This practice is almost universal in the software industry and probably can be traced back to a point in time when a software company decided to employ the services of a lawyer for the first time. Since then, it’s been perpetuated by just about all software companies without question. Now I don’t have anything against a reasonable EULA. I have one for Text2Go and don’t really think you can do without one if you plan to sell software. However I don’t really see the point in asking the user to read and accept the terms and conditions at installation time. To my mind this is way too late. How many people have you heard about who’ve bought a piece of software only to get it home, begin the installation process, read the EULA and then decide that no, the conditions are unacceptable and so return the software to the place of purchase? None I suspect.

The EULA needs to be available to the customer at the stage when they are making their purchasing decision. I suspect that when software was primarily sold as a boxed product over the counter, publishers would have been reluctant to print the EULA on the box due to the fact that the entire box would probably end up covered in dense, capitalized text. Now that most software is sold over the web, there is no harm in providing a page that contains the EULA. The majority of customers will never read this page anyway but at least it is available for those who do want to. I’m going to go with this approach and will also include the EULA as part of my help documentation. I will not be including it in my installer.

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