Anyone who has used a computer must have installed some kind of software or signed up for an online service. This may seem a pretty simple and breezy procedure many people don’t realise what they are signing up for when they go through all the steps involved. You may vaguely remember clicking on the Agree button without reading anything stated above it. Well people that is EULA.

EULA or End User License Agreement is mostly ignored but highly important piece of documentation for any software or online service. This seemingly innocuous document is main legalese of any software. By clicking on the Agree button you could as well be signing up for regular viruses from a software company or give up your life savings to a person from another continent. An EULA is a binding legal document on the part of the user of the software and is the basis for settling any dispute. Many EULA have clauses that bind and prevent you from utilising the software the way you want to. For example, the EULA of Windows 7 beta had placed restrictions on benchmarking the software in its EULA. Bloggers then came out with visual graphs and pie charts instead of actual numbers to compare it with Vista and XP. There are also other EULA which prohibit posting of critical or derogatory remarks about any software.

EULA may also contain details about how the user’s details can be collected and used. This may or may not include personally identifiable data which is sent back to the developers. Facebook too had irked many with its EULA or Terms of Service. The original statement of Facebook’s Terms of Service stated something like this: “You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any user content you post on Facebook”. Simply stated it means Facebook could as well morph your photos and post them or publish them in your local newspaper a couple of years after you have closed your account. This virtually gave Facebook unlimited rights over any personal information you upload on its servers. After a nasty fight Facebook finally altered its Terms of Service to less provoking ones.

In other cases EULA may also state how much control a company may exert over its products after their sale. Take the case of Kindle, an e-book reader. When Amazon had got involved in some copyright issues over George Orwell’s 1984, it retracted copies of the book from all its Kindles without user knowledge. Many people had no clue that that company had included such functionality in its device. Thus Amazon had the final say on what books a user could keep on the device.

On the other hand many EULA also try to escape from the possible losses that could be incurred by the use of problematic or badly coded software. There have been cases where such EULA has been challenged.

All that the user needs to ensure safety from a legal tangle is a little alertness and patience. A thorough reading of the fine print will tell what you are signing up for so be careful and do not take the EULA lightly.