Government // Mobile & Wireless
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7/7/2010
11:36 AM
Lamont Wood
Lamont Wood
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EULA Spells Minefield For SMBs

What do you do when your hardware dies but your software lives on? You learn all about your end-user license agreement (EULA).

What do you do when your hardware dies but your software lives on? You learn all about your end-user license agreement (EULA).I use Microsoft Office Professional 2007. No one asks if you use Word or PowerPoint-it's assumed. I had installed it on my desktop, and later on a laptop. So far so good.

But then the desktop died one morning-it would not even boot. Yes, I had backed up. I installed the software on its replacement. The software kept reminding me about the need for activation, and that it would only run about two dozen more times before most of the features were turned off. So I told it to go ahead and run the Activation Wizard, opting for Internet activation.

I got error messages. I used the telephone activation option, calling the toll-free number shown on the screen. The robot warned me that it would take six minutes, and prompted me to input the 54-digit activation code displayed by the Activation Wizard. I managed that. Then the robot suddenly asked how many times the software had been installed. I stammered that I was not sure, but it interrupted me, saying that it had been installed too many times and I needed to consult with my retailer.

This was disheartening-the package retails for something north of $400, and that amount would be more productively applied to the mortgage.

I printed out the software license agreement, which I found in the About screen under the Help tab of Outlook. It's 25 pages long, but only the first eight and a half apply to retail buyers. It says upfront that the software can be used only by one person, but you can install a second copy on a portable device, as I had done. Page six (section 15) says that the software can be reassigned to another device, but no more than once every 90 days. "If you retire the licensed device due to a hardware failure, you may reassign the license sooner."

How thoughtful! But there was no mention of any mechanism for reassigning the license.

Out of ideas, I called the telephone activation number again-but this time pressed zero when the robot started talking. It warned me that using a human agent would take longer, but I persevered. Within moments I was talking to someone with a smooth, cultured Indian accent. He asked for the 54-digit code number. I managed to stumble through it, momentarily expecting him to demand an explanation for what I was doing.

"It comes up valid," was all he said, and then read me a 42-digit confirmation code to input in the activation screen, adding that I should subsequently click Next and then Close.

I did, and the software announced that it was activated. It has since worked normally. Apparently, I did the right thing. Too bad I had to stumble across it by accident.

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