Ask LH: Can I Use Cats To Evade Software Licence Agreements?

Dear Lifehacker, I'm often annoyed at software licence agreements that are many pages long and asking me to agree to complex terms and conditions. So I'm wondering: how could they prove I clicked 'Agree' anyway? What's to stop me saying "I was going to read your agreement, but my cat stepped on the enter key and agreed to it, so feel free to sue my cat"?

I even started to think this might be a service: whenever you see a "Do you agree?" message you share your screen with a cat farm and wait for a cat to randomly walk over the shared keyboard, agreeing to the terms. My question is: would a cat farm hold up in court? Thanks, Future Cattery Owners

Dear FCO,

While we admire your ingenuity and gumption, we suspect this probably wouldn't hold up in court. For starters, many terms specify that your usage of the software constitutes an agreement, so the act of clicking 'I agree' doesn't necessarily define the whole arrangement. (If that were the case, people would be free to use pirated software without penalty as they haven't actually agreed to any terms or conditions within.)

Plus, most software providers regularly update their terms and conditions during the lifespan of the product, which constitutes another user agreement. Are you going to claim your cat stepped on your keyboard twice? It's obviously not going to hold up in the long run.

Bear in mind also that licences exist on software you don't have to pay for (e.g. open source) — the enforceability of software licences is a broad question but using a cat probably isn't going to help. That said, if you really want to put the theory to the test, we'd start by buying Charlie Schmidt's Keyboard Cat — at least you'll then have some video "evidence".

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    Completely moot, given that they are terms of service/terms of use/end user licence agreements - aka - if you don't agree to them, you have no legal right to use the software.. The prompt is there only for your benefit, not to be a pain in the ass. If you want to live in ignorance, go ahead - and it probably realistically wont do you any harm.

    FCO - You get the prize for Best Post Title. (thanks for that on a Monday)

    The most common first world lie? "I have read the terms and conditions".

      I imagine it is a lie committed by everyone, everywhere.

    When i used to play World of Warcraft, the agreements got updated all the time...

    for some reason, they NEVER displayed on my computer, it had the title, but the text area was blank... does that mean i didn't have to comly with the no bots ruleing?

    If you are really worried about what might be hidden in a eula, try EULAlyzer. It's even been reviewed (twice) by lifehacker. It's free for personal use, has a paid pro-version too.

    http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2007/12/analyze_license_agreements_wit/

      You can even analyse it's own, rather lengthy, eula with it! :)

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