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Another strike against - "I Accept"

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this article comes in the "Editor's Corner" of WXP Newsletter.

You can find it here: http://www.wxpnews.com/

But the content changes monthly so the link may not be good next month.

 

 

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What Vendors Give, Vendors Can Take Away

 

Last week, our reader Matt V. wrote to me about a Sony firmware update for the PlayStation 3, released on April 1, that seemed like a cruel April Fool's prank to some customers. What does it do? It removes the option to "install other OS" that was on the console's menu and previously made it possible for users to load Linux and use the PS3 - which, after all, is a computer - for other computing tasks besides playing games.

http://www.wxpnews.com/9QQBTK/100406-PS3-R...s-OS-Capability

 

 

 

Now it's one thing when you buy a device, knowing that it can only be used as a game console. It's quite another when you make that purchase based on the belief that you can use it for more than that, with the vendor's blessing, and then have that functionality taken away. Some PS3 owners are very unhappy campers. They feel it's a lot like buying a new car that comes with leather seats, and then having the auto maker come to their homes in the dead of night to rip out those nice seats and replace them with cheap cloth.

 

Sony says the update is completely optional. Oh, but there's a catch. If you opt not to install it, you won't have network functionality, which means you can't use PlayStation Network, chat or browse the PlayStation Store. And what's the point of removing the option, anyway? Some speculate it's because people were using the other OS to watch pirated movies, but many folks say they used it so they could use a better web browser, as they didn't like the Sony one. In any event, such a drastic removal of functionality to prevent piracy that might or might not happen seems a little like taking our cars away from all of us just in case we might break the speeding laws with them, or banning tire irons because after all, it's possible to use one to commit assault.

 

Of course, Sony isn't the only company that has ever removed functionality from one of its devices. In 2007, an Apple software update famously "bricked" an unknown number of iPhones that had been "unlocked" by their owners so they could be used with a cellular carrier other than AT&T - taking away all functionality.

http://www.wxpnews.com/9QQBTK/100406-Unloc...iPhones-Bricked

 

 

 

Apple also reportedly forced the developers of Stanza, an ebook reader app for the iPhone, to issue an update that would remove the app's ability to transfer ebooks to their mobile devices with a USB cable. Interestingly, Lexcycle, the maker of Stanza, fielded questions by staying they were "forbidden from discussing the specifics of our conversations with Apple on this matter," although they did confirm that the feature was removed in accordance with Apple's demands.

http://www.wxpnews.com/9QQBTK/100406-USB-Sharing

 

 

 

And last December, Microsoft issued an update for Office 2007 that removed the ability to read Custom XML elements contained within .docx, .docm or .xml files - but it wasn't exactly a voluntary action. The company was ordered by U.S. Federal Court of Appeals, which found in favor of Canadian developer i4i when it claimed the feature infringed on its patent, to remove the XML editing technology.

http://www.wxpnews.com/9QQBTK/100406-Custom-XML-Yanked

 

 

 

Is it legal, then, for hardware and software vendors to change your devices and programs after you buy them? Unfortunately, if you read all the fine print in the End User License Agreement (EULA), you'll probably discover that you agreed to that very thing when you clicked the "Accept" button during the installation or setup process. The Sony PS3 EULA, in section 3 ("Services and Updates"), says: "Without limitation, services may include the provision of the latest update or download of new release that may include security patches, new technology or revised settings and features which may prevent access to unauthorized or pirated content, or use of unauthorized hardware or software in connection with the PS3 system." and "Some services may change your current settings, cause a loss of data or content, or cause some loss of functionality."

http://www.wxpnews.com/9QQBTK/100406-Agreement

 

 

 

You can bet the vendors made sure their attorneys had covered their behinds before they issued these updates. Don't remember ever clicking to accept the agreement? It doesn't matter, because section 9 ("General Legal") says: "By using or accessing the System Software, you agree to be bound by all current terms of this Agreement." and what's more: "SCE, at its sole discretion, may modify the terms of this Agreement at any time, including any terms in the PS3 system documentation or manual."

 

It does make you wonder just how far that clause could be taken. Can the vendor come back and say, "Oh, we've decided that instead of granting you an infinite license to use this software, we're changing the terms of this agreement so you only get to use it for six months. If you want to use it longer, you have to pay for it again"? Apparently they could.

 

Interestingly, I did not find such an overt clause permitting the terms of the agreement to be changed in the Windows 7 EULA. However, section 23 ("Entire Agreement") says: "This agreement (including the warranty below), additional terms (including any printed-paper license terms that accompany the software and may modify or replace some or all of these terms), and the terms for supplements, updates, Internet-based services and support services that you use, are the entire agreement for the software and support services." If you parse that language carefully, you'll see that they're saying they can modify or replace the terms of the agreement by issuing "additional terms," which can be but wouldn't have to be printed-paper terms accompanying the software.

 

Want to know what's in the EULA of any other Microsoft products? At least they've made that information easy to find all in one place:

http://www.wxpnews.com/9QQBTK/100406-End-User-License

 

 

 

Of course, we've talked about heinous EULA terms before, but the clauses that give them the right to change any and everything (including those terms themselves) has to be the worst. In essence, that one clause negates any and all rights that might seem to be granted to you by the agreement, since the vendor has the sole discretion to change any part of it at any time.

 

Tell us what you think. Should vendors be allowed to remove important functionalities from their devices or software after you paid for that same functionality? Should they only be allowed to do it when under a court order, as Microsoft was with the XML editing issue? Should they have to refund part or all of your money if they make significant changes that cause you to no longer want the device or program? Or should they be able to make any changes they want, since after all, you agreed to it? Should, at the very least, changing the terms of the agreement be prohibited? Have you ever had features you wanted removed by an update? We invite you to discuss this topic in our forum at

http://www.wxpnews.com/9QQBTK/100406-Forum-Discussion

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They can do whatever they want within the realm of the agreement you clicked I agree to.

 

Don't like those agreements, then do what I do, simply don't click agree and find something you can agree to.

 

Yes indeed I personally think that vendors have the right to do the things they do. It is a contract between the vendor and the user.

 

Never understood why people get their shorts in a bunch over these things when they agreed to them.

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Bruce it could be that most people don't bother to read the eula to begin with

 

Bear

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They can do whatever they want within the realm of the agreement you clicked I agree to.

 

Don't like those agreements, then do what I do, simply don't click agree and find something you can agree to.

 

Yes indeed I personally think that vendors have the right to do the things they do. It is a contract between the vendor and the user.

 

Never understood why people get their shorts in a bunch over these things when they agreed to them.

 

It doesn't matter. It's BS that they disabled something they endorsed without warning. It's not always about "legal" right ands wrongs...sometimes you have to consider morals and unwritten understandings.

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It can be argued that by virtue of my continued use of Windows operating systems, I remain one of the servile dependent followers who is rightfully vulnerable to the terms of the contract.

 

OK. I admit that I am... vulnerable to the terms of the contract because I clicked "I agree".

 

However, I tend to read EULA and other terms of contracts related to operating systems, application software, and hardware use and warranty terms, as well as a myriad of other contracts, quotes, purchase orders, terms of use, and other legal documents that I regularly encounter.

 

My point in posting this information is not that I have my skivvies in a bind, but that more people should....read.

 

EULA and other contracts represent a prime example of:

"What you Allow, you Encourage."

 

Because the terms are posted publicly and agreed as a lock-step term of use, the consequences are inevitable once "I agree" is clicked..

That the terms were cleverly worded or buried in detail, or consequences are difficult to anticipate, does not invalidate the legality of the agreement, nor make them BS. They may be misleading and exploitative, but so are many products which use "the American dream" or promise of enhanced appeal or other such flavor over substance presentations.

 

I agree that EULA contracts are generally "legal", and that folks can refuse to agree, and can use other products in protest. But most don't.

 

Posting this for discussion is to support the efforts of those who would persistently bring these types of problems to the attention of as many people as can be reached.

 

There may not be a legitimate parallel, but I'll point out that EU recently imposed change to allow other browsers as alternative to the default Internet Explorer. If it's a good example, then it is an example that continuing to pound on the drum may eventually bring sufficient attention to the problems inherent to EULAs.

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What the EU did with browsers and media players before that doesn't have anything to do with EULA's, but has everything to do with anti-trust and abuse of monopoly power.

 

As for not reading EULA's and contractual agreements, well all I can say to those people is when you run as fast as you can into a dark room, wearing sunglasses don't complain the walls are hard.

 

Adam the right and wrong of it is this.

 

The EULA is a contract between the software maker and the user. They hold up their end of the contract, many users do not. In fact many users go out of their way to break the contract they agreed to.

 

Hate to tell you but in the world of business, it is not about "unwritten" things. It is all about the written word. If you want to consider morals then perhaps we should have a look at the morals of the end users and their pilfering and stealing of intellectual property that lead to more and more restrictive licensing.

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Like the majority of people I click without reading. However, I do it with the understanding that I'm pretty much at the mercy of the people who wrote the software and wouldn't waste much time complaining about the contract I signed.

 

I'm at the point of thinking that computing and the internet is enjoying it's Wild West days and that anything that we see from here on will be more restrictive and not less.

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I tend to disagree.

 

I think just the opposite is happening.

 

there are more and more large corporations, governments, database companies and software companies turning to open source projects, then you have the plethora of devices running open source software, the great majority people are not even aware of the fact they using it.

 

There are of course companies that are becoming more and more restrictive in nature, and it isn't difficult to see that they are slowly but surely losing market share to other alternatives.

 

This most prevalent in Europe, South America, Asia, and certain parts of the middle east. In other words it's happening all around us. The world is opening up, and the US companies are trying maintain their grip by shutting down, locking out, restricting, limiting.............

 

Much the way of the browser will go computing. Open, not proprietary lock em junk.

 

The writing has been on the wall for many years, progress has been slow but steady in some areas and growing at a rapid rate in others.

 

Hell In know a guy who just a year or two ago wouldn't even use an alternative browser. ;):rolleyes:

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