It seems as if there is enough debate about this that I wanted to start a discussion about if EULA's are currently considered on topic, and if they are should they be.

Can an EULA restrict what you can use an application for?

I made the following argument:

Questions about software licenses are on topic and agreements on licenses fall in that category in my opinion

Another user made the counter argument:

Maybe I'm splitting hairs, but software isn't the only area where EULAs are used, which puts the question into the FAQ's "All People" circle. – Blrfl

It is a strong argument. Other comments like this one make me question if this can even be answered from a non legal perspective since a EULA is a legal contract.

probably worth pointing out that there are often things EULAs can not restrict e.g. statutory rights – jk.

The question is, if software licensing is on topic, does that make agreements about software licensing on topic? And if that is the case, is the EULA a widely enough used agreement outside of the realm of software development that it can be considered to apply to Everyone?

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3 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I think that questions about EULA's should generally be on-topic as they fall within the category of a software license. So they should not get a knee-jerk auto-close reaction.

That particular question is off-topic though since it is primarily asking about the hypothetical legal constraints of what an EULA can restrict. And the question was correctly closed as off-topic.

Many of the on-topic questions we've seen are concrete and answerable within the expertise of the community. That question is a hypothetical and is outside the (reasonably expected)* expertise of the community.


*I realize that we do have some attorneys and former attorneys in our community. However, our focus is on programming not law.

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I think I like your answer the best. If the question about the EULA pertains to software development and is not a question that can only be reasonably answered by a lawyer, then I feel it should be on topic. I agree that this can only authoritatively answered by a lawyer because my answer kind of sucks and makes a lot of legal assumptions. I only just now realized this. –  maple_shaft Jan 16 '13 at 15:56
    
I also realized that such a hypothetical on topic question may not even be possible given the nature of EULA's. –  maple_shaft Jan 16 '13 at 15:57
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That pretty much sums up my reason for casting a vote to close. –  Blrfl Jan 16 '13 at 15:57
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Even any current/former attorneys we have would probably be limited in what they could say since AFAIK in the US they're not allowed to give legal advice to people outside of where they're licensed to practice and a disclaimer statement like "This is not legal advice" is of dubious value as a shield against accusations otherwise. –  Dan Neely Jan 16 '13 at 21:30
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Open source licenses make up the context of the majority of software licensing questions, and there are people here who are thoroughly familiar with most of them. If you have questions about any OSI approved license, and even other non-approved licenses that have seen any kind of significant distribution, someone here can probably help based on prior knowledge and experience.

End user license agreements don't always fall into that category. Would it be acceptable to ask a community of software design and engineering professionals to evaluate a legal agreement that they probably have no knowledge of or prior experience with? I tend to think no, with the exception of EULAs shown by extremely popular tools that many in our community are likely to use. But even then, did .. well .. we read it before continuing?

That's really the distinction. When you speak of software licenses, you're speaking of something that a broader ranger of people have at least seen. EULAs can come out of the ether.

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Very true; however, if the question is asking about forming a EULA in terms of software, would that be on-topic? I feel like you're referring to questions asking about specific EULA's creating by existing companies for existing software... –  Qix Jan 22 '13 at 4:11
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@Qix Yes, mostly. I don't think that questions about forming an EULA are categorically off topic, it would really depend on the question. When I contemplate things like this I try to come up with a question that would be a good fit in that context, and I can't quite come up with one. Maybe ... a case where an EULA the legal department demands inhibits design goals in some way? –  Tim Post Jan 22 '13 at 4:19
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Questions about EULAs should be off topic as the correct body to pose them to are the issuers of whatever/product service that EULA is in reference to. There could be a small set of questions that would be acceptable but I would consider those exceptional cases ie creating a EULA for something you developed that is not best asked to a lawyer and not too localized or too broad.

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I agree that many EULA questions can be Too Localized, however a good edit can often dig to the more fundamental question underneath the Too Localized question. I wouldn't go so far as to say that they should ALL be off topic, but they very likely will happen to be that way. –  maple_shaft Jan 16 '13 at 19:46
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