Software EULAs: Why you don’t really buy software. You rent. And You Can’t Bring Guests!

When you “purchase” Software from companies, or when you “purchase” ebooks or music with DRM (from Amazon or iTunes), you have to sign an end-user license agreement (EULA). Essentially, you sign your rights away, albeit unknowingly. You see, with copy”right” (read: copy-restriction), ownership belongs to the software company. You only enter into a “license” agreement. This means that even though you are deceived into thinking you “bought” the software, you are only able to use it in a predetermined situations (like only for 5 computers, only on Tuesdays, etc.). What things do you (truly) own that restrict your use of said items? Can you only drive your car on Weekdays? Can only 4 people drive your car? (“How many people are insured to this car” is a different question . . .)

If you don’t care about your rights to ownership, or if you don’t mind mindlessly signing away rights to software companies who value profit (and not your best interests), fine. But can’t you at least agree that these companies are deceptive and engage in false advertising?

You don’t buy or purchase software/music/ebooks. You rent them. Stop tricking consumers and deceiving them into thinking that they own what they “buy.” They don’t own anything you “sell.” Heck, consumers aren’t even buying. They are “renting.” You are loaning. Don’t call a “rental” a sale. Call it what it is, software rental. To call it otherwise is being dishonest.

New edit/expansion/rehash/new metaphor: Basically, we need to rethink our use of software and the business transactions we enter (and stop “buying” what the software companies feed us (“buying” pun not intended)). Apple and Microsoft make it seem like you’re buying something when you shell out money for software, but you are not. You are renting/leasing the software. It is thus specious to dress the business transaction up as one between buyer and seller. It is more like landlord and tenant. You can live here for a few months, but I control the temperature (and can shut off your water if you use too much). Oh, and don’t touch the plant, and don’t use that fancy jacuzzi. The sinister genius is that the software companies/”landlords” trick you (through propaganda and EULAs written in super-long and unreadable legalese) into thinking you paid to own the home. And that it is normal for outsiders to tell you not to use the jacuzzi you paid for and to restrict your use of your own “belongings.” … And did we mention that you can’t allow guests over? Yes, it’s “your” house, but your guests need to pay for access to “your” house.

The recent Supreme Court case prompted me to write this post. See this link and this link from Electric Frontier Foundation (EFF). Death to DRM and let’s support free (as in free speech) software. See my other post on free software for more reading, if desired.

Again, if you are interested in the thoughts of a theologian on this topic, consider this article by John Frame. On a side note, John Frame is a good friend of Vern Poythress, and he started Poythress’ thinking on issues of Copy”right.” Poythress, in turn, taught me hermeneutics at seminary, and had his notes in open document format, which got me to download LibreOffice and learn about free software and Microsoft tyranny (Apple, too…let’s be fair and balanced…). Yes there are free (as in speech, and in price, too) Operating Software out there (GNU/Linux Trisquel, for example). However, hardware companies are part of the problem, too. They don’t share their proprietary driver code for their hardware. If you want a good computer that can work out-of-the-box with free software, consider ThinkPenguin, one of many other freedom-compatible/freedom-respecting computer vendors (other good vendors include ZaReason and System76).

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