I hate being barraged with a constant stream of copyrighted words which make me "liable"!

One of the many electronic annoyances in life consists of the endless "updates" which are sometimes requested, other times demanded, and in the case of my antivirus software, performed automatically and without notice in the most annoying, computer-freezing manner. Lately I have been hassled by a box screaming at me to "Update Adobe Flash Player."

As I was more concerned with my second cup of coffee than anything else, I finally decided that I might as well comply. Perhaps out of morbid curiosity, I did something I never, ever do; I clicked on the Adobe product license agreement (best known as "EULA" or "end-user licensing agreement"). There are different licenses for every Adobe product, all which are translated into just about every language known to man, but at the bottom of the starting page, there appears the following, startling edict:

Home use of Macromedia branded products

Notwithstanding the terms of the product license agreement included within a Macromedia branded product, when such a product is licensed through Adobe's Open Options licensing program (not including Student Licensing, Site Licensing, and Term Licensing), the primary user of the computer on which such software is lawfully installed may install a second copy of such software for his or her exclusive use on either a portable computer or a computer located at his or her home, provided that the software on the portable or home computer is not used at the same time as the software on the primary computer.

So that means that if I open a pdf file on this computer, I can't go upstairs and open one on the computer there without closing down this one? Why is that? And did I "agree" to it simply by clicking and installing the software? Apparently so, as this has been standard industry procedure for many years, and companies like Adobe have hordes of lawyers who can in theory use the Copyright laws to pounce on violators.

But there is just something that rankles me about being told what not to do, especially when I am told automatically and "agree" without even knowing.

How many of us routinely engage in copyright violations? I'd be willing to bet that almost anyone with a computer has from time to time committed a copyright law violation.

And in theory, the "victims" of our violations could sue millions of Americans for statutory damages.

Statutory damages range from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands:

* Statutory damages range from $750 per work to $150,000 per work
* In case of "innocent infringement", the range is $200 to $150,000 per work. "Innocent" is a technical term. In particular, if the work carries a copyright notice, the infringer cannot claim innocence.[48]
* In case of "willful infringement" (again, "willful" is a technical term), the range is $750 to $300,000 per work.

Coupled with the ubiquity of technical violations, the Copyright Act lends itself to arbitrary and tyrannical "enforcement" actions by greedy lawyers who just want to milk the system and get their fees paid. As Clayton Cramer has made clear in a number of posts, we are all at risk.

Especially bloggers. People who are online are easy targets for avaricious attorneys.

If you don't like the abuse of the copyright laws, don't just get mad. Do as Glenn Reynolds suggests, and DONATE.

At the risk of sounding like an anarchist or pirate, I think Thomas Jefferson had it right when he said this:

"That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property."
Especially when the inventions consist of words -- speech -- which are endlessly broadcast to the world, even as they are at the same time generating endless opportunities for lawyers in search of "liability."

I'm sick and tired of word liability.

Copyright law tyranny is inconsistent with free speech.

posted by Eric on 08.24.10 at 09:38 AM


Some vendors slip EULA changes into security updates. Very uncool.

Apple has done this more than once.

And BTW, you really want this Adobe update. It's for a very nasty security vulnerability.

Borepatch   ·  August 24, 2010 1:33 PM

I don't see any such section on their online EULA.

Also, that notice applies only if you used their Open Options licensing system, which is for nonprofits.

That clause doesn't apply to anyone for two reasons:

1) Nobody gets Flash Player via AOO licensing.
2) Flash Player is not "Macromedia Branded" anymore.

So... Meh.

Sigivald   ·  August 24, 2010 1:46 PM

Thanks for pointing that out. I did not know what Adobe's "Open Options licensing program" was, and I assumed it meant all of their licensed software. (I didn't see anything on that page saying that it only applies to non-profits, but I'm sure you're right.)

Eric Scheie   ·  August 24, 2010 2:37 PM

The reason for patent and copyright is to make innovation worthwhile. It's a political, not a moral, issue.

And the reason seems to be bogus.

A nice podcast on the issue at here with Michele Boldrin, who says that everything you learned is bunk.

Free online book.

rhhardin   ·  August 24, 2010 8:52 PM

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