greement) The legal agreement between the manufacturer and purchaser of software that stipulates the terms of usage. Pronounced "you
-lah," the EULA is displayed with the installation dialog and requires the user to "Accept" or "Agree" to continue. Prior to downloadable software, the EULA was printed on or within the packaging and stated that removing the shrinkwrap from the box or discs was automatic acceptance.
The EULA generally disclaims all liabilities for loss of data in the user's computer when the software is running. It generally guarantees nothing except that a defective disc will be replaced if there was physical media. EULAs are so inclusive that if the software computed 2+2=5, the disclaimer would likely apply. Whether that would hold up in court is another matter.
If this sounds like a license to make inferior software, the first EULAs were written when operating systems were much less stable and prone to crashing, and even the largest companies were unable to test their software with everything else that users might be running at the same time. However, the issue of liability has never really been changed, and the customer takes the risks.
Does Anyone Read It?
Users rarely read the EULA because it is often long and full of legalese. In 2005, PC Pitstop wanted to know if anyone really does read it, and at the end of the EULA offered a reward if the user emailed them. After five months and 3,000 downloads, somebody did and received a check for USD $1,000.
However, the fact that people do not read the agreement is how spyware has been legally distributed to users. Some EULAs explicitly state that additional software will be installed that reports the user's surfing habits or performs some other unwanted function. See drive-by install
, concurrent use license
and per seat license
Would You Read It?
This EULA came via iTunes to the iPhone. Although easy to read, the EULA is requesting agreement to 55 screenfuls of text. Most likely, everyone clicked Agree, trusting that Apple is an ethical company that means no harm but takes reasonable measures to protect itself.