Making Sense of Terms of Service (a.k.a. EULAs)

We’ve all done it. Yes, you have. Don’t deny it.Question mark smilie

“Done what?” you ask.

Rapidly read, or purposely skipped, a EULA for a software or app download.

What’s a EULA? over time you wish to use free or paid software or apps, you must agree to an End-User Licensing Agreement or EULA (their terms and conditions) before you’re allowed to download said software.

Most standard EULAs exist to protect developer ideas along with their licensing partners. This is especially true for apps. Many apps are independently created and sold for distribution to software giants like Google Play or The App Store (Apple).

The trouble is some EULAs aren’t standard. These EULAs are the problem causers.

timeThe trap many computer users fall into is the time trap. That’s the place where not-enough-hours-in-the-day meets the-abyss-of-EULA-legalese.

Some Time Management Thoughts

  • iTunes and Mag+ Publisher EULAs are each 33 pages long and over 15,000 words.
  • Paypal’s User Agreement has 16 sections for a grand total of 61 pages and over 26,000 words.

Guess how many words are in a novella? Yep, same amount: 17,500 to 40,000. And novellas are light reading. EULAs? Not so much.

I somewhat understand the Paypal EULA length since it’s a banking service, but still. Don’t get me wrong, I love Paypal. It keeps my credit card/banking info on one site rather than spread all over the internet.

More EULA Food for Thought

  • A few days ago, Nintendo updated its EULA for the Wii U gaming console.

If you don’t accept their new EULA terms, your game console shuts down and becomes unusable. Really nice after you’ve shelled out $300 or more USD for it originally.

The truly bothersome thing is the presidence Nintendo is setting. Now EULAs not only affect digital content, but actual physical items.

I know what you’re thinking, “Nintendo can’t do that. EULA’s aren’t really legally binding”.

If EULAs are or aren’t lawful depends solely upon the court trying the case. There have been court cases — ProCD, Inc. v. Zeidenberg is cited regularly — where courts have upheld the legality of EULAs.

So if EULA’s might be legally binding, what’s to safeguard the innocent computing public?Flying contract

We all know even when we read contracts sometimes the legal descriptions and verbiage just flies right over our heads. True enough? Not to mention the “boring” factor.

Here’s the blog section where I actually give you useful information. I knew you’d be happy.

First, some EULAs should be read in their entirety.

I’m talking about investment or financial sites. You have hard currency deposited with these places so you need to know what’s in their EULAs.

I’m also talking about sites that have access to your personal information.

Second, the following trick doesn’t work on EULAs that display in a pop-up window. However, it’s very useful for EULAs that display in .pdf form or browser windows.

Saving Time Reading EULAs

STEP 1: Know problematic EULA terms and phrases.

The terms or phrases the standard computing public should look out for include:

  • unlawful
  • pay/purchase*
  • share/give*
  • allow
  • trial*
  • rights
  • install*
  • uninstall/removal*

The asterisks (*) are the important ones, in my opinion (and that’s why you read this blog).

What we’re looking for with these terms are EULAs that state: a) they share or give your personal information away to other sites, b) may install other things on your computer (tracking software, tool bars, etc.), c) you can’t remove their software once you’ve installed it — Ha! I’d like to see them stop me — and d) you have to pay for something after a trial period, often at a cost that’s mind-boggling.

STEP 2: Determine if the EULA is a pop-up or not. This is easy. If it looks like the below example, and you can only click decline/accept or agree/disagree, it’s a pop-up. If that’s the case, I suggest you read it.
Adobe EULA WindowRemember, we can’t search a pop-up window for suspicious or unusual terms.

STEP 3: For a EULA in a browser window, Press Ctrl + F to search for terms or phrases.
EULA in Browser WindowNotice the nice box in the lower left corner? This is where you type your search criteria or terms.

STEP 4: Type in each term you wish to search out separately (see Step 1) then press Enter.

STEP 5: Use the up and down arrows to the right of the search box to view all your finds.

DISCLAIMER: This is my personal strategy. I am sharing it with the intent to help you avoid wasted time, and worse, legal problems. Use these techniques at your own risk. I am not a lawyer nor have I ever desired to be one.

Things You Should Know

1) When you put software on your computer, you do not now, nor will you ever, own it.

Most software is copyright by the developer(s) or the company who paid big bucks to the developer(s) to own it, and that wasn’t you.

Here’s an analogy. Written works are copyrights of the author who created them. You can pay $4.99 for a book, but you don’t own those writings. You own the book to read those writings, but not the original text.

It’s the same with computer software. But unlike books, you can’t loan a computer program to a friend for two weeks then get it back.

2) Many EULAs limit the resale of digital content. This has a lot to do with owner versus user rights like the ones we talked about above.

In 2010, a court upheld a developer’s right not to have its software resold courtroomor transferred by the original purchaser as stated in its EULA. This case came about by — you guessed it — a resale of software on Ebay.

The new and unopened software was resold by a gentleman who bought it at a business liquidation auction. The case started in 2008, and went back and forth on appeals. Check out Vernor v. Autodesk.  It’s interesting reading for computer geeks… and maybe even if you’re not.

Interesting Items in EULAs

Did you know…?

  • You can’t use iTunes for warfare.

“You also agree that you will not use these products for any purposes prohibited by United States law, including, without limitation, the development, design, manufacture, or production of nuclear, missile, or chemical or biological weapons.”

Personally, I’ve considered calling the Pentagon several times with suggestions of certain pop and rap songs usable as auditory weapons of mass destruction.

  • EA (Electronic Arts, a game company) isn’t responsible for “…LOSS OF GOODWILL, WORK STOPPAGE…”

Meaning if you fight with a friend over an EA game, don’t call them for bail, or if you call in sick or late for work because of their game and get fired, you can’t sue them for lost wages. Makes perfect sense to me.

  • Facebook can give anyone your info at anytime.

“…you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License).”

Facebook does give you an out by stating the above is “subject to your privacy and application settings”. So if you have strict privacy settings, they won’t give away as much of your stuff to everyone else on the net. They explain their reasoning in the next blurb.

“When you publish content or information using the Public setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).”

Last Thoughts on EULAs:

  • A few weeks ago I blogged about unknowingly adding tool bars to your computer (Extra Annoying Programs). Some EULAs do this.

Be careful to uncheck any boxes that could download extra content to your computer or browser before you agree to a EULA.

My Suggestion

contractIf you must pick and choose which EULAs to read, read the ones that matter.

Those would be from banks and financial institutes, and any site that has access to your private information.

On the freebie programs with no personal info, I’d search for download, tracking, location, and call it good.


1) You’re looking for anything downloading you don’t know about, and 2) mobile devices now can pinpoint your location like a GPS.

Number 2 is particularly bad if strangers want to track your kids, and particularly good if you want to track your kids.

My last suggestion is to use EULAs as bedtime reading. The “boring” factor I talked about earlier really comes in handy for insomniacs.

Have a great week, and thanks for following Patti’s Pathways. 🙂

Related posts you might like: How Secure is Dropbox? Extra Annoying Programs

DISCLAIMER: Any and all ideas presented in this blog are solely my own unless otherwise noted. I experience troubles with technology just like any other person, and if I stumble upon a fix or suggestion I feel could benefit others I pass it along. At no time, have I suggested or implied that I hold any degrees or certificates related to computer repair.

I have during my career assembled parts into working computers; done troubleshooting on hardware and software; utilized a great many computer programs and software; designed and updated websites and blogs; as well as created brochures, banners, and flyers.


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