Nobody reads EULAs. Ask any Internet user what a EULA is, and they’ll most likely tell you it’s related to bovine anatomy, or they’ll say it’s the thing they click through so they can download the software they want. But lawyers at software companies know what they are, and they get paid to make sure EULAs contain the right language. So imagine the embarrassment at Apple when the company found out it had been distributing the Windows version of its Safari web browser for a year, under a EULA that stated:

This license allows you to install and use one copy of the Apple software on a single Apple-labeled computer at a time.

Not to be outdone, Adobe stuck its foot in its own EULA by declaring that its new SaaS (Software as a Service) version of Photoshop gave Adobe infinite license to:

…distribute, derive revenue or other remuneration from, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, publicly perform and publicly display” images uploaded to the service.

It took Apple almost a year to fix the EULA for the Windows version of Safari, even though in the first two days after release there were over a million downloads of the product. Both Apple and Adobe have cleaned up the offending passages, but what does this say about the legal fiction that a reasonable average Internet user will read every line of a EULA? If the lawyers at big software companies can make mistakes of this magnitude in EULAs, should we really expect that end users will pore through the dense EULA language every time they download software? [The image is a cropped version of Reading Skegs, by Paul Downey, made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license at flickr.]

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