October 25, 2003

EULA goes to the next level

This article at Ed Foster's Gripe Log absolutely floored me. Stots (a tool manufacturer) has added a shrinkwrap EULA to their TemplateMaster jig template. This tool is used to make jigs that are virtually identical to itself.

...TemplateMaster may be used “in only one shop by the original purchaser only” and that “you may not allow individuals that did not purchase the original Product (to) use the Product or any templates produced using the Product…”

You are not buying the tool, you are licensing its use. You can use it for yourself but you may not let a friend borrow it and you can not use it to make templates for other people. Taken literally you can't even buy it as a gift for another person as only the original purchaser is allowed to use it. If you're working in your own shop with a buddy, he is not allowed to use it to help you on your project.

I understand Stots' concern here. If you buy the TemplateMaster you can quickly, easily and cheaply recreate the tool for all of your buddies, who will then have no need to buy their own TemplateMaster. There is an elemental problem here though. The EULA effectively prevents you from using the product to its full potential. Any tool that I buy can be used to create something of value. I can use my lathe to make table legs and then sell them. What if my lathe came with an EULA that said I could use it to make my own table legs but that I couldn't sell or give those table legs to another person? After all, if I'm going to be supplying my friends with table legs then they won't need to buy a lathe of their own.

Think of this in traditional software terms. Say the new EULA for Microsoft Visual Basic Developer says that you can use it to create programs for your own use but that you cannot make or sell programs for other people. After all, if you're going to sell programs to other people then they won't need to buy their own copy of Microsoft Visual Basic Developer.

There's another pretty basic problem with the EULA for the TemplateMaster though.

The reader doubts it’s particularly novel, in that the template or jig one creates with it will be virtually identical to “Keller” jigs that have been around for many years. “The key difference is that the instructions that came with the Keller jig said, in not so few words ‘here, use this jig to make a dovetail joint’,” the reader said. “The Stots jig, which is geometrically equivalent, comes with instructions that say ‘use a duplicating router bit to copy this jig to make a jig that looks almost exactly the same as me -- and exactly the same as the Keller jig -- then use that jig to make a dovetail joint.”

In other words, just use the tool to make another tool. Take that tool that you yourself made and you can make as many tools as you want from that and give them away, sell them, what have you.

Posted by Charles at October 25, 2003 08:40 AM
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