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As a former Windows user I was used to accepting EULA's and other licenses when installing any piece of software, or when installing the whole OS. On Ubuntu it happens extremely rarely (I've met it only once). Is it correct? Ubuntu and most of it's software is under some free-to-use-and-modify license like GNU GPL or something similar, but shouldn't the license be presented to the user?

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Since you accepted my answer, I think it'd be a good idea to split the questions up, and ask another one "Why don't I have to accept a EULA when installing Flash". (awesome question by the way, +1) :) –  Stefano Palazzo Feb 19 '11 at 14:00
    
I will do so :) –  Rafał Cieślak Feb 19 '11 at 14:05
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Why don't I have to accept a EULA when installing..." - Because I (as well as 99% of sane human beings) don't want. And Ubuntu is made for human beings, not for lawyer beings ;-) –  Ivan Feb 19 '11 at 14:12

5 Answers 5

up vote 13 down vote accepted

This is regarding free software:

A license is very different from a EULA. The software on your computer starts out under the normal (default, in some countries) copyright by the authors. Only then do you get special permission to copy and re-distribute the software under the terms of the GPL. This does not restrict your use of the software, nor does it put any special onus on you to comply with some arbitrary terms. It is not a contract.

Think of the GPL as an agreement of the terms of re-distribution; you are granted license to deal with the software in ways normally prohibited by copyright law, given you agree to some terms.

A EULA restricts your use of the software, it has nothing to do with simple copyright. The EULA says, you may use this software, but not in any way you like. It restricts you further than copyright or trademark law could. Free software doesn't have that kind of restrictions, therefore you don't have to agree to any contract.

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Ah, so that's the point - one does not need to agree to these licenses at all. –  Rafał Cieślak Feb 19 '11 at 13:55

I wasn't able to comment on Stefano Palazzo's answer above, but I just wanted to clarify that it's not necessarily true to say that an open source licence isn't a contractual licence. They often are, and it may well be the case that all open source licences are contracts in some jurisdictions.

But of course he's right in that there are generally no obligations placed on the user so there is no incentive to get them to accept the contractual licence. Copyright law provides an adequate fallback for any shenanigans, so there really is no need for an open source software developer to inconvenience the user with an unnecessary legal process.

By the way, while you're free to not agree with the licence, using the software without a licence will leave yourself open to a copyright claim from the developer. Generally they wouldn't act on it anyway.

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Thanks for this explanation :) –  Rafał Cieślak Feb 19 '11 at 16:14

Most people don't read those licenses or EULA's at all, and those who do find it important enough can probably find them through other means (on the software's website, for instance).

That's not very user-friendly to them, but it is to most users.

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Well, but hiding them because nobody reads them looks slightly awkward. User is obliged to accept an EULA to use the application. It's something like singing a document stating: "Yes, I agree to these terms". One must be familiar with the license to accept it, and if he doesn't read it, it's his problem that he accepts the terms he does not know - but he signed he agrees, and he is obliged to respect the rules and agreements from the EULA. –  Rafał Cieślak Feb 19 '11 at 13:43

The model used on windows is not the norm on most systems. Having used a mac once I was a bit surprised at just how simple installing apps was (much more simple than linux, believe me, but not in a good way). The point is, showing a license for every install is not only annoying, but unnecessary. The license (if really relevant) should be shown when first running the software, or in an about menu, etc.

For users switching from windows, adding that extra step would mean another hurdle to understanding linux, which is another good reason why it (the extra step) is not included. BTW the software center shows you the license as a string in the info about the software (in a simple way) - that should be enough for most common users.

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Almost every GPL licensed application has GPL license in Help > About dialog. At least KDE apps have one. If you want to read the license, you can do it form help dialog.

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