Consumer Law

Buying and Using Software

What legal terms govern your use of software?

Software is only legally usable by people or businesses who purchase a license, which is simply permission to use the software, which is protected by copyright. Most software that you buy in the store, and much of what comes with your computer (such as software on compact discs (CD's)), comes with a shrink-wrap license. (The software already loaded onto your computer is covered by licenses arranged with the company that preloaded it, and to which you agree under a principle analogous to the shrink-wrap license.)

Under this license system, the manufacturer regards you as agreeing to the terms of its licensing agreement contained inside the package once you open the plastic shrink wrap of the package.

Increasingly, you are also required to navigate a "click box" that comes up on the first screen you see during installation, during which time you click "YES" to the terms of the license agreement if you want to proceed—and "NO" if you want to throw your money away. (You usually can't return open boxes of software, whether you clicked "yes" or "no.") This device is also used for licenses that allow you access to certain Internet websites and other online resources.

>>Can you copy software legally?
>>What legal terms govern your use of software?
>>What limitations are usually placed on how you use software?
>>Do you have a right to make backup copies?
>>How can you protect yourself as a software consumer?


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