Do Not Get Sold for Freeware


5 Aug 2011
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Heard the adage ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’? Many skeptics believe that this holds true even when it comes to free software. And in most cases, this is not without reason. We may love to believe that the companies offering us freeware are looking for us to benefit from their products. However that is often far from the truth. In most cases, these freeware are often used as bait to lure users to either install malicious spyware or even worse to give away rights to use their personal information posted on these websites. Personal information could include users’ names, phone numbers, home address and photographs, bank details, and credit card information.

Before you start looking up the number of your lawyer to sue all the companies that have provided you with this malicious freeware, pause for a while. It is very likely that this information was already given to you, and what’s worse is that you may have agreed to it.

Remember the set of terms and conditions that you had to agree to when signing up for a freeware. Simply selecting ‘I agree’ without reading the whole indenture may turn out to be a mistake that you might later regret. We certainly agree that these license agreements are extremely lengthy and riddled with jargon; the average EULA is up to 3000 words, which when printed runs into a total of seven pages. Gasp! This is probably one of the reasons why most users choose to avoid them and also why most companies end up having a field day in court when the same ones try to sue them. So how exactly do you sift through these lengthy agreements without overlooking those imperative details? Don’t fret. We’ll show you how to get all the benefits of what the software has to offer without having to put your personal information at stake.

What is EULA?
The EULA or End-User License Agreement may sound inconspicuous but that doesn’t mean it is. In truth, it is a menacing legal document that governs the use of the software application you sign up for. The EULA normally is presented to you before you install or subscribe to software. You are required to insert a check mark in the box that certifies that you have read the agreement. In legal terms, this is similar to signing a contract on paper. Although whether these EULAs need to exist is a debatable issue since most critics believe these licenses also serve the purpose of securing the vendors’ licensing rights.

Why read the EULA?
The biggest advantage of reading the user agreement is that it answers many common questions regarding software usage. For example, when purchasing software, most users do not realize that they do not actually ‘own’ the software. They have only purchased a license to use that software. This means that the software publisher still retains all rights including the copyrights to the software and the accompanying media. Reading the EULA will let you understand whether you can carry out the following after purchasing new software or even when using freeware.

Use the graphics, fonts, and other stock files included with the software in commercial designs.
Purchase software under an educational license and then later use it in for commercial purposes.
Install a program on more than one computer.
See the older version of the software after purchasing the newer version.
Distribute works created with the software without paying additional license fees.

The other reason you may want to read the EULA is to protect yourself from giving away your personal information and your right to privacy. You will also know of methods that companies use to check your surfing behavior and whether it is only restricted to that site and not to all the URLs you access. So reading the EULA will help you become aware of whether or not you’re being spied on.

Besides this, the spyware and adware that also gets installed with your freeware eat up hard drive space, memory, and most of your other PC resources. Your full-fledged Internet connection is also something you will be deprived of because the spyware uses the Internet to get information to display. In worse cases, it will also send out information from your PC. That means that these extras that you unknowingly called for—because you didn’t read the EULA—are now using all your paid resources for free!

Some EULAs are smartly written to limit the consumer’s options during disputes. Take the case of the El Dorado resident who took Gateway to court because he received a faulty PC and poor tech support. However, Gateway argued that any conflict must be resolved only by the method of private arbitrage. In some cases, EULAs can also protect firms from liability for a faulty product, even if the company was completely aware that the product had defects before shipping it.

Reading EULA updates is also extremely important because even if the current owners have crossed their hearts and have committed to keeping your information private, there is always a chance of the company being sold and taken over by new owners who won’t hesitate to sell off all your personal information for a quick buck.

Where’s the EULA?
You missed out on reading the EULA when subscribing to the software and now want to get back to reading it. Even if you ignored the EULA at the time of subscribing to the website or software, don’t worry. You can still read it before you go ahead and actually start using the site’s features completely. If you are using a website service, simply navigate to the ‘Terms’ section to read the license agreement. If you have purchased new software, you should also get a hard copy of the EULA in the package in which you received the software. For installed software, navigate to the program files to read the EULA, if you don’t find it there, then the other option would be to reinstall the program.

The good news is that you don’t need to get paranoid thinking that all the sites you sign into are conspiring to squeeze you out of all your personal information or dupe you. All you have to do is think before posting your personal information on your site. That doesn’t mean that you have to live the life of a secret agent even when you have nothing to hide. It simply means that you shouldn’t post something or enter information that you wouldn’t display in your public life. It’s terrific if you can read every word of every End User License Agreement (EULA) and privacy statement before taking a decision. If not, you can always use the EULAlyzer to help you skim those lengthy license contracts.
Remember that the click of a mouse, just like the stroke of a pen, can many a time get you into a lot of trouble. So be cautious, be attentive, and by all means read those EULAs!

Source : Chip Magazine.
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