Kiss Firefox EULA goodbye

When Mozilla requested Ubuntu to show Firefox’s End User License Agreement on Firefox first start, the Ubuntu and other free software advocacy communities cried foul, because for some reason, stating the obvious (that Mozilla is not liable for whatever happens to your computer and that the software is free) is not in tune with the open source spirit.

Mozilla agreed to remove the EULA prompt, and Ubuntu 8.10 shipped without it. Now Firefox users get an information bar on first launch:

Which links to a new internal address (about:rights) where users are told about their rights:

Sounds like a summarized EULA to me, but apparently it makes people happy enough. Personally I don’t have a problem with this or the previous agreement.

Anyway, the net outcome is that we all get one less window to click when installing Firefox, as today’s Firefox 3.1 Windows and Mac OS X nightlies installers exclude the EULA prompt and just like on Linux, prompt with an information bar with a link to the new EULA agreement.

The fix will be seen on Firefox 3.0.5 and later as code for the 3.0.4 update was already frozen last week.

10 thoughts on “Kiss Firefox EULA goodbye”

  1. It might say basically the same thing, but the key difference is that before it was an agreement that needed to be clicked through, and now it’s just a statement. Given that pretty much nobody reads EULAs anyway, this seems to me a better way of doing things.

    1. Yes I understand the annoyance part of the argument and I am happy to have it gone. What I still don’t understand is how pressing a button violated any freedom. Still all users are subject to the EULA, its liability limitations, trademarks, and free licensing.

      I don’t see ” the EULA is against the spirit of open source” argument. Whether I have to click on it or not I still can get the source code,, redistribute binaries, use it however I want, edit the code, repackage and redistribute it.

      1. Users might be subject to the same restrictions, but they don’t actually have to indicate their agreement by clicking a button. It might not make a big difference in practice (actually as far as I know, there are issues about how legally valid clicked EULAs are even if they say more significantly restrictive things), but I guess the “spirit” is of trusting that the user won’t do bad things rather than having the user make some kind of promise to you to improve your chances of winning in court later.

        I guess a concern is that it _felt_ like it could be restricting the users’ freedom, and advocates of free software want it to feel free as well as actually being free.

        I don’t know really – I’m not one of the people that was making those arguments, but if they are happier after this change, and everyone is happier to have one less thing to read and click, then it’s good 🙂

      2. EULA’s are generally pretty offensive. Dilbert dis all the obvious jokes about hiding clauses in them a decade ago… but in the more practical sense, they are a waiver you agree to that relieves the company producing the software of any responsibility, at all.

        That’s fine- as long as that company isn’t evil. But if the company in question got offered a LOT of money to have their software start downloading and installing adware or spyware as ‘updates,’ the EULA removes a user right to legal action- even if those installations (predictably) ruin many computers.
        It’s an extreme example… but it highlights the problem. A statement of fact recognizes a compact that exists and the reasonable limits of good faith and liability. A EULA means the company has NO legal responsibility, even if they’re grossly negligent, or even outright malign. “We are un-sue-able, NO MATTER WHAT WE DO.”

        I’m NEVER happy with that sort of agreement, and it bugs the hell out of me to see it treated as a normal, expected thing.

      3. Freedom 0 is the freedom to use the software for any purpose, not the freedom to use the software if you agree to certain terms. MozCorp can’t restrict that freedom and still call Firefox free software. And they don’t restrict that freedom — you can use their software for any purpose without agreeing to any terms. What you can’t do is use their trademarks without their permission, and here they’ve tried to leverage their trademarks to force users to accept terms before using the software. Notifying users of their rights is very different from forcing users to accept terms, and I’m glad the free software community has gotten them to fall back to that.

        1. “Freedom 0 is the freedom to use the software for any purpose, not the freedom to use the software if you agree to certain terms. MozCorp can’t restrict that freedom and still call Firefox free software.”

          Sure. But the counterpoint which Percy is making is that the terms people were asked to accept didn’t actually change anything. Assuming you accepted the terms, you would still be free to use the software for any purpose. Your freedom wouldn’t in practice be any more restricted if you agreed to the terms than if you didn’t. You couldn’t legally use the trademarks, but then you can’t legally use the trademarks even if you haven’t agreed to the terms.

          That situation of course does raise the valid question of “If they don’t change anything, why do I have to agree to some terms?”. So it’s a victory for common sense that the requirement for agreement has been removed.

          1. The issue of what MozCorp was trying to do to users is fairly trivial, but only because the terms they wanted enforced were so trivial. Forcing users to agree to any terms at all would set a bad precedent.

            But I was wrong about MozCorp trying to use their trademark leverage. I’ve now read Mitchell’s blog posts (which I should have done before) and some of the back-and-forth about the issue, and it looks like all that happened was that there was a dialog between Mozilla and the greater free software community to hash this stuff out. At no point did I see any attempts to use the trademarks as leverage. That’s important and I’m really sorry I got it wrong.

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