But I'm very concerned that for all the passion and media attention being expended over this particular EULA issue is all being misplaced. In our effort to ban together and pull down the Firefox EULA completely we very well maybe missing an opportunity to deal with a much bigger issue.
I would like to think that Chris Blizzards comments back in May when the issue hit Fedora-space still hold: http://blogs.gnome.org/hughsie/2008/0
"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."
I'd like to take Chris at his word, that the primary motivator here is about notifying users about the terms of web services that Mozilla is making available in association with Firefox. I can not stress this enough. Web services moving forward are going to continue to be a problem for "us." If we are intent on building a desktop experience which deeply integrates web services and we do not have some best practises framework in place on how to deal with terms of service notifications that service providers can rely on.
Is Mozilla handling it in the best way possible? Probably not. I don't expect anyone to get this stuff right without several attempts at it. But just because they are fumbling a bit over the issue..they shouldn't be knocked for attempting to address it. And sitting where I'm sitting (in my armchair, with beer in hand) I can't deny that Mozilla may have specific interests as a web service provider that I don't have a full grasp of. Certainly my layperson understanding of FLOSS copyright licensing does not transfer over the the realm of web services.
"We" as in everybody doing open source software has absolutely no fraking idea as to how to appropriately notify users about the services agreements associated with on-by-default web services. "We" collectively aren't giving it a lot of thought. "We" have this amorphous concept about the online desktop experience which is going to deeply integrate web services and enhance the day-to-day desktop user experience. But that enhancement comes at a cost..and that cost is the complication associated with "terms of service" for a vast array of different web service vendors. Just telling distributors to turn off the Mozilla services by default and ignore the issue now...just ends up pushing this discussion further and further out into the future. If we are serious about the online desktop meme, then "we" must expect that some services will be on by default for users, and "we" must make room with terms of service notifications. "We" can not continue to hide from this.
Where is the associated legal discussion about how to adequately notify users about the terms of such services? Such services and their terms are completely outside the scope of our collective layperson understanding of the copyright licensing which protect the rights to actual sourcecode running on clients in our ecosystem. Web services are not code... they are services...and new legal structures and best practises must be grown around their usage.
Out of all the people or groups actively working towards or is championing a linux desktop experience which deeply integrates web services.. which ones are making any effort at all to deal with the legal and usability issues associated with the "contract" notifications associated with those "web services?"
Right now I can point to Mozilla. Who else? Is the Gnome Foundation dealing with it? Are individual Gnome developers who are championing the online desktop experience thinking about it? Is Shuttleworth getting out in front and dealing with terms of service notification issues for the deeply integrated web-services he envisions Canonical providing at some point to desktop users?
The issue of web service contract term notifications isn't going to go away. The Mozilla situation is unfortunately overly complicated by other factors. But at the end of the day, when all of the current heat over the EULA issue falls away, we are probably still not going to be any closer to a shared understanding of how to deal with the terms of services of web services.
And that's really unfortunate.