Do you know who EULA is? That’s capital E-U-L-A, pronounced You-lah. She’s not a Hollywood starlet, but you would have seen her on dozens of screens. In fact, you’ve seen her on your very own screen, your computer, if you looked carefully. You won’t see EULA unless you own a computing device, so perhaps you’ve seen her on your Tablet PC, Kindle or Nook, or on your mobile phone? I know you’ve seen her in all of them, whichever ones you have, even though you may have gotten only a fleeting glimpse of her. However, most people don’t look carefully, or at all, at EULA. But I guarantee EULA is present in every one of those devices. In fact, those devices won’t even run if you don’t at least pay lip service to EULA. She has a mind of her own, and although she looks similar every time she appears to you, yet she can also be very different. In fact, there are thousands of EULAs. Have you guessed who EULA is yet?
You may have guessed by now that EULA is not an actual person. You may be asking yourself “What do all those different computing or electronic devices have in common?” Yes, they all have a computer chip, but that’s not EULA, even though she may be on some chips. She appears every time you download an “App,” that is, an application, on any kind of device. And it doesn’t matter what the app is, whether it’s as complex as Microsoft Office, or as simple as Angry Birds or Amazing Alex – the most popular $.99 games on the Internet right now. Let me give you the biggest hint: EULA is a document that you accepted from the product app manufacturer - and you probably don’t even remember doing it.
OK, enough suspense about EULA. It stands for “End User License Agreement.” It may not sound so ominous, but in reality, it’s a legal document in which you have only one right. Only by clicking “I Accept” or “OK”, do you get the right to actually use the software you’ve paid for! For almost all applications, if you don’t click “I Accept,” they simply don’t want your business! This shouldn’t be a surprise, because you should know by now that software companies have been hard asses for a very long time. They think that their software is so valuable, that you will do anything to get it, even give up your consumer protection rights. And every time you click “I Accept” online, or buy a software package and load it, that’s exactly what you do! You give away all your rights, and, you give the company unlimited rights over you, and what’s on your hard drive. Hence, you get “Automatic updates” at the most inopportune times.
Even if you want to download free software, you must “accept” the company’s EULA, or, no download. In our modern world full of so many electronic devices, you and I, and 900 million other folks with computers, are simply “end users.” That’s a euphemism for “consumer,” which contains the word “con,” and not by mistake. “Con,” as in confidence trick, that is. Con as in “mark,” or “sucker.” And we all know “There’s a sucker born every minute.” This truism was first coined in 1885, some say, by the great P.T. Barnum. If you can imagine the circus, with all its carnies, hoaxes, and bizarre attractions, you get the picture. Because for some reason, when we are attracted to something, no matter how vacuous or stupid it is, we feel compelled to own it.
We consume software applications at an astonishing rate. Remember the Dot-Com Bubble from 1995 - 2000? That’s when our “app”etite really took off. And now, every government agency, magazine and company has a website, where, in a few seconds, you can easily find their unique application program, and download it via the Internet. You can Google any type of product you like, for example games, security programs, business applications, and thousands of other products from A to Z. If you’re like me, you may download a new app every week to do one thing or another. However, unlike me, you may never read the End User License Agreement attached to that software program.I read every single one, yet, I’ve still gotten burned with unwanted monthly charges for products I didn’t know I bought. I had to pay e-Cig.com $69.95 for electronic cigarettes which didn’t help me stop smoking. Too late, I had to scour the fine print in the EULA to find a way out of it. It’s like the many free trial offers that are never really free! My wife Janet
really isn’t happy when I sign up for these “bargains” without her knowing! And there’s no such thing as “driving a hard bargain” with these software companies.
The most important part of the EULA is two words: “License Agreement.” You see, you are not actually buying aproduct, like Microsoft Office or Angry Birds. You are actually only “licensing” the right to use the software from the manufacturer, who retains all ownership rights to the software. They even have the right to cancel your use of it, for no reason at all. Also, the EULA states that the manufacturer has no obligation to you to “fix” any problems with the software. It’s usually sold “as is,” and you know what that means - problems. However, reputable firms with a Tech Support or Customer Care Center may help you! But guess what? The EULA will probably state that there’s a charge for fixing the real difficult problems. The EULA, for example, will also tell you if there’s a 15% “restocking fee” to return the product, if you don’t want it, like I had to do for my worthless electronic cigarettes. The EULA will also tell you that the company has no liability to you, the government or anyone else for their product, but that you will be prosecuted by the full extent of the law, if you make an unauthorized copy. And it goes on and on.Bottom line, the End User License Agreement is a one-way proposition – take it or leave it. Either click “I Accept” and move to the checkout screen, or don’t click it and be refused the sale. But, on every screen which has the little check box for “I Accept,” there’s also a tiny blue link that you should click first, to actually read their License Agreement from start to finish! Speaking from experience as a Contracting Manager in my past career, I would strongly recommend you get in the habit of clicking that link, and at least perusing the EULA. You might just save yourself $69.95 a month!