Let’s take a test.
Let’s say you go out and buy a car. After the customary four hour cat-and-mouse game you finally agree to sign the multi-page binding contract. But as you pick up the pen to sign the first of many dotted lines, this bold print in all caps catches your eye:
WARRANTY DISCLAIMER. THE AUTOMOBILE AND OTHER INFORMATION IS DELIVERED TO YOU “AS IS” AND WITH ALL FAULTS. THE AUTOMOBILE MANUFACTURER, ITS SUPPLIERS AND CERTIFICATION AUTHORITIES DO NOT AND CANNOT WARRANT THE PERFORMANCE OR RESULTS YOU MAY OBTAIN BY USING THE AUTOMOBILE, CERTIFICATE AUTHORITY SERVICES OR OTHER THIRD PARTY OFFERINGS.
After spending all afternoon getting to this point, would you sign or would you walk away?
I changed the word “software” to “automobile” but otherwise, this is actually the first paragraph of an End User License Agreement (EULA) that I agreed to in order to download software from the Internet. What choice did I really have?
This week the library is looking into upgrading our print management software that controls print jobs sent from the Information Commons computers. We purchased this software in 2006 and we’re pretty sure we haven’t upgraded it since then. We have version 5.5 and they’re currently marketing version 9. When upgrades cost money we operate on the principle of the oft quoted saying, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” We have come to the point where we can no longer ignore the upgrade.
However, when an upgrade is free, we usually go for it. But in that case another old saying bears consideration, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Do not be deceived. Software companies that provide applications for free stay in business because get something out of the deal. We pay for the convenience of using their products with our personal information, permission to track our behavior, access to our data, or something else they find valuable to use or sell. Successful companies thrive on our desire for convenience and our willingness to conform.
If I did not download and install the free upgrade on my PC, I would eventually run into technical difficulties without the benefit of support – much like the situation with the print management software. Where would that leave me in this information economy? Besides, everyone else is doing it. I had to conform.
(I’m glad my daughter doesn’t read this blog.)
Does this mean I am not information literate? I don’t think so. I understand the risks and I accept the consequences… at least that will be the software company’s defense if I try to sue them for any losses I suffer by using their product. I claimed to have read the above agreement when checking the box to Accept and Download software.
How did you do on this test?
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ Robin Hartman is Director of Library Services at Hope International University. She is curious about how the organization and communication of information shapes society and is committed to equipping students to impact the world for Christ.