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Time to kill the EULA? Printer company Lexmark lose supreme court battle

EULA

Sorry, fixing the tractor so you can farm your land is in breach of the EULA!!

A small victory for basic consumer rights this week as the Supreme Court in the USA voted in favour of Impressions Products regarding use of ink cartridges.

If you have bought something legally, most of us would assume we have basic buyer rights such as the right to repair the item or sell it on open markets when we no longer need it. But increasingly restrictive End User License Agreements (EULAs) or anti-tamper product design is a way of curtailing consumer rights.

In the case of Impression Products vs. Lexmark, Impression wanted to refill the ink cartridges it had legally purchased, but Lexmark claimed that using their ink cartridges implied accepting their EULA of the Ink Cartridge, which stated refill was not permitted.

We should respect IP and copyright, but also recognize that when you buy something legally, you own it and shouldn’t be dictated how it is used by a EULA.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is designed to protect copyrighted works making breach of a EULA a crime. But who is ensuring that EULAs are actually fair and legitimate?

That is assuming of course that you’ve actually read the EULA? You obviously read every single privacy policy and EULA you interact with, don’t you? The absurdity of EULAs is widely reported including the suggestion that you’d need to take a month off work a year to read all the privacy policies you encounter and the biggest lie on the internet is “I’ve read and agree to the terms and conditions”. We’ve also written in the past about the perils of Click Through EULAs on your network.

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As we all know software isn’t just in computers these days. Software is eating the world and underpins the operation of all sorts of services, devices and industries, from your car to the satellites orbiting the earth. In Nebraska farmers are arguing the right to basic repair against John Deere tractors, who argue that the farmers have not bought a tractor, but rather a ‘tractor-as-a-service’ and aren’t allowed to fix it in accordance with the EULA.

This ruling by the Supreme Court is a big boost to ensure the balance between protecting IP and consumer rights is maintained.

Time to kill the EULA? An interesting video on the absurdity of EULAs (heard via BoingBoing) – But be careful – watching the video implies you accept the terms of the video!

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About Martin Thompson

Martin is owner and founder of The ITAM Review, an online resource and community for worldwide ITAM professionals.

Martin is also author of the book "Practical ITAM - The essential guide for IT Asset Managers", a book that describes how to get started and make a difference in the field of IT Asset Management.

On a voluntary basis Martin is a contributor to ISO WG21 which develops the ITAM International Standard ISO/IEC 19770.

Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

2 Comments

  1. Peter Beruk says:

    I agree – EULA’s have become too long and cumbersome. However, as somebody who’s worked with lawyers in software agencies, and vendors, I found it astonishing the number of organizations who fail to read a EULA prior to signing an agreement to purchase. Most organizations are too focused on the cost of the good versus what they can do with it (or not do with it). The time to negotiate (and complain) is before the the purchase order gets signed.

  2. Dominic Rooney says:

    We inform vendors that we do not recognize EULAs and if they want an agreement it has to be signed by people authorized to commit their respective organizations

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