In the proprietary software industry, an end-user license agreement or software license agreement is the contract between the licensor and purchaser, establishing the purchaser’s right to use the software. The license may define ways under which the copy can be used, in addition to the automatic rights of the buyer including the first sale doctrine and 17 U.S.C. § 117 (freedom to use, archive, re-sale, and backup).
Many form contracts are only contained in digital form, and only presented to a user as a click-through where the user must “accept”. As the user may not see the agreement until after he or she has already purchased the software, these documents may be contracts of adhesion.
Software companies often make special agreements with large businesses and government entities that include support contracts and specially drafted warranties.
Some EULA form contracts accompany shrink-wrapped software that is presented to a user sometimes on paper or more usually electronically, during the installation procedure. The user has the choice of accepting or rejecting the agreement. The installation of the software is conditional to the user clicking a button labelled “accept”. See below.
Many EULAs assert extensive liability limitations. Most commonly, an EULA will attempt to hold harmless the software licensor in the event that the software causes damage to the user’s computer or data, but some software also proposes limitations on whether the licensor can be held liable for damage that arises through improper use of the software (for example, incorrectly using tax preparation software and incurring penalties as a result). One case upholding such limitations on consequential damages is M.A. Mortenson Co. v. Timberline Software Corp., et al. Some EULAs also claim restrictions on venue and applicable law in the event that a legal dispute arises.
Some copyright owners use EULAs in an effort to circumvent limitations the applicable copyright law places on their copyrights (such as the limitations in sections 107–122 of the United States Copyright Act), or to expand the scope of control over the work into areas for which copyright protection is denied by law (such as attempting to charge for, regulate or prevent private performances of a work beyond a certain number of performances or beyond a certain period of time). Such EULAs are, in essence, efforts to gain control, by contract, over matters upon which copyright law precludes control.