Let’s Both Pretend I Read the Agreement

18 Nov

By clicking the "I Agree" button, I acknowledge that I want this message box to go away and that I don't give a hoot about the rules you're trying to put on my use of something you created.The EULA. It’s an interesting beast. On one hand, software makers have the right to say you cannot decompile their code and resell parts of it on your own. On the other hand, the rights granted to software makers and the limitations placed on end-users are often egregious, ludicrous, contradicting, and at the very least inscrutable.

I propose we break this down into three easy-to-digest parts:

What you want from me

First, a simple list of personal information that the app will collect and use just like with Facebook Apps or the Android Marketplace. This process is simple and well precedented. It covers the publisher’s backside and informs the consumer. Win-win.

What I get from you

Second, simple list of rights a user has with the software. How many copies can they install? Until what date is their license valid? This stuff is already baked into the legalese, but here you can make it easy to digest. At the same time, leave out the crap we already know such as “You can use this CD burning application to burn CDs.”

What I give up in return

Finally, provide a succinct and realistic outline of things the user should not do with the software. This will be the hardest part of all to streamline. Look, nobody is planning on manufacturing nuclear weapons with iTunes. In fact, let it be implied and obvious that if you’re breaking the law, your license is invalid and you are not authorized to use the software. Don’t be like Adobe and insist I cannot install their Air player on any machine that shares files with other machines. In today’s modern computing world, almost every computer out there shares files.

Of course, this is all naive and wishful thinking. So perhaps we should spend our efforts developing an app that automatically clicks the “I Agree” button. To whomever creates this app: Please lead by example and put a reasonable EULA on it.

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