Tuesday, 7 March 2017

End-User License Agreements - EULAs

Sometimes you have to agree to something you can't even see, 
in order to use the software you paid for - this is how EULAs appear in Steam on my PC

What Is An End-User License Agreement / EULA?


End-User License Agreements - EULAs - are those mammoth and impenetrable "Terms & Conditions" (T&C) documents that are cited whenever you install software or sign up for a new service of any kind. Which generally means a few a week. It's common knowledge that people do not read them, and therefore are not actually agreeing to them when they click a button - they are clicking the button just to move on. The words "I agree" bear no relationship to the intention of the person clicking on the button.

The screenshot above is a good example. I sometimes buy computer games on Steam (though I prefer GOG). Then when I go to install the game I bought, Steam pops up a box like that above. To play the game I have to click "I AGREE" - even though I am not shown what I am agreeing to, making it impossible to agree in any meaningful sense of the word. (I reported this craziness to Steam many times, and they either ignored it, or support just went in circles with no resolution).

TL;DR

Are EULAs really too long to read? This is what Wikipedia says:
One common criticism of end-user license agreements is that they are often far too lengthy for users to devote the time to thoroughly read them. In March 2012, the PayPal end-user license agreement was 36,275 words long and in May 2011 the iTunes agreement was 56 pages long. [Source; checked 7th March 2017]
So the Paypal agreement is the length of half a novel of densely-packed legal jargon. And you're meant to read and understand it all before clicking the button. How ridiculous.

As I mentioned here, I once copied and pasted into a Word document a selection of the EULAs that were mashed into my face over a five month period in 2010. It certainly wasn't every relevant agreement/T&C/licence, and nor was it from some specialist sphere like work. This was just from being a normal person using my PC and installing a few games and bits of software. The agreements over that period amounted to 331,993 words, or 592 pages of dense single-spaced legalese. Seems ridiculous doesn't it? No-one can realistically be agreeing to all that; if I'd included licences I had to deal with from my work in libraries it would probably have tripled that figure or more. If you're interested, you can view that document here. In a few cases I couldn't copy and paste from the EULA box because the software/service provider had disabled that option (thanks), so I had to enter random words that came to the same total so my document's final word count was accurate, even if the content wasn't. Bear in mind that was 2010 - we use even more software and services nowadays. It's not unknown to share content via Hootsuite or Buffer to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and so on, while listening to Spotify and dragging a file from Dropbox to Google Drive so you can use Wordpress to update a blog post and edit the image you downloaded from a stock image site with Photoshop, and you check something on a phone app that came via an app store (both of which had their own "agreements") while you wait etc etc. Also bear in mind that EULAs/T&Cs are not static. I often get emails telling me they've changed. And, yes, I'd probably be expected to read them all over again - the service will assume I do that, and agree with it, all unless they hear otherwise (by ending the service I have already paid for). My head spins.

No wonder I hate this kind of thing. It's one of the reasons I changed the copyright sections of my books to make things more open and easier for people.

Finally, this article captures what would happen if we were really able to read all these EULAs: "I read all the small print on the internet and it made me want to die". And that was only reading a puny 146,000 words of EULAs.

This is one curse of modern life: normal functioning includes agreeing to things you do not, and cannot, agree to.

Update 2017-03-17: Further links
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1 comment:

  1. Ha, they annoy me too! Glad it isn't just me.

    ReplyDelete