As published in the column "Ask the Attorney" for a monthly publication.

WHAT IS AN EULA &
WHY DO I ALWAYS HAVE TO AGREE TO THEM BEFORE INSTALLING SOFTWARE?

EULA stands for End User Licensing Agreement. When you buy software you are not buying ownership of the product. The EULA provides you with the license you need to be allowed to use the product you install. A EULA is a contract between the manufacturer and you, the end user of that product. It contains all your rights and responsibilities in using the product. All EULA's have one thing in common: You need to accept the EULA's terms or give up the rights and ability to the use the product.

Many EULA's assert liability limitations to protect the manufacture from lawsuits over the use of its product. You can also be signing away where you can sue the manufacturer leaving you with some out of the way state as the only place to bring an action against the manufacturer.

EULA's are also used by the authors of free software. In licensing you the free software usage and distribution the author protects his or her copyrights with specific language.

What happens if you buy a product and find a highly restrictive EULA inside that requires extra purchases to use the product? The inability of the end user to review the EULA before purchasing the software can negate the EULA but the rule changes depending on the State you are in and how restrictive the EULA is.