viernes, 15 de octubre de 2010

Microsoft Windows 7 Starter EULA and customer abuse

Today, as I was reading this post, I decided to pay Microsoft a visit and download a copy of their glittering Windows 7 Starter EULA. I read some requirements that unsettled me. Let me transcribe an excerpt of the Windows 7 Starter EULA to tell you why those conditions are simply outrageous:

"By using the software, you accept these terms. If you do not accept them, do not use the software. Instead, contact the manufacturer or installer to determine its return policy. You must comply with that policy, which might limit your rights or require you to return the entire system on which the software is installed [...].

You may use the software as expressly permitted in this agreement. In doing so, you must comply with any technical limitations in the software that only allow you to use it in certain ways. You may not
  • work around any technical limitations in the software;
  • customize the desktop background
  • reverse engineer, decompile [...]
Certain features of other Windows 7 product editions, including Windows Aero and the ability to change the desktop background, are not included in this software." (Microsoft Windows 7 Starter EULA)

I doubt that Microsoft lawyers seriously expect users to comply with those ridiculous terms and conditions. First, an interesting tautological falsehood is created if you must accept the software (Windows 7 Starter) with all its flaws and the license forbids you from "working around technical limitations". If you accept the conditions of this EULA and take Windows vulnerability to malware as one of the implicit "technical limitations in the software", the logical implication is that the EULA itself forbids you to install an antivirus solution to protect your Windows system. Of course, lawyers will claim that the clause refers to improving the OS itself, not "helping it" with additional software. However, the contradiction lies on the fact that the EULA makes the OS and the system an indivisible unit (remember: you must return the computer if you do not accept the license). Therefore, if hardware (tangible, made by an OEM) is ridiculously bundled with software (intangible, made by Microsoft), why would they claim that other software running on the OS to protect it is not an indispensable part of the system? Because it is third-party software, not Microsoft's, they will probably say. Well, how about the hardware the OS is running on? Is not that third-party, too? Why is it that I must return the hardware if I reject the software (Windows), then? After all, the hardware was not made by Microsoft. I suppose that Microsoft representatives would say that it is because the OEM agreed to install Windows. If that is the case, then the OEM should be required to agree to the EULA, not the computer buyer.

The situation, however, becomes even more ridiculous with the second clause. The statement is categorical; there is not any ambivalence to it. I guess you can even rephrase it as a biblical commandment: "Thou shall not customize the desktop background".

Basically, dissatisfied people who found third-party programs to change the hideous Windows 7 Starter background are against the law. Yes, they are violating the Second Law of Microsoftics. Period. There is no argument about it. Nevertheless, I do not see Microsoft's legal war machinery aiming its weapons at them. Why not? Well, because the progenitors of the unpopular 7 Starter knew from the beginning that sober people would never comply with such buffoonery and that other software companies would palliate the situation which, in the end, saved Microsoft's face (yes, Starter seems to be a rival for Clippit's unpopularity). That is why the Redmond bully never filed a lawsuit against Oceanis, for example, even though the latter company produced a program designed exclusively to make users break the "unalterable background" law.

Interestingly, Microsoft's failure to launch an attack to force users respect the content of the Windows 7 Starter EULA spawns yet another contradiction: Can this permissiveness be taken as a signal of amnesty toward infringement? If so, then the whole content of the EULA goes void, which means that I can pirate Windows 7 without any concern. But you know how this would end: Microsoft lawyers would not hesitate to take me to court if I do.

I wonder what would happen if people realized how anti-democratic these EULAs are. Not only do these irrational licenses cut your freedom, but they also establish discriminatory policies against users who "rebel" against them. This looks more like fascism than anything else to me. (The image was censored because it depicted inappropriate content for Microsoft, I suppose. After all, any visual connection that you make between this company and fascism is perceived as such regardless of the clearly anti-democratic practices the company promotes. What attribution does this company have to "limit my rights" as an individual and transfer the execution of this violation to OEMs?)

14 comentarios:

  1. "You may not work around technical limitations" doesn't apply to viruses because that's not a limitation for Windows...actually, it's one of its strongest points: when it comes to Windows viruses and malware, the possibilities are unlimited. Do you see? :P

    Now...about the background limitation...maybe Microsoft's lawyers are waiting for enough people to change their backgrounds with 3rd party software and then they will make their move: suing both the users AND the companies that caused such a "terrible offense" to their great software and therefore caused moral damage to the geniuses who designed Win7 $tarter.

  2. The most offensive technical limitation of W7 Starter is the inability to watch a DVD even if you hook up an external DVD reader.

  3. @ anónimo

    Is that so? If true, that goes beyond outrage. (And I constantly listen to whiners say that Linux "limits" what they can do with their computer because of lack of drivers!)

  4. Well, I've read of Microsoft supporters who felt totally enraged by Win7 Starter innovations...and they are right to feel that way.

  5. The most offensive technical limitation of W7 Starter is the inability to watch a DVD even if you hook up an external DVD reader.

    Then it is a good thing that you can watch the DVD with VLC on your Windows 7 Starter ed. ;-)


  6. Install VLC on Windows Starter 7 and then you can play your DVD movies -->


  7. Ha! now i have read the link that you provided. That paragraph 8 is rather ridiculous ;

    work around any technical limitations in the software;

    Ok i can't play FLAC files out-of-the-box on my Windows 7 Ultimate installation. Am i violating the terms?? hah hah pretty funny. Anyways i have sent a mail to Microsoft in Denmark.


  8. @ Mads,

    Please tell us what they say. In my experience, they keep contradicting the very same policies that EULAs establish (as in the case of whether or not you have a legal right to acquire an OEM Windows 7 license if you build your own computer, for example), but one never knows.

  9. Hola

    They have responded me ; (Google translate, i'm in a hurry :-) )

    Hi Mads

    Thank you for your interest.

    I can make a few examples of what is meant.

    Change the Windows core files to add or remove functionality.

    Forcing the OS to operate with multiple processors or more RAM than it is designed.

    To isolate and extract individual modules to the software and using them to run a program like Windows in its entirety can not run.

    When it comes to 3-party software that is designed to run on Windows as a platform, such as in this case, VLC player, then there is nothing wrong with that. Most of the applications running on Windows was not developed by Microsoft anyway.

    You may install what you want. Is it a Microsoft program, so we require that you license it properly. If you install a program we have developed, we recommend you adhere to the manufacturer's licensing rules.

    But we can not and will not choose for you what applications you prefer to use - it is not intended or intent with Microsoft Windows. We invite all software developers worldwide to develop software that can run on our platform.

    We are well aware that there is competition in the market for example. media players, but we have no monopoly on anything. If you choose Media Player, so you must do it because you think it is the best software, and just like this for VLC and all the others.

    I wrote a feedback to our headquarters about FLAC format and recommended that Microsoft includes the codec in Media Player.

  10. Hola, Mads!
    ¡¡Gracias por la información!!
    So, according to them, 3rd party software does not violate the EULA. Good to know! That will make my nights better...

    This part of the answer is funny, though:
    "We are well aware that there is competition in the market for example. media players, but we have no monopoly on anything"

    Do they think that one is that gullible or that one has amnesia and is therefore incapable of recollecting the past?

    I do not trust liars. They should clarify that in the EULA if they actually mean it.

  11. Yes...they should clarify it as they did regarding returning Windows for a refund! They should also be ashamed of treating customers like that, but it is asking too much...

  12. Do they think that one is that gullible or that one has amnesia and is therefore incapable of recollecting the past?

    heh heh :-)

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