Firefox EULA

WTF is that:

So, according to my girlfriend, firefox is no longer free. After seeing this dialog, I think I agree with her. What’s next? Validating your copy of firefox? or Please type your security code? Seriously, not cool.

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Richard has over 10 years of experience developing open source software. He is the maintainer of GNOME Software, PackageKit, GNOME Packagekit, GNOME Power Manager, GNOME Color Manager, colord, and UPower and also contributes to many other projects and opensource standards. Richard has three main areas of interest on the free desktop, color management, package management, and power management. Richard graduated a few years ago from the University of Surrey with a Masters in Electronics Engineering. He now works for Red Hat in the desktop group, and also manages a company selling open source calibration equipment. Richard's outside interests include taking photos and eating good food.

45 thoughts on “Firefox EULA”

  1. Oh, PLEASE.

    Why does Free Software include an EULA? People may not be aware of that but the GPL does not restrict you at all on how to use a software. The only restrictions have to do with redistributing it… All they should be saying is:

    “You are FREE to use this software as you wish. If you wish to redistribute this software you should comply to the GPL/MPL/anything licence (link to the web).”

    Or perhaps they shouldn’t be saying ANYTHING since the binary package people download doesn’t contain any source code, so modification of the software is impossible.

  2. That’s stupid, it’s very typical of multiuser software to have per-user license agreements.

  3. Richard, I don’t get why you think it’s no longer free.

    I tend to agree that including an EULA to free software is stupid and useless, but I don’t get why it makes it non-free.

  4. >but I don’t get why it makes it non-free.

    Sure, it’s a trademark. There’s lots of other trademarks in use on my desktop, none of them needed to expose me to a EULA.

  5. Tsk, come on…
    Stop being a crying baby…

    Why dont u quit using FF and go for things more “open” like IE, opera, webkit ? Problem solved.

    You got your 15 minutes of fame big boy… happy ?!

  6. i also didn’t like it. i don’t know what are they afraid of.
    what’s wrong with the approach of most GTK programs (GIMP for instance), they don’t bug you at first start, but they have the license in help->about->license.

    but in the end, i guess the license didn’t change at all from firefox 2, it’s it’s just that they mention it “in your face”.

  7. even Red Hat Enterprise Linux has en EULA, if the EULA does not say something that restrict the opensource license used, why is that a problem?

    “Nothing in this Agreement will be construed to limit any rights granted under the Open Source Licenses”

    I think Mozilla folks are just being careful with their trademarks and the privacy policy, is’t Linux free software because it is trademarked and you must be careful of how you use it?

  8. Firefox moved from distributing binaries under the MPL to a EULA in 2004:

    And this is the actual EULA:

    The only thing that has changed is that we moved it from the installer (which Linux users never see) to the first run. We did this because so many people are pre-installing Firefox that many people weren’t seeing the EULA. So it seems like we added a EULA when in fact we just moved where it lives.

    This is very similar to Red Hat’s EULA or many other that we see on Linux distributions. It very carefully states if you note that it takes away no rights that are granted under the license for the code. James Henstridge made the same observation back in 2005 about the Fedora EULA (which has since changed, but the situation is the same as that.

    Do you have specific concerns about the EULA? Other members of the Fedora community have already come up with a couple of points which we are working through. But I’m curious to know what you have to say about specific problems with it.

    It’s largely there to inform the user that they have rights and includes a disclaimer of liability for some services that the browser uses. Liability limitation as a result of the code is covered by the software license but limits on liability for services is something else entirely, hence one of the reasons for the EULA.

  9. >…to inform the user that they have rights and includes a disclaimer of liability for some services that the browser uses.

    Then why not say that rather than pages of legalese that _NOBODY_ will read.

  10. Having to accept a EULA to USE the application ? That does sound non-Free to me.

    Comparing this to the GPL is not quite right as the GPL only applies when one distributes the application, and does not restrict usage in any way.

  11. >Well, I use Epiphany, but my g/f uses firefox.

    so, switch to a more “open” girlfriend :)

    anyway… your complain is pathetic

  12. A bit of meta-noise: I think that some of the more contentless comment trolls would be a good reason to have a comment policy. No one needs childish, anonymous abuse like that.

  13. Afaik the firefox binary you get from are not free. I remember Richard Stallman mentioned this already too. Afaik it includes “talkback” which is non-free and something else i don’t remember.

    Therefore exists.

  14. It seems that Mozilla are a bunch of lowly ball-less cowards led by the nose by lawyers. Better safe than sorry, never mind the community and appeal of software freedom. After all, that’s now who all the NYT ads were addressed to. Yeah, irritating, but it’s their code after all.

  15. The GPL and other FOSS licences are copyright licences not EULAs, so displaying them to the user upon installation is a bit silly. The trademark policy only applies to redistributions and modifiers (i.e. Fedora, Debian and me when I use-the-source), so again it’s a bit silly to show to a user.

    There are those on Debian-legal who will agree that because of the FF trademark policy it is non-free software. Personally I think that’s taking the definition too far. I’m quite happy with FF protecting their trademark and forcing me to use another trademark such as IceWeasel or AidansWebBrowser.

  16. I have been using Firefox from 0.1.

    The first time I see EULA popup from my Firefox, that will be the last time I start up a Firefox.

  17. @Aidan Delaney: I agree with you about the trademark issue. Also Debian hold a trademark for “Debian” and their logo!

    But the firefox binaries from has real freedom issues like the non-free “talkback”. I know that they want to replace “talkback” with a free software solution but i don’t know if this already happened.

  18. Richard, I have to agree with you in that this is unsettling. Does this make Firefox non-free? I don’t know, the semantics of determining that is beyond me, but such an action like this is definitely disturbing and reminiscent of non-free software.

    As Firefox grows in popularity & market penetration, I suppose certain issues they never had to consider before become more pressing, but I was always a bit antsy ever since the Mozilla corporation itself was formed. I fear that is an avenue through which users’ freedoms to use software may become constricted over time, and this is one of those cases. Hopefully it will be reverted and be the last.

  19. First, Firefox 3 does not include Talkback, it includes the free Crash Reporter, Breakpad. It includes a bunch of non-free logos, but that’s not why it could be made good that EULA exists.

    EULA mentions privacy, and contains a link to the privacy policy. If you can get the user to read it, that may be very good. But then the user has probably read other EULAs… but then the better? dunno.

    THIS sucks:

  20. Having to accept a EULA to USE the application ? That does sound non-Free to me.

    You also have to agree with the GPL to use a GPL’ed application… It’s just that, since you are bound to the GPL when you use an application by law, most applications don’t show the GPL before letting you use it. That is, assuming that copyright is enough protection.

    Forcing a user to agree is just additional protection to make sure it can remain open source. Imagine what would happen if some court made a binding decision that copyright does not protect software. WAM – all GPL-licenced applications invalidated. Except for those where the user explicitly agreed.

  21. Vincent: You DON’T have to agree to the GPL to use a GPL’ed application! You only have to agree if you redistribute the application.

    Again: YOU ARE FREE TO USE THE APPLICATION AS YOU WISH. The license has is only about REDISTRIBUTING it.

    That’s what people are missing, that GPL and other OSI licenses are FREE to use. Certainly including a 5-page text you have to agree with upon installing doesn’t help…

  22. This is only a disclaimer saying that most of the binary you downloaded is Free Software under the MPL, however some parts are proprietary; here’s our privacy policy; some stuff that keeps the Mozilla Foundation from being sued for sixty-three billion dollars. This is not a new thing; it’s been part of Firefox since at least v1.5.

  23. Hey Richard,

    As a user experience guy, I agree that throwing up a few pages of legalese into the faces of our users isn’t a nice way to do things. I’ve been chatting with our new Chief Counsel Harvey Anderson about ways to make this better. The one little change that we got in Firefox 3 was being able to use boldface instead of ALL CAPS for certain sections. Thank god for small mercies! :)

    Sadly, the fact is that we distribute Firefox in some litigious societies, and those societies have norms that express what is and is not considered fair notice of liability concerns and implied usage rights. Thus, the EULA.

    If we can make this a better experience, we will, but not at the potential cost of distracting the mission of the Mozilla project with frivolous lawsuits. :)

  24. Oh, and I forgot to mention that we’re working with distros to include our EULA as part of the first EULA that is shown to users, so that they just have to see something once. No point in distracting them more times than is necessary!

  25. I hate, I absolutely hate EULAs. It should be part of the core freedoms: freedom -1: freedom from EULAs. By clicking accept on EULAs, you can agree among other things to:
    – promise never to criticise the software in public
    – promise never to try and develop a competing product (hint, hint, flash and gnash)
    – give away personal information (practically all spyware, adware and IE toolbars, and the occasional Microsoft update)
    – allow the software to control your media with DRM (do I need to name names?)
    and so on and so on.
    I love GNU/Linux because you can install and use it without once having to click on “I have read and accepted the licence agreement” and without all the guilt and worry about what I might have pledged my soul to.

  26. Free is not “free” unless you protect it as so. Look at wikipedia, everything there is under license, but the license defines the useage as “free”. As Mike said we live in a litigious society so these things need to be defined.

  27. Is this the same argument where you need a contract for a free trade agreement. are these oxymoron’s by the very nature of them?

  28. There is absolutely no reason to show an EULA in truly free software. I don’t know how the Firefox MPL license works but the GPL explicitly state that to USE the program you don’t need to agree to the GPL itself. It says it only apply when you want to redistribute.

    All the GPLed software for Windows that shows you the GPL in the installer totally miss the point of the license.

  29. Windows users have had to agree to this in the installer since 1.0 and probably earlier.

    I also think Mozilla should protect itself.

  30. What a few people here do not understand is that THIS IS ANNOYING for a user.

    It may be nothing of importance, BUT IT IS STILL ANNOYING.

  31. What I haven’t seen so far is something which is so obvious, especially for an organization which has been through the legal system a few times:

    The reason they put it in your face is simple: their lawyers said so.

    If you dislike this, then I would like you to contact their lawyers.

  32. epiphany uses gecko and will change to webkit… so then, my friend, in the end you use the same okay ? once again, change to something more “open”, like ie, opera or then stop complaining…

  33. The last time I installed Firefox on Windows (first time in a long time), I couldn’t understand what all the pop-ups were about. I still haven’t figured out how to make them go away. I suppose they’ll just keep coming until I hook that machine up to the internet and register. It’s sad, it’s disgusting . . . I really don’t have words for it.

  34. First, they came for the Debianites, and nobody spoke up. Well, they did, they mocked Debian for being license zealots.

    Then, they came for the anti-EULA crowd…

  35. >I have been using Firefox from 0.1

    OK, I know that was posted by “troll” and should probably just be ignored… but there was no Firefox 0.1… the browser was called Phoenix until version 0.5 or so when it got renamed Firebird, then a couple versions later got renamed again to Firefox.

    Anyways, I don’t see this EULA issue as anything but an attempt to protect the Mozilla Corporation and the Mozilla Project. There is nothing in the current EULA that places any restrictions on use of the software, and you aren’t agreeing to give up your personal information or your first born child. Its much shorter than most EULAs (at 2 pages max when printed, 1 page if small type is used). It might be a small annoyance, but its one most users will never remember, and you only see it once. The delay caused by the notice costs users at most a few minutes (if they read it, less than 2 seconds if not), which is much less than the time wasted complaining about it.

    FOSS doesn’t mean freedom from EULAs… it means freedom of software and usage. There are licenses on all FOSS source code governing how it is distributed with the intent of protecting the project, and in kind it makes sense to include licenses on binaries to disclaim liability to also protect the project (or in this case the distributing and sponsoring organization).

    Mozilla is doing the smart thing, and in the current legal atmosphere, the right thing. At the same time they are making huge strides in advancing FOSS. I applaud them for their efforts, EULAs and all.

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