EULA Paranoia

R. Paul Waddington, the person who frequently comments on many CAD blogs, including this one, finally has a blog of his own. It is called “Caveat emptor” and, not suprisingly, his first post is an open letter to Autodesk, asking them to allay his fears on the audit clause in their End User License Agreement. He believes that the audit clause gives Autodesk complete access to his computer and premises and will compromise his IP and that of others. He suggests that the printed output from Autodesk Product Manager is more than required to determine a licensee’s compliance to the terms of the license agreement.

This reminds me of a clause in my car loan agreement, which states that I am bound to bring my car for “inspection” to the office of the finance company whenever the company so demands, whenever that may be and wherever my car may be, failing which there would be a litany of legal consequences. I guess a paranoid person would be justified in calling this clause an excuse to walk over his privacy, disrupt his life, cause mental torture and a dozen other things. Probably a person who is paranoid to a higher degree may be justified in screaming that his insurance company may not pay for any accident while his car is in the custody of the finance company. Unfortunately there is no limit to paranoia, and I am beginning to wonder if there even is a cure.

The “inspection” clause I mentioned above is there for a reason – to make the recovery of the car easy in the event that I default on my payments. The law in India forbids the use of force to recover a car (although force is often used, but that’s a different story). Thanks to this “inspection” clause I am legally bound to get my car for “inspection” at which point the finance company will promptly seize the car if I have defaulted. While a paranoid person will read all sorts of nightmare scenerios in such clauses, the normal people will use a little trust and some common sense while reading and accepting such clauses.

Similarly the audit clause in Autodesk’s EULA, and that of SYCODE’s as well, is there for a reason – to make it easier, or even possible, to catch the bad guys. How are you going to prove in a court of law that someone is reverse engineering, decompiling or disassembling your software? How are you going to prove that someone is using a crack of your software? Can you accomplish this using a pretty tool like the Autodesk Product Manager? I don’t think so. You need hard evidence and you need to get it the hard way.

I mentioned in an article earlier (“Intrusive License Agreements“), that the FBI could not nail the guy who tried to sell SolidWorks source code, even after a successfull sting operation. Such is the state of the legal system and pretty license agreements will not help the situation.

The audit clause should bother only those who intend to do something wrong, and of course, the paranoid as well.