I tried installing Firefox version 3.0 from the Linux tar file that they offer at firefox.com. I wanted to bring it up on my OLPC, as an alternative to the clumsy “Browse” program.
I unpacked the tar file and ran “firefox/firefox”. Eek!!! I was shocked when it filled the screen with a EULA (End User License Agreement) and refused to let me continue unless I clicked that I agreed to it.
Well, of course I declined, then went to another machine and searched the web for mentions of this. I found complaints here, along with comments from a few weasels from Mozilla defending their decision.
In particular, they kept repeating, “Fedora has a EULA, so why shouldn’t we?”. That seemed to be the main reason for it.
I have news for them. Fedora doesn’t have a EULA any more.
The reason it doesn’t is because I complained about it, and made the case to their management, lawyers, and release manager, that:
- They don’t need a EULA, trademark law applies anyway
- It’s free software so people can go in and remove the EULA anyway (which in fact I did, so I never agreed to it)
- Putting EULAs into Fedora was causing all sorts of unsavory characters to go “see, Fedora is doing it” and stick EULAs into their own distros — EULAs that contain really objectionable provisions.
- I don’t want my relationship with Fedora/Mozilla to be governed by a one-sided contract written by them. I want it to be governed by the laws, which are already one-sided enough.
The Fedora Project Leader, Max Spevack, was nice enough to send me a note thanking me for making it go away. Getting rid of it was on his list of battles to fight, but he had had some more pressing things ahead of it. He also pointed out that if you did a text-mode install, it never presented you with the EULA anyway, so if Red Hat’s lawyers had been serious about really, really demanding that every copy of Fedora was accompanied by a signed contract with the end user, their releases weren’t doing that anyway.
So it’s gone now. It’s been gone since Fedora 7.
And here it is 2008, and we have the Mozilla Corporation not only going “see, Fedora is doing it”, but also saying they’re “working with distros to include our EULA as part of the first EULA that is shown to users”. They’re not only being evil, they’re being eeeeevil: encouraging more free software distributions to add EULAs, and to add even more pages of legalese to any that they already have.
Now here’s the free-as-in-freedom bit:
Firefox is free software and you are free to modify it, either before or after you install it. I chose to modify it before I installed it. I modified it by removing the EULA. So there is no EULA, no agreement between me and the Mozilla Corporation, no contract. Just the free software. Thank you for the free software.
It would be easier to modify the source, and I’m happy to come up with a source patch for the Mozilla team (or any distro) if they’ll install it. But it was more expedient to modify the binary: it was sitting in front of me, and it turned out to be easy.
The EULA in the Firefox 3.0 linux installer is hiding in firefox/chrome/en-US.jar. This is a binary file, something Java-ish, but it contains a lot of visible text. I found the text of the EULA’s dialog boxes. I unpacked the tar file, modified Firefox, then started it up, with these commands:
tar xvvjf firefox-3.0.tar.bz2
mv firefox/chrome/en-US.jar en-US.jar.orig
sed -e "s/Terms and conditions/Lack of conditions /" -e "s/Please read the following/Ignore the following evil/" -e "s/I accept the terms/I reject the terms/" <en-US.jar.orig >firefox/chrome/en-US.jar
Then you can happily agree to reject the terms, click OK, and your browser will be installed.
You can’t get too creative with this kind of patch, because the binary file has length fields that get screwed up if you replace one string with a string of a different length. Note the two spaces between the word “conditions” and the following slash and quote. The essence of art is in working within the constraints of your medium.
Enjoy your truly free browser. Thanks for the improvements, Mozilla. It’s a shame you have to deal with such lemming-like lawyers as your new Chief Counsel, Harvey Anderson. Just because most proprietary software comes with a EULA, you don’t need one too.
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