Friday, March 05, 2004


Bad EULA (gee!) for Skype

Clay Shirky wrote to ask my take on a Scott Mace piece that warned of the potential for Skype funny stuff in the form of potential spyware.

We know that Skype was founded by the folks that brought us Kazaa, and that Kazaa's famous for the ghosts it puts into our machine. In fact, before I installed my own copy of Skype, I updated my spyware program and swept my system. Then I installed Skype and swept the system again. It did come up clean. Trust but verify.

Scott Mace does not disagree, but he points to, and analyzes the potential threat of numerous loopholes in Skype's EULA (End User License Agreement) that would permit Skype or unspecified third parties to add spyware in the future.

Not only am I paranoid, but I can produce evidence that they're out to get me. Nevertheless, I can't get excited about Scott Mace's EULA-gizing. Taking a EULA apart is like shooting fish in a barrel. As long as screaming about definitely-unfair EULA provisions is confined to the supergeek fringe (no matter how warranted the fears might some day prove to be) the lawyers will make software companies put as many loopholes in EULAs as they can think up at $350/hr.

If Skype (or their partners, or my government) starts installing stuff that people object to, we can always uninstall Skype. The barriers to writing new VoIP software are low, and unless Skype establishes itself (by sheer dint of number of users) as a standard, there'll be other programs, much as killing Napster only switched people to other music trading software, a fact that Clay points out in a recent "Networks, Economics & Culture" essay.

I am glad that people like Scott Mace are ripping EULAs open and looking inside. It seems that across the board, EULAs are unfair, obnoxiously constraining and unreasonable. But if we got exercised about every unfair clause in every EULA, we'd never use commercial software again. Further, because Skype helps kill telephony, it is the lesser ev . . . I'd say "evil" but evil has such a bad name these days.

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?