“The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit today ruled (PDF) on a long-standing case involving used software on eBay, and it came to an important decision: if a company says you don’t have the right to resell a program, you don’t have that right.”
Ars discusses the implications of this in some detail and I would strongly urge you to read their article. The conclusion Ars comes to is: “EULAs are binding, they can control just about everything you might dream up, and only Congress can change the situation.”
Unless the ruling is overturned by a higher court ,which in this case I think is the Supreme Court, then, yes, it seems only Congress can change it but remember, if you are an American citizen over 18, you control Congress.
The time is long past what we, as citizens, must take control first of ourselves and then of our Government. That means we need to vote.
But, even as we do that, engage in the political process, we also need to take other actions. We need to start voting with our wallets too.
Every product we don’t buy is a vote as much as those we do. Every service we cancel because we don’t like the terms is a vote. Every place we refuse to shop because we disagree with their politics or political contributions is a vote. Every measure we take to suck the profit out of transactions we have no choice but to participate in, is a vote. We need to do it, and we need to say in public that we’re doing it and we need to encourage our friends to do it.
Some examples of my ‘votes with my wallet’ in no particular order:
– I bought essentially zero music from iTunes until the DRM was removed. Less than half dozen songs and those under some duress because I could find those few songs in no other place and I won’t pirate music. Now I buy a fair portion of my music in iTunes. (Before you say “But Jon, it’s a digital download, you’re supporting the EULA-mongers” consider that nothing will stop the music industry from applying the same kind of hogwash to physical media.) I still try to find my music on CD where it’s remotely practical to do so.
– I refuse to buy Blu-Ray movies because the DRM is onerous and, for all practical purposes, uncrackable.
– I have skipped an upgrade cycle for my TV because I find HDCP offensive. My high end standard def TV does a more than adequate job of showing me every MPEG artifact in the massively over-compressed feed sent by my cable company. I don’t need to pay extra to see more blocking, smearing and ripping over more pixels. Especially true when so much of the content I watch would still just be up-converted SD.
– I avoid purchasing software that is ‘node locked‘ to a specific computer or has phone-home copy protection. By avoid, I mean I have consciously and deliberately not spent, at client, employer and in personal purchases, well in excess of $250,000 (and I do mean well in excess) worth of licenses and upgrades because of it over the years. That’s meant skipping upgrade cycles, waiting for publishers to offer or negotiate non-node-locked license terms, finding competing alternatives, reducing the seat count etc. Yes, licensing terms must be a major consideration in your decisions as an I.T. manager when spending money. You don’t have to be a lawyer, but you need to know how to read contacts and work with lawyers.
– When I have no practical choice, I make it expensive for them. If a company insists on node-locking or making software phone home, they get a lot of tech support calls. I will spend zero time seeking self support or community support when the issue is caused by a copy protection scheme. If I’m burning my time on it, they’re burning theirs too. Period.
– I actively look for and support companies who don’t have user-hostile licensing or copy protection schemes.
– When I can’t avoid buying software from companies that do have user-hostile policies, I look for the lowest possible margin routes to buy my licenses. Bundles, cross-grades etc. Corporate Volume Licensing Programs, Educational or Non-Profit discounts (when legal and appropriate). Yes, for yourself or your client/employer, you do have to look for the cheapest sources but it’s a matter of degree and how much effort. Buying the el-cheapo product just so you can get a discounted cross-grade is above and beyond the call of duty but it sure does erode margin.
– I just don’t buy games other than inexpensive casual games from independent developers. Those, I buy a fair amount of.
– I do NOT pirate software.
– I support the EFF and have since the Blue Ribbon Campaign back when the web was still in hot debate over the blink tag and for a while with anonymous cash donations when I couldn’t be on record making political contributions.
– I buy shareware. I buy tools from small independent software publishers.
– I avoid cheap disposable junk.
– I recycle. I re-use. I give away or sell what I no longer need.
Finally, when I vote, I don’t stick to party lines and I won’t make party donations. I vote for the least available evil in any given race.
Do what you think is necessary so you can feel you were a net contributor to the ideals you hold dear. Don’t be $%^&ing LAZY.
Do I execute on these personal policies with 100% success? No. Do I fall short of my own standards periodically? Yes. Am I trying? Am I doing much better than if I didn’t even think about the issues? Absolutely!
So, about this court decision? Call your representative. Ask them what they are going to do about this significant consumer rights issue. Poke at them. Do something about it!
“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” – Albert Einstein