Why I never read software license agreements
Posted March 23, 2009on:
In short, because I don’t believe I legally have to.
I believe in intellectual property. I believe in copyright. I believe the creator of a work has implicit rights granted by the law, and that no license agreement can change what is written in law. Therefore, the only thing a license agreement can legally do is grant me additional freedoms that are not provided implicitly by the law.
So long as I don’t break the law, or attempt to do anything with the software that would otherwise violate those implicit rights and freedoms, then there’s nothing the license agreement can make me agree to that isn’t already covered.
Let me make one thing clear: I am not a lawyer. I have never studied law. Yet I still believe in law. I believe order must be maintained by the people for the people. How nice would it be if we each got to decide which laws to abide by and which to ignore?¹
¹ In fact, it wouldn’t be nice at all: it would be anarchy. I hope that was obvious enough.
I also believe in democracy–not because it’s inherently the answer, but because it’s worked so far. The election of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States has only served to strengthen my belief that democracy is still alive. But as soon as 50% of the voting population becomes either corrupt or ignorant, democracy falls apart. It is therefore not only our right, but our duty as citizens and humanitarians to have educated opinions and beliefs. It is our duty to care.
Since I don’t believe that using a piece of software made publically available is against the law, and since in many cases checking a box that says “I have read and agree to the terms of this license” is the only obvious way for that software to become usable, I also believe that I am in fact being forced to check that box regardless of whether or not I agree with what the license agreement states, and therefore in doing so, the law provides that I am not agreeing to its artificial (and unfounded) terms, making all such end-user license agreements void and pointless.
Now the use of someone else’s work is another story. This is not a freedom granted implicitly by the law, and therefore licenses are required for things like open source software–not because they are imposing restrictions, but because they are liberating existing ones. This is fully within the creator of a work’s right to do, and I know for a fact I, and many others, appreciate this.
Ok so I lied: there are times you do need to read a softare license. But unless I intend to bundle that person’s software with my own (which is not a freedom granted implicitly), or do anything else besides simply use the software I paid for or otherwise obtained by legal means, then I see no reason why I should be forced to read an agreement that only tells me what I already know, let alone agree to it.
So that is why I never read software license agreements.
Logan Murray is a software developer, not a lawyer. This article is a piece of opinion. Feel free to argue it. Please don’t take it as legal advice or legal fact.