October 19, 2006
Forbidding Vistas: Windows licensing disserves the user
Reading the Windows Vista license is a bit like preparing for breakfast with Lewis Carroll's Red Queen: You should be ready to believe at least six impossible things about what users want from software.
It is unlikely that a home user looking for a computer operating system has any of these "features" of the Vista EULA in mind:
- Self-limiting software
- Vanishing functionality through invalidation
- Removal of media capabilities
- Problem-solving prohibited
- Limited mobility
- One transfer only
and a bonus,
- Restrictions on your rights to use MPEG-4 video
Details below. While Microsoft should be commended for putting its license into plain English, that doesn't help to make the license restrictions any more palatable. Quoted italicized language comes from the Vista license.
1. Self-limiting software, or Mandatory Activation. "Your right to use the software after the time specified in the installation process is limited unless it is activated. … You will not be able to continue using the software after that time if you do not activate it." Moreover, "[s]ome changes to your computer components or the software may require you to reactivate the software." In order to use Microsoft Vista, you must consent to communication to Microsoft of information about the software and the device on which you have installed it. If you don't do so in time, your software will begin to degrade in function.
2. Vanishing functionality through invalidation. "The software will from time to time validate the software, update or require download of the validation feature of the software. … [if validation fails] you may not be able to use or continue to use some of the features of the software." Again, your computer must make periodic (period unspecified) contact with the Microsoft mothership if you want to continue to enjoy what you thought you paid for. Microsoft, of course, disclaims any liability for the consequences if their servers fail or mistakenly deny you validation.
3. Removal of media capabilities. "When you download licenses for protected content, you agree that Microsoft may include a revocation list with the licenses." "[C]ontent owners may ask Microsoft to revoke the software's ability to use WMDRM [Windows Media digital rights management] to play or copy protected content." In other words, one movie or music file may take away your ability to play another, if the content owner (not the computer owner) chooses to cut back the Windows Media Player's features. Don't like the reports that Creative is removing radio recording functions from its MP3 players, under music industry pressure? Prepare for that kind of feature flux to be routine in Vista -- you've agreed to it in the license.
4. Problem-solving prohibited. "You may not work around any technical limitations in the software." Microsoft might be referring to anticircumvention of technical protection measures here, but since it's often hard to tell the difference, from the user's perspective, between a TPM and a bug, this reads as a prohibition on user debugging and problem-solving. After all, down-rezzing HD content or refusing to allow users to copy quotes from an e-book don't strike most people as wanted features. Can you work around a document's failure to save properly?
5. Limited mobility. "The first user of the software may reassign the license to another device one time." If you upgrade your machines more frequently than you care to change operating systems, you'll just have to pay again. Don't worry about this applying too frequently, though, because most OEMs will probably keep bundling Windows with their hardware, thanks to Microsoft's pricing encouragement, and Microsoft won't offer refunds if you don't like the terms on those OEM bundles.
6. One transfer only. "The first user of the software may make a one time transfer of the software, and this agreement, directly to a third party…. [T]he other party must agree that this agreement applies to the transfer and use of the software." You can give your old computer to Dad, but if he wants to give his older computer to the neighborhood community center, they'll have to find their own operating system (may I recommend Ubuntu?).
Bonus. MPEG-4 Visual Standard
NOTICE ABOUT THE MPEG-4 VISUAL STANDARD. This software includes MPEG-4 visual decoding technology. MPEG LA, L.L.C. requires this notice:
USE OF THIS PRODUCT IN ANY MANNER THAT COMPLIES WITH THE MPEG-4 VISUAL STANDARD IS PROHIBITED, EXCEPT FOR USE DIRECTLY RELATED TO (A) DATA OR INFORMATION (i) GENERATED BY AND OBTAINED WITHOUT CHARGE FROM A CONSUMER NOT THEREBY ENGAGED IN A BUSINESS ENTERPRISE, AND (ii) FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY; AND (B) OTHER USES SPECIFICALLY AND SEPARATELY LICENSED BY MPEG LA, L.L.C.
Users never asked for these impossible limitations. Microsoft decided unilaterally to add them, claiming it could abrogate personal ownership, fair use, and first sale rights because "The software is licensed, not sold." If Microsoft faced real market competition on the home desktop, users could vote with their wallets, but anticompetitive practices and network effects make Microsoft a like-it-or-not proposition for most users.
While Carroll's Humpty Dumpty might have been able to choose the meanings of his words at will, on this side of the looking glass, software vendors shouldn't be able to redefine the meaning of "buying software" by the simple attachment of a click-wrap license.
Public domain Tenniel images (1872) from The Victorian Web.
Posted by Wendy at October 19, 2006 12:18 AM
Thank you for taking the time to 'translate' this for us, before we plunk down our hard-earned shekels.
I think that I will simply have to struggle along using XP - I thought the Aero interface was cool - but not cool enough to put up with all of this.
Microsoft's lawyers look like they're really trying to push away ANY tech-savvy 'customers'.
Yeah, good luck with THAT business model ...
Why even bother pointing this out? I think it's clear by now that most computer users want to be treated this way.
Already under XP, if you have to replace the motherboard (a short, faulty PCB, you live in the tropics or another lightning-prone area, you live somewhere with a lousy power supply prone to surging), the OS will decide that you have made substantial changes to the machine, and require re-registration. Thus, the existing OS may already de-activate or limit itself even if you never re-install it.
The EULA has been a problem all along. The very concept that you must license software instead of buying it was supposed to limit piracy. That obviously didn't work. However, the result has been a complete and total negation of liability for the software vendors. So now they are able to put anything in their "EULA" that they want and make absolutely absurd claims. In many cases on websites they now claim that they have the right to change the EULA without notice to you and it is your responsbility to continuously read their EULA (presumably each time you use their software their lawyers expect you to re-read their EULA and compare it with the old one to see if there are any differences). Ok - RIGHT. Well, if you don't like the EULA you don't have to use the software. Of course if we all began to follow common sense then the software industry would drop dead fast and our nation's technological edge would disintigrate.
This whole situation is completely and totally the fault of Congress who let the software industry get away with EULA-Murder. The concept of the EULA needs to be destroyed. If we had to obey the EULAs (even when the spontaneously change without notificiation) then we would have to have a lawyer strapped to our hips and even then it would turn out that no sane person would EVER download, install or use software. Period.
So screw it. For now all is quiet as the software vendors (wisely) do not see fit to actually exercise their "right" to sue us all for EULA infringement, of which my guess is 99.9% of the world population is guilty. If they ever do try to sue us for infringing their EULAs then there will be a big horrible revolution and most of the CEOs of software firms will have to hide in secret compounds buried deep within their mountain fortresses. They set up this situation and frankly they should pay for it. My suggestion is that they voluntarily abandon the EULA-as-form-of-fascism and let it go.
Turning to the Software Vendors:
(Hand wave) You don't need to be a complete and total a$$hole. You want to go home and rethink your life.
What do people do that want to put this on a box that is never internet-connected, either through security considerations, infrastructure limitations, or minimalist hardware?
"What do people do that want to put this on a box that is never internet-connected, either through security considerations, infrastructure limitations, or minimalist hardware?"
Fuck 'em and pirate the software.
Whatever. XP has the same limitations. Some of your "interpretations" are way off the mark, IMNSHO.
As for downrezzing HD, if you knew what the hell you were talking about (which you don't), you'd know that _every_ damned OS will have to do this. DCMA, baby, DCMA. Now run along and tell your congressman that the internet doesn't run on tubes, and to fix your god-awful, dumb assed digital rights rules.
Thak you so much for posting this. It is increasingly frustrating, watching the world go from a "own" to a "use" mentaility, just because you pay money for something, increasingly you do not own it, you merely have the right to use it in a limited way.
All the talk of eliminating EULA is so much noise. Content Providers are king, whether it is OS, audio, video, HD or whatever.. and the consumer is the "evil necessity" that has to be squashed into as small a box as is possible, and if it can't be done with market forces, then pay to have a law put into effect.. re: broadcast flag, audio flag, VEIL mark, etc. and if you think Vista has some amazing limitations, check out Amazons video download TOS.. wow, what a world we live in.
Well looking at the direction that Microsoft is heading it will only be a matter of time before a full scale revolt occurs. Linux is obviously a very good alternative to having to pay for upgrades and the constant worry of security patching for Microsoft products just makes linux look more attractive to both the business community and the general user. You can on any given day receive more help from the linux community as opposed to paid microsoft technical assistance.
Also, if you are considering running Vista virtualized on a mac, the license requires you to use the Enterpise or Ultimate versions. You are prohibited from using (though technically able to use) Home Basic or Home Premium.
Also, the you need 2 licences if you plan on virtualizing Vista AND running it on boot camp. As the quote below says, "One license equals one installation."
"You cannot install Windows Vista Home Basic or Home Premium in a virtual machine, at least from a legal standpoint. (There is nothing technical preventing you from doing so, of course.) And on a related note, each retail copy of Vista you purchase is only licensable for one install. If you install a copy of Windows Vista in a virtual machine and then activate it, you cannot install the same copy of Vista on a physical machine and reactivate it (unless you take advantage of the transfer rights mentioned above, of course). One license equals one installation.
"So why "restrict" users like that? Well, as it turns out, there's no massive conspiracy. Currently, the majority of Microsoft's virtualization users fall into exactly two groups: business customers and enthusiasts. Business customers will want Vista Business and enthusiasts will use Vista Ultimate. Simple. And though pundits might like to complain about this apparently arbitrary decision, the reality is that very, very few people can ever come up with a legitimate reason to run, say, Vista Home Basic in a VM. And those that want to, can, if they don't mind violating the Vista EULA and not receiving support."
While this quote paints the issue as all fair and reasonable, it sucks for users. If you want to virtualized, you have to buy the more expensive version. If you want to use virtualization AND bootcamp, you have to buy two licenses (even though you cannot use boot camp and virtualization concurrently). So two licenses to use one OS on one system. Que ganga!
See http://www.virtualization.info/2006/10/microsoft-denies-some-vista-editions.html for the quotes from the license.
I'm not sure if M$ included their "Trusted Computing" plans (we don't trust the user) into Vista. See http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rja14/tcpa-faq.html for the downsides to TC. Or just watch the animated short at http://www.lafkon.net/tc/ for a quick summary.
"You may not work around any technical limitations in the software."
So - if Vista is 'technically' limited to say... not read a specific type of archive file or media file, you're not allow to write an app to allow it to 'work around that technical limitation'?
By strict thought on this - that would be correct. Almost any 3rd party app is in essence, working around a technical limitation of the OS..
Can Vista out of the box provide a gaming experience such as Civilization 4? If not - the app itself works around this 'technical limitation' to be technical.
Printers? Hmm - what if Vista cannot - out of the box print to a brand new printer. Would a driver be considered a 'working around' Windows technical limitation that it cannot print to this device out of the box, as it is unaware of the proper data that needs to be sent to the printer?
check out www.ubuntu.com - I know I'm going to, I'm about fed up with Microsoft's greed - and I never really have gone that far yet, I was always pretty happy, overall with windows, in spite of the fact that I am able to run Linux fine.
So I'll "work around the technical limitation of my desire to not run windows"
Long as I can get Linux to run a few of my video games, I have no need for Windows anyway.
It's worth mentioning that not all of the seemingly crazy, staggering, rambling language in the EULA is that far off the mark. Microsoft not taking liability if their authentication servers fuck over a business makes complete sense. Otherwise, Microsoft would have to pay everyone off who lost even a minute of productivity because of their servers maybe being rebuilt for five minutes. Without this clause, it would be trivially easy to say that the fact that they weren't ready and willing 24 hours a day, everyday, they owe you a shitton of money. Is M$ even remotely close to having the right idea with this EULA? No, not in the slightest. But you do need to remember that they are a multibillion dollar company with stakes in every civilized nation in the world. Can you blame them for covering their asses?
Down with DRM
Down with EULA
University of Michigan
College of Engineering
1. When will we see an affordable and friendly operating system that can compete with MS Windows?
2. If Windows only cost $50, I wouldn't have such a problem with buying it (or more than one copy).
"Microsoft not taking liability if their authentication servers fuck over a business makes complete sense. Otherwise, Microsoft would have to pay everyone off who lost even a minute of productivity because of their servers maybe being rebuilt for five minutes."
Perhaps not requiring you to periodically connect to their servers would be the best way of achieving this. If my machine ever ends up out of service because of this, you can bet MS'll end up in court over it, exclusion of liability or not. Over here in the UK, we have a few things to say about contracts that are unfairly balanced away from consumers' rights, particularly when it comes down to exclusion of liability.
Anyway: what if I want to run Vista without an Internet connection? Does that not work?
Well now, in the US I believe that you are allowed the right to edit a contract as long as both partys agree. Well the EULA prevents this and makes me wuestion its legality
Jenny: "When will we see an affordable and friendly operating system that can compete with MS Windows?"
Wendy seems a little sour. 'Users didn't ask for this.' Of course they didn't. They never asked for a license agreement to begin with. Heck, I'm not sure too many users asked you to make a blog post with 6 things plus a bonus about things you with the Windows Vista License. How about this, read the iTunes or MAC OS License.
Get over it. (Btw, you probably shouldn't be using Windows to post to your blog with since you have so many problems with Microsoft)
I have said it once and I will say it again. Vista is going to be the best marketing campaign Apple ever had.
[quoted from Jenny]
1. When will we see an affordable and friendly operating system that can compete with MS Windows?
2. If Windows only cost $50, I wouldn't have such a problem with buying it (or more than one copy).
1. Theoretically Google would be the ones to slap down an amazing and inexpensive operating system. That's what I'm hoping for, anyway.
2. It sounds like Microsoft is not interested in providing a useful, friendly product. They're more about CONTROL of the entire OS industry. :(
To Jules, and others who wonder if you can run vista on a PC not connected to the internets...
Just as in Windows XP, you can activate windows via the phone by calling a support line, typing in a ton of numbers, and then getting a new bunch of numbers back. There is no reason this will be different in vista.
Yes, this MS EULA (and many others) is awful, but the commentary is overstated and ultimately self-defeating. Let's look at the first kvetch, that it's "Self-limiting software." Well the EULA says words to the effect of 'activate/validate in a certain period of time or it won't continue to work.' Actually, that sounds like much of the shareware I've downloaded and used in the past decade. Seems fair - use it for a while, but eventually prove you've gotten it legitimately. And guess I have to make the same comments re: "Vanishing functionality through invalidation."
And despite the distaste for "One transfer only" the horrified example offered doesn't even pertain - if I give my machine to my Dad and then he gives it to the geezer center the "limitation" in this EULA is irrelevant - the donated machine and all the software it's running will continue to work jes' fine.
I agree 100% with the core complaint about this and similar EULAs, but overstating one's case with such sloppy logic and petulant tone does nothing to sway anyone who doesn't already share our view.
Yet another reason to keep pirating Windows!
I work for Microsoft and I'm buying a MacBook Pro.
Fuck them. I guess more people will be switching to Linux & Macs. I already use OS X & Linux. I've tried Vista RC1 under Parallels Desktop and gave up because it felt too "dumbed down".
The latest Linux distributions like Ubuntu/Kubuntu are very easy to install and friendly enough for Windows switchers.
All operating systems have their problems (including Mac's). That said, I'd much rather use Mac OS over anything made by Microcrap, I mean, Microsoft ANY DAY.
Brilliant post, Wendy. I know I won't be upgrading under this EULA. Vista simply makes the type of "enthusiast" computing which involves buying and trying new hardware annually just too expensive.
The problem isn't the initial activation (which can be over the phone like XP), it's the continual phoning home that Vista will be doing (i.e., Genuine Advantage on steroids). You know because the software that's valid and activated today just might magically become a pirated copy tomorrow.
ahh, yes i am beta testing vista, i read thru the liscense and notice the lack of options every where, help never helps, you can't play dvds (it says wrong region code, even when you know its right, it took me hours to find where to change it, they now want to apply the setings ot the drive now and if you try to change it more then four times it will make your drive basicly unuseable even if you put in another computer) the help trouble shooter said that if i was getitn the region code error i will need to purchase a dvd coded for my region..... So they decide that becuase their software is broken that i am trying to do something wrong and have to buy something (why do they care tehy don't get money form me buying a dvd do they?)?
The sad thing is not enough people actually read the agreements you make when you install software, i do. And if you buy from a manufactor you are appearntly bound by the lisceanse even though you agreed to such nor presented as susch, you are forced into a legal agreement with out your knowledge....
I for one will be one of the ones attempting to jack up my vista beta to remove the online check, change my OS signignuture, and change a few other things. Microsoft brings such punishment upon themselves if they wanted to play fair and reasonable people woulnd't play mean back but 300 for the basic version of vista and 500 for the ultimate and you don't have the right to install on more then one computer in your house hold at the very least, no way will i stand for it
It may be a while since I read "Alice in Wonderland" but I remain certain that the Red Queen regularly believed three impossible things before breakfast. But the analogy is nice.
It is interesting to watch the clash between the camp that say the license agreement (non-negotiable, not possible to take it or leave it, and you have paid for it regardless because reality is you have no choice) and the public interest camp (fair dealing, fair use, consumer protection).
Monopolies (and all other businesses, I have to say) always puch at the boundaries in an attempt to dominate a market. Public interest law exists as the means of preventing companies from controlling governments and consumers. It is the balance - the arbiter.
Does public interest law do enough? Well in terms of privacy of information it seems that the consensus is it does not and new law is required. But in terms of unfair contract terms, maybe we are also lacking. Maybe we need new law to limit monopoly businesses from trying to set terms and conditions that are manifestly flawed or unfair.
The DCMA created an environment where it was illegal to even look at the security (aka licensing) methods of systems and to advise if they were potentially flawed. Perhaps the 'proposed' Microsoft stance is equally flawed?
We need more informed debate to be certain that what we tolerate today is not likely to come back and bite us tomorrow.
Grabbing a blank DVD from the shelf: 75 cents
Burning the latest version of your favorite Linux distribution: 0 cents
Having an OS that you can freely use as you see fit: Priceless
There are some operating systems you never should buy. For everything else, there's Linux.
Software has been deemed to be copyrightable material. That's the only protection that the author has. Copyright law says that only the author, and people he has licensed to do so, may make copies of the copyright material. There are limitations on this monopoly right - it only lasts a certain amount of time, you have a right to home copying of some material in some jurisdictions, and you can quote small portions of it to illustrate a point; that last part is what is termed 'fair use'.
So to make copies, you must have a licence. Software is practically unique in that you must make copies - from the installer to your hard disk, and from hard disk to RAM (and from one sort of RAM to another, e.g. processor caches) - in order to make use of the software. Modern video and audio reproduction now also require it - data is copied from the CD or DVD into a RAM buffer to be decoded - but traditionally the reproduction equipment didn't make a copy.
Distinguishing between copying the installation media, making a backup copy of an installed image of the program, copying from hard disk to RAM and actually installing the software multiple times is pretty hard, and makes the licence very hard to write.
The owner of the copyright is free to license, or not license, whomever they choose. They can mandate any terms that they wish - we are free to accept or refuse them. However, the terms that Microsoft are proposing are far less permissive than people used to trading books or CDs are familiar with, or prepared to accept.
I work at an isp that provides both DSL and dial-up service. I dread the kind of calls I'm going to get on this.
customer: why doesn't my internet work
tech support: that's because microsoft thinks you're crook, and has limited the usability of your computer
Let the games begin...
It seems as if Bill Gates is going Bush way
This EULA seeks to limit and eventually remove a persons rights to ownership over their own computers, it further seeks to penalize legitimate users by imposing an unfair (and possibly illegal) method of selling the software again after the initial sale simply because someone upgrades hardware, which allows MS to increase their profits by use of a hidden 'Fee'by forcing a legitimate user to purchase another license if the previous license has been used up by an initial install and then a transfer to another 'device' when in reality it could be the same computer that simply had some hardware upgrades.
Is there a difference between what MS is doing with Vista and what they're doing to XP with updates? If every install of Vista is going to eventually die if it isn't connected to the Internet, is this limitation also going to be foisted onto XP users through Windows update?
To paraphrase Nancy Reagan:
"Just say NO to Vista".
I will not upgrade. Vote with your pocketbooks. Why pay for a limited, spyware like OS like this? These tactics will only add extra incentive for pirates.
Stupid move Microsoft.
I have an older computer and over the last year I did a lot of hardware changes (motherboard upgrades, ata raid, larger drives, etc.). Rather than deal with invalidated licenses I gave up on XP and switched to SuSE. It's a good general use Linux distribution.
As for Vista's Aero desktop, it's little more than a commercial knock-off of Sun's Project Looking Glass.
Some of the features can also be found in 3d-desktop
and Sabayon Linux's implementation of Beryl and Emerald. Sabayon Linux is a Gentoo based installable live dvd.
Well, Microsoft finally have a very big mistake, this kind of things happens when the greed is very very big. Microsoft kill the gold egg chicken, and for your own rigths and financial healthy, please, start to learn Linux, Open Office, etc.
While I have long supported Microsoft as a legitamate corporate entity with usable (yet not perfect) products, the games that Mr. Ballmer (blame him) is playing as of the last few years is getting to be too much. As a software developer who works primarily with the Windows products, I have little choice but to fly their flag if I want work in my area of the country. But with the tightening of the screws as it is, I think I will rather leave the IT world than have to scramble for alternatives to Windows. Go ahead Linux people, attack me now. While I think there are many distros that are good (Ubuntu in particular), all your claims that "average users" can adapt to it are still just dreams. I know lots of these so called average users. They can barely get around Windows and its GUI. If they have to do anything more complex than double-click an icon, they fall apart. While many of you find it enjoyable to install endless nightly builds and kernel recompiles to make Linux work, those average users can't begin to handle it. I too am too busy with life to deal with these support nightmares that friends and family would enevitably bring to me. Linux is not ready for 90% of the Windows users and it likely will not get there for a long time. The Mac may be the only alternative, but I would rather leave IT for a new career than go back to that platform. Unless something happens to oust Ballmer from the decision making chair, I think I'd rather just unplug from the Net and live a disconnected life...
I know I've offended many with my statements, but please people, realize that non-IT people just don't enjoy the things you do (like command lines and Ruby on Rails or Puppy Linux on PSP hacks). Sorry, that's just the way it is. But the demise of Windows under a badly thought out EULA will erode the base of the industry and it may revert back to just a bunch of enthusiasts playing around. And before you shout for joy at that prospect, remember that without the average users, big companies with big resources will not continue to build better, faster and shinier products for you. Better learn to build your own semiconductors in the garage and master soldering techniques if you want improved graphics for your "home brew" machine if this happens! We unfortunately need Windows to keep the industry going down the proverbial tubes, but not Ballmer and his evil EULAs, activiations, DRM and "license not buy" schemes. Rise up against Ballmer if you want to see real changes that are good for the industry and users alike.
Need a better reason to switch to Linux???
hahahaha now microsoft has really lost the plot
I can see people buying vista (NOT!!)
just stay with what works and use what works
you can fix the older software far better than to be taken over by a corporation that wants to be your big brother
sorry no thanks - no vista for me
even if they paid me to install it
(I wouldnt even reccomend it either)
Fuck EULAs. There. Now I feel somewhat better. Who the hell do they think they are that they can write their own law? I buy their software, I can do whatever the fuck I want to do with it. Just like when I but an orange or a stereo. Its stupidity like this that will force me to pirate this shit one day. Until I am required to use Vista, count me out of ever upgrading. Long Live Linux (even though its the most user-unfriendly system around)!!!
Very nice article....
informativve with ALTERNATIVES...
Very nice article....
informativve with ALTERNATIVES...
Except the use of the 4 lettered words...
Geee - in hindsight my decision to change my file server over to Ubuntu seems to have been a wise one.
Interesting article. the response regards Trusted Computing is one I reccomend you all should follow up as this EULA is small potatoes for what that will deliver you, even non-mcrsft users. I agree with JA's post regarding the delusions that users will switch to Linux. There is a mass of information on the internet on how to get it into a machine and very little of it is succinctly in one place. Most mcrsft users get the OS already installed. Many of them download "security" software and don't know they also have to install it. Most of them don't know about the hidden directories like Windows and when they chance upon them there's a dire warning about messing with this stuff. "Hide known file extensions" means known to the OS not the user. Mass mail a .com called princecharlesuptartanJPEG.com and you'll see that JA is right that these people ain't going to be able to use any flavour of loonix... but if they could they'd love MEPIS.
Huh...The Vista EULA would make any rootkits that restored revoked functionality seem benevolent.