Oh the EULA.
The EULA (or End-User License Agreement) is that annoying pop-up we are all forced to agree to when we install new software. These contracts permeate and govern many relationships in our life, but who actually reads all of them. According to people who study this stuff, it would take between 200 and 250 hours a year to read all of the EULAs that we need to agree to in order to go on with our lives. My guess is not many people do. Other people who study these things found that the average EULA for a top 50 software product at download.com came in at 2,752 words. Adobe Reader came out on top at a whopping 9,313 words (or 41 double spaced pages). These “other people” also determined it would take 13 minutes to read the average EULA in download.com’s top 50 list. With all of this in view, it would appear that we agree to between 923 and 1,154 EULAs each year. Since we aren’t all agreeing to all of the same EULAs, use your imagination, and without too much of a stretch you can quickly realize that there are a lot of EULAs floating about.
Now, someone has to draft these EULAs. That could be big bucks for niche lawyers specializing in these documents. So why is it that game developers would only pay a lawyer $5 for a document that governs the entire relationships between the software developer and its users? If you don’t want to watch the hyperlinked video, these developers and industry experts say that Lawyers are
abusing the copy and paste functions of their word processors.
I was skeptical of this claim and embarked on a journey into the land of quasi-science by taking a non-random sample of “user generated content” clauses from EULAs accompanying video-games that I was familiar with. In my Saturday afternoon study I found that Rockstar Games, Take-Two Interactive, and 2K Games all used the exact same clause.
So what does this mean?
Well, first it means that I need to brush up on my scientific methods.
More broadly, this suggests that the industry may be moving towards standardization of EULAs through the legal profession’s unwillingness to innovate. Of course, I may have merely stumbled upon three EULAs drafted by the same individual, in which case we would expect a certain level of copying (what lawyer doesn’t want to use a precedent?). If the former is true, this may be a good thing for consumers. Continual use of standardized or copied clauses would increase the probability of having a consumer knowing what he or she was agreeing to even if that particular EULA was not read. Wouldn’t it be great if we could read one EULA to rule them all?
Unfortunately, if this trend is true, my dream of building a niche market of drafting EULAs for video game developers may be going down the drain. At $5 a pop, my hard efforts of hitting copy and paste would barely recoup the printing costs for all those EULAs. Thank goodness for paperless offices.