I have always wondered about the legality of the Eula. How can it be enforced? Is it a legal contract? And is it valid in all countries? Not all countries have identical laws...

I remember Psystar attacked the Mac OS X Eula. And in Germany, a company started selling PCs with Mac OS X preinstalled; their argument for this was that the Eula was invalid in that country.

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    This question is incredibly broad, and practically unanswerable in its current form. – Travis Northcutt Aug 27 '09 at 20:36
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    Converted to Wiki. Personally I think this should be closed as this is a very thin line, and no one here can give a legal opinion. SuperUser can and will in no way be held responsible by any actions from this post. We do NOT condone illegal or questionable activity – BinaryMisfit Aug 27 '09 at 20:51
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    since this is a legal and not a technical guestion, it should be locked indeed. – Molly7244 Aug 27 '09 at 21:22
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    We all have to deal with EULA's so it's useful to know how valid an EULA actually is. Technically, if an EULA is invalid, then you can't violate it either and there would be no crime. In general, it's just a contract and if it's displayed during installation and you continue to install the software, then it's valid in most countries... – Wim ten Brink Aug 27 '09 at 21:29
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    I don't think there is a problem with this staying open. It is a legitimate question concerning intellectual property, and those laws can be very different depending on nationality. As long as there are no answers or questions about how to specifically violate IP laws, we should not have any problems. – TheTXI Aug 27 '09 at 23:18

10 Answers 10


Some courts in the U.S. have upheld shrinkwrap license agreements. See particularly ProCD v. Zeidenberg and more generally, Wikipedia's section on EULA enforceability. This covers how the DMCA may apply, for example.

In the end, though, you'll find that EULAs are sometimes deemed to be enforceable and sometimes not.

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  • Note that I am not myself an American, nor do I live in the U.S. Any answer to this question is necessarily going to be specific to the jurisdiction. – ChrisInEdmonton Aug 27 '09 at 21:06
  • Chris, although there probably is no right answer to the question, I think yours was probably the best here. Thanks to everybody for shedding some light on the matter! – alex Sep 3 '09 at 7:28
  • Great answer, though I'll add that generally they will at least be treated as contracts of adhesion. While contracts of adhesion are generally enforceable, it is much easier to challenge at least limited clauses as being unconscionable. (IANAL) – TimothyAWiseman Nov 23 '11 at 21:32

EULAs are not per se invalid in Germany.

however, a German court held that they are ONLY THEN legally binding if they have been agreed to prior to the purchase. the folks at PearC, the company selling Mac clones in Germany are founding their claims of legality on this 'loophole'.

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    Do you know how you agree to an Eula before purchase? Is it similar to a normal contract you sign? – alex Aug 27 '09 at 20:57
  • if Apple whishes to enforce their EULA in Germany, then they'll have to to get the customer to sign a written contract, yes. and then it would be legally binding. – Molly7244 Aug 27 '09 at 21:00
  • and since Mac OSX doesn't require server-based product activation there isn't much Apple can do about it. in Germany now one may argue that you can install Windows on as many computers you like since you didn't agree to the EULA prior to the purchase, however, Microsoft can and will refuse activation which they use for copryright protection. and circumventing copyright protection is illegal, even in Germany ... but MS will eventually pull the plug on the XP activation server (AFAIK in 2011) and then this argument will become valid, i read aubout this a while ago, quite interesting. – Molly7244 Aug 27 '09 at 23:38
  • Actually, copyright law still prevents you from making as many copies as you like. It doesn't matter what the EULA says, copyright law is still valid. A EULA can, of course, grant you rights copyright law doesn't grant you automatically. In that case I would accept the EULA. (The GPL does that, for example.) – Andrew J. Brehm Oct 11 '09 at 2:43

The bottom line is big software company can afford more billable lawyer hours than you can. Call me a cynic, but I believe in the golden rule, "those with the gold make the rules". You might eventually get a judge / jury to rule in your favor, but you would go completely bankrupt in the process.

The only silver lining, we out number them and they can't afford to catch and try everyone. As long as you don't bring attention to yourself, like responding to a question on a popular website, they shouldn't notice you.


Some EULAs are in fact invalid in some countries. I think this is a case for most US EULAs used in EU. US legal system has some resemblence to UK legal system, but EU legal system is in fact a mix of few totally different ideas how law should look like, and is quite different from US.

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  • So what am I accepting? Why do they even bother to use one? What stops me from installing a legally purchased copy of Mac Os X on a PC? The Eula says it has to be on an Apple approved device; but if the Eula is not legal, then what? – alex Aug 27 '09 at 20:41
  • @alex: If Eula is not legal in your country, you can ignore the illegal parts. However, when we are talking about big money (ie. you want to start selling PC's with Mac OS and have some doubts), it’s worth to consult a lawyer. Also note one more thing: even if EULA is not enforceable, big corporation have a lot of money and may hire good lawyers, just for show. In Poland (and probably in most EU), if an agreement is against the law, it is invalid even if you signed it. For example even if you decide you want to be slave and sign a contract, you cannot become a slave, since slavery is illegal. – smok1 Aug 27 '09 at 20:56
  • I'm not trying to sell anything, I'm just interested in the topic :). Also, I'm nt a very big fan of piracy, so I'm not condoning that. – alex Aug 27 '09 at 21:04

In most cases, it's not enforceable

In the software world (market), I think we pretty much live on a honest system.

For some parts of the world, piracy is as high as 90% or above. People don't really care or are unaware of software license at all, not to mention EULA.

For some developed countries, people pay more attention and respect to properly licensed software, but still, we have an attitude of "I pay for the software so I am fine with it." Nobody is actually reading the content of an EULA.


The only times when an EULA is enforced would be in a corporate environment where a large number of licenses are compromised and catch the attention of the owner (e.g. MSFT). In such case, a team from the law enforcement body will raid an office and... you can imagine.

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    Well, I live in Romania, where piracy is very high. Most people think Windows is free, because they can just get it from a friend for 'free'. This is the mentality, unfortunately; and nobody wants Linux, even though you try to explain the advantages. Licences are incredibly expensive here; a Vista Home Premium licence is 315$, while the average salary is about 250$. You can get a decent PC for that price, so when you tell them that the licence is as expensive as the PC, some can't even understand the concept. – alex Aug 28 '09 at 8:40

In theory, the EULA is enforceable in most countries (although I would really only know about Australia) as it is a contract that you have agreed to. However, when it comes down to it, if a EULA is challenged or a person is sued or charged for breaking a EULA, it always comes down to the courts to decided whether or not what the person did was illegal or not.

Just to be on the safe side, I would recommend you follow them.

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What about the right to do reverse engineering provided as fair use in copyright law, you bought the product you have that right. Then you can deny to accept the EULA, which by no means would take from you the rights acquired when you bought the product to reverse engineer it. So you reverse engineer it to take away the EULA in the installer, and then proceed using it normally without accepting the EULA. Isn't this valid?

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Legalities dealing with different countries aside...

I would say because you are using someone elses product. It is their property and they are just licensing you rights to use for it's intended purpose and nothing else. You agree to not use the product for other purposes, diassembly, use code, copy ideas/pictures/exact layout etc.

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  • But it's more of a trust issue, right? I agree, but I'm not forced; there's no way to enforce the stuff I agreed to. – alex Aug 27 '09 at 20:51
  • That where it would depend of the law of the country and how strong they feel about enforcing those laws. Depends how watchful the company cares to watch its application usage. Too many factors. Then you cannot forget the simply moral side of things. Nothing is stopping you from attempting to rob a bank technically. You just know the laws normaly enforce this kind of activity with swift punishment. – Troggy Aug 27 '09 at 20:57
  • @Troggy: I'm not sure how you can say that. We don't do this for most other products. You don't need a license to drive your car or listen to your music CDs or watch a DVD. By selling it, they're advertising that it can be used for a particular purpose. – jasonh Aug 27 '09 at 21:22
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    True, but the license is automatically granted by US law and the fact that they're advertising the product for a particular use. Although I do agree that it's a hotbed. I wish a EULA issue would make it up to the Supreme Court already so we can get a definitive answer. – jasonh Aug 27 '09 at 22:44
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    @alex You are correct, you could sum it up as a trust issue. Though I would never want to take on highly paid corporate lawyers if there was an issue. haha. – Troggy Aug 28 '09 at 17:20

They have all the legality of private land parking signs threatening to clamp you if you park on their land. Very shaky ground legally and probably wouldn't stand up in court but the threat of them is enough.

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If you understand the Dutch language then De (on)geldighed van EULA’s (gastpost) will try to explain it from an European view. If you can't read Dutch, then Google Translate might still make it readable.

But in short: it depends on the situation.

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