I realise this might be offtopic here - but I couldn't find a better place in the stackexchange family. And this question has simply been bugging me for years..

What I wonder is: can an eula define WHAT you use an application for? IE: if I write a text editor, can I say "You can't write fantasy novels with it".

I'm wondering this because many applications have clauses like "you can't use XY to make something illegal". And actually wondering if this has any use? It is like saying that when you buy a car you lose the rights to drive it once you drive through a red light, or go speeding. I see it as "non of the car designer's business".

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    An EULA is a legal agreement which can contain any terms both parties agree to. (And yes, this is off topic.)
    – Blrfl
    Jan 16, 2013 at 12:18
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    @Blrfl Questions about software licenses are on topic and agreements on licenses fall in that category in my opinion. I also don't think explicit legal advice is being asked here.
    – maple_shaft
    Jan 16, 2013 at 12:41
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    @maple_shaft: Maybe I'm splitting hairs, but software isn't the only area where EULAs are used, which puts the question into the FAQ's "All People" circle.
    – Blrfl
    Jan 16, 2013 at 13:07
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    @Blrfl Good argument... I decided to start a discussion on meta about this: meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/5456/…
    – maple_shaft
    Jan 16, 2013 at 13:23
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    This is something you really need to talk with a lawyer about. While we can probably help you with a question regarding established software licenses since many of us have prior knowledge and experience with them, we don't have law degrees. At best we're a sounding board when it comes to writing a license or EULA and that really doesn't fit into the Q&A nature of the site.
    – Tim Post
    Jan 16, 2013 at 14:38

1 Answer 1


Well a product being used for illegal, unethical or immoral activities can very much be their business. If a user of your software used said software to to assist him in a criminal or damaging act then you the creator of the software are on the long line of parties being sued or potentially even prosecuted. By stating the intended use and the explicit uses that are not allowed, you absolve yourself of responsibility for damages due to users breaching the terms of the Agreement that they had accepted.

This adult website powered by ChristiansMeetup.biz

The other reason why a EULA may forbid certain uses of software by end users is to avoid potential associations or affiliations that could be damaging to the organizations reputation. In the example above, the fictional company ChristiansMeetup.biz could suffer reputation losses and have their bottom line hurt by allowing the intended use of its software to this particular end user.

Finally, your analogy with the car is flawed.

  1. One can and certainly does lose the rights to drive for repeat dangerous traffic violations.

  2. One must accept the rules of driving and pass tests on these rules to prove competent enough to drive. Driving is a privilege not a right.

  3. A legal contract between you and the car manufacturer over intended use is completely unnecessary as there are explicit laws that already define what the drivers behavior should be. The car manufacturer doesn't have to worry about defining intended use because the government does that for them, and also states that the manufacturer is not at fault for driver errors.

A EULA is a legal contract and it exists specifically because the laws and regulations may not be existant or may be fuzzy on certain aspects.

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    probably worth pointing out that there are often things EULAs can not restrict e.g. statutory rights
    – jk.
    Jan 16, 2013 at 13:12
  • @jk. Please see that I started a discussion on meta about this: meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/5456/…
    – maple_shaft
    Jan 16, 2013 at 13:24
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    "EULA is a legal contract" is not true in all legislations. In wide areas of the EU it was ruled that the EULA is not binding (basically because it is often presented after the user has bought/"licensed" the software and thus can't be part of the sales agreement). Jan 16, 2013 at 13:49

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