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I need to add an EULA to my (commercial) software but I cannot afford a lawyer. Also I had a look at various EULA examples on the internet but they are all for specific software or countries, and are probably copied from other commercial software.

So I'm thinking about using a short custom EULA which would just mention the essential. Something like:

  • You may redistribute the trial version of this software
  • If you buy a license, you may not redistribute it or sell it
  • You may not sue me for any financial or material loss arising from the use of this software
  • This software is copyright XXX, all rights reserved.

Would that kind of EULA protect me in most cases? Also do you know of any company that use short EULA?

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I think this is a law question. But I like it. +1 @Laurent. –  Saeed Neamati Sep 4 '11 at 10:17
    
This isn't what you're looking for here, but the en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WTFPL seems relevant =) –  sparkleshy Sep 4 '11 at 12:09
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Even if you end up using a long, comprehensive EULA, I think prefacing it with a tl;dr version like this is a very good idea. It makes reading, understanding, and adhering to the terms of agreement a reasonable feat. It shows respect for the user's time, intelligence, and trustworthiness. –  Joey Adams Sep 4 '11 at 19:27
    
@JoeyAdams I'm not sure what is the point -- if they user cares about the contents of the EULA, they will have to read the full version anyway. –  quant_dev Jan 9 '12 at 11:07
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4 Answers

I understand the desire for a simple, no foolin' around statement of what you intend, but there's no point in having a EULA at all if it's not going to do the job that it's supposed to do, which is to protect your rights and to define what the user is and isn't allowed to do. Legal language is like computer code -- it should unambiguously define your intent for every situation that might come up. Can you imagine a non-programmer writing a useful application in 4 lines?

So lets look at your "EULA":

Line 1: Who is "you"? What is "this software", and what is the "trial version"? What does it mean to "redistribute"?

Line 2: I understand that if I buy a license I may not redistribute that license, but what does that have to do with the software? Also, I can still redistribute if somebody else bought my license, right? Under what circumstances can someone transfer their license to someone else?

Line 3: My state has a law that specifically disallows provisions that unilaterally limit my right to sue. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

Line 4: That's a copyright statement. I don't think you want it as part of your EULA. If I can get the EULA tossed does the copyright go with it?

I'm not a lawyer -- expect anyone who has had a year of law school to be able to shoot a lot more holes in your agreement than this.

I'd suggest that you talk to a real lawyer, get a real EULA, and perhaps supplement that with a simple statement (written by your lawyer) in plain English that summarizes the EULA.

You feel that you can't afford a lawyer, but at the same time you describe your software as "commercial." You must feel that your software has value since you expect people to be willing to pay for it, so it would seem smart to protect your future revenue stream and your investment in the product by getting some proper legal advice. Don't just wing it with a half-baked list of terms that may or may not carry the legal meaning you intend.

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+1. You may also add that "If you buy a license, you may not redistribute it or sell it" would also mean that if I don't buy a license, and I get the software product from a P2P, I now can redistribute or sell it, accordingly to the license. –  MainMa Sep 4 '11 at 12:59
    
@MainMa: Great point -- I've added something to that effect. –  Caleb Sep 4 '11 at 13:14
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Really? Are people that dumb? –  seriousdev Sep 4 '11 at 16:35
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@MainMa: That's silly. The license doesn't grant any rights to redistribute or sell. (And even if it said you couldn't, that wouldn't change anything, since such a person wouldn't agree to the EULA anyway.) –  David Schwartz Sep 4 '11 at 17:12
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Let's take a look at what you plan to write:

  • You may redistribute the trial version of this software
  • If you buy a license, you may not redistribute it or sell it

This is the basic information about the license under which you're distributing the software. It should be somewhere the users can easily find it, but doesn't have to be an annoying click-through dialog.

  • You may not sue me for any financial or material loss arising from the use of this software

This has no legal standing whatsoever. Whether or not someone is allowed to sue you is not something you can choose. The only thing you can do is to clarify that you don't claim the software is good for anything and people are using it at their own risk, but it probably won't make a difference either way in most jurisdictions.

  • This software is copyright XXX, all rights reserved.

This is unnecessary. You don't have to explicitly claim copyright over something (though it might help to prevent people from accidentally violating it.

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I need to add an EULA to my (commercial) software but I cannot afford a lawyer.

Well, this site isn't a lawyer either. You need to hire one. If you can't afford it, then your project is fundamentally mismanaged and it's not something that can be fixed here. There's a reason that most companies offer EULAs that are six trillion pages long, and it's usually because they got sued a few times before making it that way.

You cannot go anywhere except a lawyer for legal advice.

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I doubt every independent software developer out there hire lawyers to write these documents. It's just basic economy - if you're not a big company, the lawyers would probably cost more than what you'll ever earn from the sales. –  this.lau_ Sep 4 '11 at 12:02
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+1 for proper application of the cluebat. –  Caleb Sep 4 '11 at 12:28
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I have a strong suspicion that the main reason for long EULAs are lawyers wanting to prove that they're providing value for their high salaries, and legal masturbation, rather than any actual value for the companies. Case in point: most EULAs are partially or entirely void in most places. –  Michael Borgwardt Sep 4 '11 at 12:41
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-1, "If you can't afford it, then your project is fundamentally mismanaged". Thats simply false, and frankly pretty rude. Some people are forced to start their businesses with little to no resources, either due to personal circumstances, or because they are simply not from a wealthy nation. –  GrandmasterB Sep 5 '11 at 3:27
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I wouldn't say that the project is mismanaged. I would say that if you can't hire a lawyer for writing an EULA, you have to ask yourself if you will be able to afford that lawyer for enforcing it. If not, then an EULA is almost useless in the first place. –  mouviciel Sep 6 '11 at 7:33
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Side note: Depends on the country you want to sell your software. Most EULAs are designed for the legal situation in the US, in other countries those EULAs may not be applicable. E.g. in Germany many EULAs (even from big companies like Microsoft) are simply invalid, either because they weren't provided to the end user before purchase or because some single terms in the EULA are against German law, which can make the whole EULA invalid.

E.g. here you can buy Systembuilder versions of Windows as an end user although I'm sure the EULA prevents this.

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