Copyright and EULAs

Prelude

I had intended this blog to be programming based, not copyright rant based, so I’m going to keep this entry short.  Rest assured, I will post something programming orientated soon, I just need the posts to percolate through my brain.

“That EULA is invalid, I’m not breaking the law”

This is a sentence I’ve heard many times now.  It’s often used to justify pirating a particular piece of software.  This entry is going to be based around showing why this is such a bogus argument.

What is Copyright

I’m going to discuss copyright in the western world here. There are several countries that I’m sure deviate from what I’m going to say in many interesting ways. It’s also important to note here that I am not a lawyer, and I may well be talking out of my ass, but that’s not going to stop me ranting :P.

Copyright is a right granted to the person who produces a work (and sometimes also to the subject). It allows them to decide how, and where that work is copied. They may chose to not allow anyone to ever copy the work, they may chose to give it away freely, or they may chose any in between.

They may chose their in between stage by issuing licenses to people. The license stipulates exactly who can copy a work, when, how, how often etc. I remind you, that the person giving the license owns the copyright on the work, and can chose to hand it out in any way shape or form they like – most countries will ban illegal contracts though, so there are some restrictions.

Illegal Contracts, and Invalid licenses

When a contract stipulates illegal terms, it may be ruled by a court that the contract is invalid. This is the bandwagon that I am referring to above. People will commonly claim “this license would be found invalid in a court, so I can copy freely”. But wait! Remember, the copyright holder still owns all the distribution rights. Your license to copy the work being invalid does not automatically make the work public domain. No, instead, all it means is that you now don’t have any claim what so ever to copy the work! Without that piece of paper saying “you may copy this work”, you may not copy it.

Conclusion

Don’t try to argue that your EULA is invalid! It’s counter productive, all you’re doing is reinforcing the fact that you have no right to copy the item. If you don’t like the terms of the EULA, approach whoever owns the copyright, and ask them for a different license.

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