The source code of Mozilla’s browsing and email clients is available under the Mozilla Public License (the “MPL”), an open source license certified by the Open Source Initiative. Until now we’ve used the MPL for our executable releases as well. It hasn’t been a perfect match, as the MPL is aimed at source code. And even if we change the MPL to clearly apply to executables it’s still an odd fit. One might have the right under the MPL to modify the code of the executable, but source code is the natural way to make most modifications.
The MPL is not designed for the average consumer who isn’t interested in the complexity of a license aimed at development methodologies. (That’s assuming the average End User is really interested in any End User License Agreement. Even with all my background in this area I find it tedious to read through End User License Agreements, so I can only imagine that someone who’s not trained in this and only interested in getting something done may not pay much attention to the license.)
Periodically people have suggested that our executables should ship with a EULA rather than the MPL. This is particularly true with Mozilla Firefox, which is aimed at end-users as well as our traditional developer community. So we’ve done this with the 1.0 release. I had hoped to get the EULA included much earlier, but my to-do list is longer than my capacity to execute.
The Firefox EULA is pretty basic. That’s not to say it is as short as I would like — just including the standard clauses takes space. I thought about doing some things with the EULA that aren’t standard in the industry, like talking about distribution rights so that people wouldn’t need to look elsewhere. But it turns out that this adds complexity and I decided to leave this out, at least for now. I’ve written many EULAs in the past — almost every EULA that Netscape every used, in fact. But I haven’t focused on this in recent years, and now I rely on legal counsel to remain up to date and vet the content of the license. In this, as in so many other things, I want to thank Heather Meeker of Greenberg Traurig for her great help and unflagging positive nature in the face of time constraints and great demands.
Many people, especially programmers, ask me why there is so much “shouting” in EULAs. The answer is that consumer protection statutes often require notices to be “conspicuous” so that consumers see them. One way to make things conspicuous is to have them in all capital letters. That leaves the license pretty disturbing to programmers who associate all caps with yelling, but it is hard to change given the legal parameters within which a EULA operates.
We would also like to have translated versions of the Firefox EULA and we’re working on getting this done.
I suspect that the Firefox EULA is not perfect. If I had more time I would have distributed it for review and comment. Firefox 1.0 is only the beginning of great new releases from the Mozilla project, and the license can improve along with other aspects. The Firefox EULA can be found at the Mozilla website.