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Silliest software license ever!

By Blarney in Technology
Mon Jun 04, 2001 at 04:48:16 PM EST
Tags: Humour (all tags)

I once purchased a set of CD's containing royalty-free audio samples in PCM WAV format - drum loops, synthesizer riffs, vocals, effect sounds, some good sounding, some lame, all quite a bit of fun. However, when I read the manual I was in for a surprise.

The license agreement I found was both scarily restrictive and bizarrely incoherent. It spun around in my mind like a Zen koan, defying all logic and reality. Here is its story.

Before I give the license agreement, I would like to explain that I corresponded with the company by email, and the person I conversed with agreed that the "Royalty-free" audio samples were indeed free for me to use in any manner I pleased. He claimed that the lawyers had just thrown this in, and nobody besides me had ever bothered to read it before.

I consider his email to me a legally binding agreement freeing me of any obligation to comply with this, and am grateful for it. As a measure of my gratitude, I won't give the name of the company here. It really doesn't matter - this license has probably been copied from package to package, company to company, and translated from language to language. What else could explain it? Here is the strangest paragraph of the license, for the reader to dissect at his leisure:

(h) Low moral and illegal use: It is absolutely inadmissible to use the software or single pictures, graphics, sound, and videos in any form for a working result where they fringe the ruling general moral decency feelings or the religious opinion of a third party. It is absolutely inadmissible to use the software or single pictures, graphics, sound and videos in any form for a working result where they fringe the ruling general moral and decency for working results with pornographic contents or for working results with contents which incites to discrimination of cruelty or any inhuman violence against human beings in any kind described. Which express glorify or plays down such violence which the cruelty or any inhuman of an event in a human dignity to infringe the way described or the connection with propaganda materials of constitution adverse organization or assessment or the use of a sign of constitution adverse organization.


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Silliest software license ever! | 16 comments (15 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Explanation... (4.11 / 17) (#1)
by Signal 11 on Mon Jun 04, 2001 at 02:42:45 AM EST

The lawyers were bored and ran it through babelfish a couple times, and sent it out knowing nobody would read it anyway.

I'm waiting for a computer virus that modifies EULAs to insert the line 'and you agree to sell your soul to The Company Which Cannot Be Named' to the end of every 3rd paragraph. It's not just lawyers that get bored, you know...

Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.

Hah (3.70 / 10) (#3)
by Lance on Mon Jun 04, 2001 at 03:27:49 AM EST

Apart from the fact that that paragraph doesn't make any sense, it is totally redundant. Developers are not legally responsible for what users create with their software once they have installed it. This is like the Microsoft saying that you can't use Word to write a violent or pornographic document. It just can't be enforced.

Seems clear enough to me. (3.77 / 9) (#4)
by hotcurry on Mon Jun 04, 2001 at 07:55:59 AM EST

Don't use it in porno. Especially sadistic porno. Everything else is fine. That shouldn't be a problem, right? You weren't planning to use it in bondage and rape videos, were you? You got something against a copyright owner wanting to preserve human dignity?

Well, that final sentence... (3.66 / 3) (#6)
by marlowe on Mon Jun 04, 2001 at 08:07:53 AM EST

falls short of grammatical correctness by a great deal. And the rest is in execrable style. But yes, the intent is clear enough.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Is that you, Farl? (3.33 / 9) (#5)
by marlowe on Mon Jun 04, 2001 at 08:00:31 AM EST

Seems to me the copyright holder is not consenting to rape.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
My Liscense (4.66 / 9) (#7)
by mcherm on Mon Jun 04, 2001 at 08:18:16 AM EST

I've always wanted to realease something with a click-through liscense containing the following fine print 2/3 of the way through (exact wording needs some work):

6.2.1: The user further agrees to sell his/her soul to the author of this program, effective immediately and deliverable upon request. This provision is automatic, but an alternative liscense which does not contain paragraph 6.2.1 is available to anyone specifically requesting it from the author, at [ADDRESS HERE]. A postcard is sufficient to request the alternative liscense, but if no attempt is made to request the alternative liscense, then paragraph 6.2.1 shall be deemed to be in effect.

-- Michael Chermside
As someone said... (2.60 / 5) (#8)
by Elkor on Mon Jun 04, 2001 at 09:49:00 AM EST

The paragraph boils down to:

"Don't use it in making hate/anti-religous flyers."

"Don't use it in making pornography or violent films."

All of which are understandable. They don't want to be associated with "that sort" of activity.

"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
Actually, it =says= the exact opposite! :) (4.33 / 3) (#10)
by jd on Mon Jun 04, 2001 at 10:31:29 AM EST

Which is what's hillarious about this licence.

(Although, you're absolutely right, that is undoubtably what they intended to say.)

[ Parent ]

Interpretation (4.80 / 10) (#9)
by jd on Mon Jun 04, 2001 at 09:56:15 AM EST

  • Fringe: The hair in front of the eyes.
  • General Moral: The military dictator really in power.
  • Decency Feelings: The feelings said dictator has towards Decency.
  • Religious Opinion: An opinion that believes in a God, whether or not the holder of that opinion does.
  • Incites to Discrimination: Encourages a person to reject something.
  • Constitution Adverse: Something or someone who opposes or rejects the Constitution.

The agreement thus translates as follows:

(h) Low moral and illegal use: It is absolutely inadmissable to use the contents of this CD to cut the hair of the military dictator or to split hairs with any religious leader. It is absolutely inadmissable to use the contents of this CD to encourage people to reject sadistic violence against others, or to prevent the free speech of those who oppose the Constitution.

Methinks the lawyers of this company have an interesting perspective on life. Maybe the author should try and hook them up with CmdrTaco for a slashdot interview. :)

Lawsuit avoidance (4.30 / 10) (#11)
by ucblockhead on Mon Jun 04, 2001 at 10:58:14 AM EST

My guess is that this is lawsuit avoidance. Their lawyers probably sat down and thought: "Suppose some porn company slaps our sounds on one of their videos. Then suppose some foolish right-wingers sue everyone they can find connected with the thing for moral indecency."

With this license agreement, they can say "No, your honor, we were not involved in the production of the smut. We specficially bar our users from making smut. Can't sue us. No sir. No liability here."
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

Let me try (5.00 / 5) (#12)
by weirdling on Mon Jun 04, 2001 at 01:34:45 PM EST

absolutely inadmissible -- unacceptable as a submission or admission; generally references court as evidence.

fringe -- to add a border that often includes strings to something; said border.

ruling general moral decency feelings or the religious opinion of a third party -- just about anything, as you're bound to find a third party that will be offended by whatever you can come up with.

discrimination of cruelty -- ok, must be open to all types of cruelty.

in any kind described -- phrase with no anticedent.

Which ... organization -- total gibberish, starting with a prepositional phrase with no anticedent, proceeding to lack a verb entirely. However, it does say, 'infringe the way described or the connection with propaganda materials of constitution adverse organization', which, prima facie, reads that you can't infringe on the already established connection of the liscensor with propaganda materiel from 'constitution adverse' organizations.

constitution adverse -- group that for some reason dislikes the constitution.

So, here goes: You can't create a 'working result' that is admissible if it is used as a fringe to just about everything. However, if it doesn't work or if it really isn't a fringe specifically attatched to just about everything, you should be fine. What admissible is and to where is anybody's guess.
The pornography clause is just a specific clause meaning specifically that you can't attatch a fringe you've made to any document or ideal that people use to discern pornography.
The discrimination clause appears to imply that you can't discriminate amongst cruelty and inhuman violence in a described fashion. Apparently, discrimination is acceptable so long as not explicitly described.
Now, the last sentence lacks a verb, so it is probably not a limiting clause. However, it appears to limit the previous discrimination clause to anything that expressly glorifies or plays down such violence. Further, you may not infringe on the way described.
Now, you can't infringe on the connection with propaganda materiel from, any assessment of, or the use of a sign of constitution adverse organizations. The force of this clause is that you must avoid portraying the purveyor of this software in any light other than its current stance on and relationship to whatever constitution-adverse organizations it may hold ties with.
Ok, smaller assessment: you can't attatch fringes to morals that may appear in court and expect them to remain admissible and you can't portray the original maker of the software as against their favorite constitution-adverse organizations.
Now my brain hurts.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
AFAIK (though IANAL)... (none / 0) (#13)
by afeldspar on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 11:53:01 AM EST

There are specific legal limits to how far a company's license claims can hold. To take an absurd example, if a company got you to sign a license saying they could burn down your house if you ever said anything negative about their product, and you did, and they did, the mere fact that you agreed to a license giving them that permission doesn't mean that they have it.

But, as far as I know, there is not actually any limit to what a company's license can claim you are beholden to. They may know damn well, from past experience, that they have no legal right to remotely disable your software if you publish any benchmarks (at least if the DMCA gets repealed, they won't have that legal right ;) -- but the point is that you won't know it because you don't have a team of lawyers telling you what parts of the license are real legal restrictions and which are hot air.

I don't think anyone needs me to spell out that this creates a "chilling effect" on the free exercise of consumer rights, just as laws like the CDA create a chilling effect on the exercise of First Amendment rights; if you can't be sure without a court battle what you're really entitled to say and do, are you truly free to say it and do it?

The combination of the incongruous license terms -- and their general incoherence -- puts me strongly in mind of a certain religious cult that everyone on the Net knows about, or should. They're well-known for ahem, to put it mildly, asserting rights they have no right to? If you know who I mean, ask yourself whether that doesn't sound like them, with the insistence that you cannot use the software to "[in?]fringe ... the religious opinion of a third party".

-- For those concerned about the "virality" of the GPL, a suggestion: Write Your Own Damn Code.

Great example, but nothing new (none / 0) (#14)
by Vergil on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 04:35:51 PM EST

Although this is a particularly extreme - indeed silly - example of what the drafters of UCITA would term a "contractual use restriction," it's not exactly new. Similar clauses purporting to restrict the use of software, clipart, etc. in "controversial" embodiments have popped up from time to time in EULAs.

For example, Angelfire's "Rules and Regulations" (found in March 2000) gives Angelfire the power to terminate accounts that contain material that "depicts adult or pornographic content... is contrary to customary standards for material suitable for public display ... and ... lacks serious literary, artistic, political, educational, or scientific value..."

Perhaps my favorite example of a content-restrictive EULA comes from a 1998 Microsoft license governing its "Microsoft Agent" software, i.e. Clippy and pals (the current MS Agent EULA seems to contain similar language):

"You may create scripts or programs that use the Microsoft Agent API to animate the character and static or animated images that are provided by Microsoft to enable the end-user selection of an animated image, provided, however, that you do not: (a) use the Character Animation Data and Image Files to disparage Microsoft, its products or services or for promotional goods or for products which, in Microsoft's reasonable judgment, may diminish or otherwise damage Microsoft's goodwill in the SOFTWARE PRODUCT, including but not limited to uses which could be deemed under applicable law to be obscene or pornographic, uses which are excessively violent, unlawful, or which purpose is to encourage unlawful activities;"

If anyone is interested in wading through some obtuse legalese, I've been archiving particularly egregious and restrictive EULAs here, in order to better illustrate to potential harms caused by UCITA.

Hello. My name is Vergil.

Whoops...posted the wrong link (none / 0) (#15)
by Vergil on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 06:09:37 PM EST

Sorry for the repetitive Microsoft link.

The real link to the EULA collection is http://www.cptech.org/ecom/ucita

Hello. My name is Vergil.
[ Parent ]

Tha was insane (none / 0) (#16)
by DemonHunterX on Mon Jul 09, 2001 at 02:59:01 PM EST

Holy Shi**... that was the most insane sowtware agreement that I have ever read. It pushed McAfee to No. 2.

Virus Scan User Agreement:
...the discussion of this software application with out the direct written consent of McAfee Corporation is punishable by law as infringment of copyright.

I am serious about this one folks. I memeorized that line from an old version of virus scan (sorry can't remeber which one)
--------------------------------------------- Death is irrelevant, if one has not lived
Silliest software license ever! | 16 comments (15 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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