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Don't judge a software license by its cover

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1 Author(s)
Donner, I.H. ; Lowe Price Leblanc & Becker, Alexandria, VA

Software licenses are of vital concern to vendors and users. Software vendors use contracts, called licenses, to make sure that their products are used in a way that will benefit them. Users want to know the conditions that licenses impose on software so they can buy software that meets their needs. Beyond this, however, licenses and their enforceability are not always a straightforward matter. Are you bound by the conditions of a license even if the license is inside a container of shrinkwrap software, and you can't see its terms until after you buy the product? What if you can't see the license until you load your software into your computer and its terms appear on the monitor? This is particularly an issue with software sold by phone or mail, or over the Internet. In some of these cases, buyers purchase only a serial number or security code that activates publicly accessible software. In many cases, buyers don't even receive a solid product. They receive only a stream of electrons that contains data, an application program, instructions, and license conditions. The thorny legal issues that these situations raise recently confronted the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which hears appeals of cases from US District Courts in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. The changing nature of the software business has raised questions about the enforceability of shrinkwrap licenses

Published in:

Computer  (Volume:29 ,  Issue: 10 )