EULA Blues (or "I agreed to WHAT?") What if someone with whom you wanted to do business asked you to pay for the product or service first, before you would be allowed to read the contract stating the terms of the business transaction? That's exactly what software vendors demand every time you buy a shrink-wrapped boxed operating system or application. The End User License Agreement (EULA) is inside that box, or sometimes only in digital form on the disk so that you can't know what you're agreeing to until after you've already plunked down your hard-earned money. Even after you get it home and open up the box, how many of you actually read the EULA? Many folks, anxious to get on with the installation, just click "I agree" without even scanning through all that fine print. After all, you've already paid for it - what are you going to do if you don't like what the EULA says? Take it back? That's what the EULA says you should do if you don't agree with its terms, but many software retailers have policies against accepting returns for opened software. Of course, they have a good reason: otherwise unscrupulous folks could buy a program, take it home and make a copy of it and then return it for a full refund. Still, this policy discourages users from exercising their right to reject the EULA. Which brings us to an interesting point: in many jurisdictions, a contract signed under duress is not considered binding. Is your agreement really voluntary under these circumstances? In the past, courts have made some interesting rulings on EULAs. For example, in a landmark case back in November 2001, Softman v. Adobe, a district court ruled that consumers could resell software programs they hadn't installed (i.e., software that comes "bundled" with hardware) even if the EULA prohibits it. Because the EULA was presented during installation, the reseller had never accepted it and therefore was not bound by it. However, under the laws of most jurisdictions, if you do click that "I agree" button, you're bound by the terms of the EULA. And some of those terms can be onerous indeed. Most vendors' EULAs disclaim any responsibility for any damage caused by their software, but others go much further: for instance, requiring that you agree to allow the software vendor to access information on your computer. Many feel that the current methods of licensing software should be overhauled completely. Others caution that because of its digital nature, software cannot be treated like other intellectual property (books, music, art). What do you think? Is there a better way to sell software rights than via the EULA? Tell me what you think.