Communicating freely

Archive for the ‘Windows Vista’ Category

Why EULAs are good for Free Software

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

End User License Agreements (EULA) are something that people using non-Free software encounter all the time.  These agreements spell out the terms that limit your use of software.  Recently I read an article about the new Windows Vista EULA.  It’s really something else.  This agreement brings ‘restrictive’ to a whole new level, and I think that’s good news for us.

Windows Vista will only allow you to re-register the software once.  Windows Vista will not allow you to run virtualisation unless you buy the expensive professional licenses.  Windows Vista will not allow you to publish benchmark figures without following strict Microsoft guidelines.  It’s amazing.  It’s manna.  It’s developer suicide.

Instead of learning from the exploding Free Software ecosystem, and admitting that sharing is good for users and for technology, Microsoft are clamping down in an unheard of way.  They are slamming the door shut on their product and attempting to squeeze every last dollar out of their users.  In doing so, Microsoft are bestowing a gift on the Free Software community.

Once Windows Vista is released it will be more obvious than ever that non-Free software is simply not a good idea.  It has always locked people into paying extortionate rates to vendors, but now it’s going to lock people into everything.  People will be locked into the hardware on their desk (they can only change it once).  People will be locked into using real computers even if virtualisation is a better solution (remember; virtualisation is illegal without the expensive professional packs).

At the very same time as this disaster unfolds Free Software is doing pretty well.  We have some stunning distributions at the moment.  We have a growing professional support infrastructure.  Our licenses clearly empower our users, and the emerging GPLv3 is going to work towards future-proofing the situation.

I’d like to see a lot more positive engagement with why Free Software is a good idea.  People often talk about why non-Free is bad…or bicker about the GPLv3…but I’d like to see people discussing what’s cool about Free Software.  I think in a few months a whole lot of people are going to be scanning the Internet looking for alternatives to the Windows Vista jail, and it’d be nice if we had clear answers to their needs lurking on pages, blogs and feeds.