It has been a long time since my last post. Too long, in fact. Relatively recent events, however, have inspired me to make a post.
The end user licence agreement, or EULA: they are everywhere. It is that insidious piece of paper that you find packed with a new appliance or in the instruction manual for a new piece of software. If it is part of an online service, you often have to click a button that says “I agree to the terms listed above” or similar before you can use said service. I am not a real fan of these presumably legally-binding documents for a couple reasons. Firstly, the idea that in opening the box and using the product is effectively the same as signing and submitting a legal document in the case of physical appliances rubs me the wrong way. The idea that you don’t own the technology within the appliance despite the fact that you payed for it also has me ticked off. If I own an appliance, I should be able to do whatever I want to do with it so long as I don’t deny the company that made it profit by redistributing the design. Mostly, however, I’m displeased with some of the changes in EULAs that we videogame players are starting to see. For instance, the new EA Games online storefront and content delivery system called Origin has two worrying clauses:
Section 2: Consent to Collection and Use of Data, states that upon installing and using Origin, you give EA the right to probe your computer, determine computer specifications including currently and previously installed software, and send said information back to EA, where it can be used for whatever they want. Don’t feel like sharing your computer’s contents? I don’t blame you, but EA does not give an opt out. The only way to not have your computer scanned is to not install Origin, and if you like EA games (they have a few good ones) you have no alternative.
Section 20: Dispute Resolution by Binding Arbitration is perhaps even more worry some. It states that you cannot take part in a class action lawsuit against EA. You also forfeit your right to a trial-by-jury single plaintiff lawsuit. You can only seek compensation for damages via arbitration, in which plaintiff and defendant are heard by a judge or other 3rd party who ultimately decides who is at fault, who pays for the damage, and how much.
While for the vast majority of people this will be of little consequence as they will use Origin or other services with very similar terms of service without need to sue or hide anything, it is the principle of the thing. It just seems wrong that a corporation can make you sign away your rights with a single click of the mouse. This is why I would like to propose the Gilberti Industries EULA: an informal note full of legal suggestions that make it perfectly clear that I’m not in the business of selling things that strip people of their rights, but rather empower them to act creatively.
Gilberti Industries End User Licence Agreement
October 7, 2011
Dear Sir or Madam,
In response to other technology and media companies imposing terms of service clauses upon their customers that I personally find ridiculous, I have created my own that I find, and I hope you will also find, much more agreeable.
1. Right of Ownership: you bought it, so it is yours. Decorate it, hack it, improve it, throw it off a cliff, I don’t really care. I will not sue you for “misusing” my designs or for redistributing the source code. To be perfectly honest, the more who see the source the better. By the same consequence, however, since the device is yours wholesale, and because it was most likely built to be modified or hacked anyway, you are ultimately responsible for any damage it may do. If it does do damage by fault of my own design, please don’t call the lawyers first. Call me. We can work something out without getting the guys in expensive suits involved.
2. Open Source Licence Agreement: because this device is open source, you are encouraged to share your own improvements. Did you make it faster, cheaper, more efficient, or better for the environment? Did you use the device as part of a larger machine that does something neat? Did you discover a way the device should not be used? Please share. If you make improvements, it is highly encouraged that you publish the revised design under the same licence as the one used for the original device. Technology only gets better when we are willing to share our knowledge. Heck, everything getting better is dependent on sharing information.
3. Refusal of Terms: this is not a legally binding document. You can refuse it in part or in whole without sending me a notice or refusing to use the product it came with. It is merely a set of suggestions. An agreement made over a handshake, if you will. You can sue me, yes. I’d rather you didn’t, but I’m not taking away your right to. I’m just asking, as a fellow human being and fellow lover of open source technology and maker culture that you contact me first if you have any problems so that we can settle it person to person. As far as I’m concerned, as soon as lawyers need to be hired, everyone loses.
I hope that you find the above non-legally binding terms agreeable. If you don’t, however, or if you think they can be improved in any way, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may not reply right away, if ever, but I can guarantee that I will read your email and take your suggestions under serious consideration.
My plan is to include a copy with every device I ship, and trust me, I do have a couple ideas for future projects in mind. What do you guys think? Good idea? Bad idea? Suggestions on more clauses? Like I said above, I am all ears.