Windows XP End User Licence Agreement: Decyphered

The Microsoft Windows XP End User Licence Agreement (‘EULA’) is a classic example of abstruse drafting. In being so generalised, and endeavouring to cover all possible uses and jurisdictions — from Australian high school students to Chinese nuclear power plants — it isn’t the most accessible document to the general public. Indeed, non-lawyers have frequently complained that it is difficult to decypher the obligations and restrictions that users of the software purport to accept and by which they unavoidably become bound.

Thankfully, the EULA has now been translated into a user friendly format. Unsurprisingly, the document reads a lot better for this treatment. Just take the Digital Rights Management clause, for example. Here it is before translation:

2.1 Digital Rights Management. Content providers are using the digital rights management technology contained in this Software (“DRM”) to protect the integrity of their content ( “Secure Content”) so that their intellectual property, including copyright, in such content is not misappropriated. Portions of this Software and third party applications such as media players use DRM to play Secure Content (“DRM Software”). If the DRM Software’s security has been compromised, owners of Secure Content (“Secure Content Owners”) may request that Microsoft revoke the DRM Software’s right to copy, display and/or play Secure Content. Revocation does not alter the DRM Software’s ability to play unprotected content. A list of revoked DRM Software is sent to your computer whenever you download a license for Secure Content from the Internet. You therefore agree that Microsoft may, in conjunction with such license, also download revocation lists onto your computer on behalf of Secure Content Owners. Microsoft will not retrieve any personally identifiable information, or any other information, from your computer by downloading such revocation lists. Secure Content Owners may also require you to upgrade some of the DRM components in this Software (“DRM Upgrades”) before accessing their content. When you attempt to play such content, Microsoft DRM Software will notify you that a DRM Upgrade is required and then ask for your consent before the DRM Upgrade is downloaded. Third party DRM Software may do the same. If you decline the upgrade, you will not be able to access content that requires the DRM Upgrade; however, you will still be able to access unprotected content and Secure Content that does not require the upgrade.

Not very enlightening, is it? Now for the plain English version:

You agree that at any time, and at the request of ‘content providers’ Microsoft may disable certain features on your computer, such as the ability to play your music or movie files.

There, much better — well, from the user’s perspective. Most of the legal content remains intact, the clause is unlikely to be void for uncertainty, and the meaning is infinitely clearer. Of course, it also makes abundantly clear to users (too clear, in fact) just how much of a nuisance this covenant could be. Lawyers using legalese to obfuscate the negative consequences of a clause? Heaven forbid!