Saturday, August 2, 2014

Your personal EULA Lawyer

I remember a patent lawyer joking that patents are deliberately worded with confusing text so that lawyers would have a job :-)
Dear lawyers: We'd love you if you create human-readable licenses too (like the one I did).

For  readers who didn't know, some countries have an unconscionability law which protects people from cleverly written contracts/agreements which work against the person signing it.
Eg: If someone usually does complex business transactions and boilerplate language into a contract containing terms unlikely to be understood or appreciated by the average person, the unsonscionability law can be brought into the picture.

Why bother about software licenses and EULA's?
If we were evaluating a contract on paper, we'd either go through it carefully or hire a lawyer for it (because it might have hidden clauses, escape clauses and the usual mind-numbing jargon). Strangely, most people don't seem to care, when it's a software license or a EULA. They just go ahead and click the "I Agree" button, not worrying about what clauses are hidden below.

Jeff Atwood listed out a few things some EULA's demand, which we aren't even aware of, like not being allowed to criticize the product, taking your permission to allow them to monitor you, not allowing you to use the product with other products, asking you to comply with all their future clause changes and most importantly, the one about them not being responsible if their software ruins your computer.

As far as I know, most people still wouldn't bother and would continue blindly clicking "I Agree".

EULA licenses are probably like one's wife. There's all this text that comes forth, and no matter what, you'll just have to say "I Agree" in the end :)

The solution
For those of you who are bothered, a 1.6MB software called EULAlyzer is all you need as a your personal software lawyer who will verify the EULA for you (do consider donating to them). Once you install it, whenever you encounter a window with some EULA text in it, you don't even have to copy-paste that text into EULAlyzer. Just open EULAlyzer.

Select "Scan new license agreement". You'll see a plus icon. Drag and drop it onto the EULA text which you want to analyze.

And viola! The text gets automatically copied onto the EULAlyzer window (if it doesn't, paste the text into notepad and drag the plus button onto it). Click "Analyze", and you'll be shown what level of danger you are in, for certain kinds of sentences mentioned in the EULA. These are named "interesting" words.

The image above is for the WinRAR EULA. For other EULA's, you'll find more "interesting" sections/key-words being detected. Eg: sections on advertising, promotional messages, third party, website address, the without notice clauses etc.

It basically shows you the text that you should analyze. Spares you the trouble of reading through each and every word of the license agreement.

Google Chrome's browser had a scary EULA, with more than what's shown in the below pic.

On a side-note, I even ran EULAlyzer's own EULA on it, and this is what it showed :-)

Running EULAlyzer on FOSS licenses
Tried running it on GPL v3, and this is what I got:

Definitely a useful software which helps people who want to analyze license text. So long as lawyers keep using familiar keywords, this software will continue being able to detect them :-)

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