Most of Autodesk's customers don't read the terms of license when installing AutoCAD. This makes sense: if you want to use the software, you have to agree to its terms. Thus, there's no point to reading the license, because you have no rights to negotiate it. As Autodesk says, if you don't agree to the terms, return the software.
Thus, you may be surprised to learn just how onerous some of the terms are:
- You cannot travel with your notebook computer and use AutoCAD outside the country you bought it in. It may even be illegal to use AutoCAD in the airplane flying over Canada between mainland USA and Alaska. The stewardess instructing you to put away your electronic devices takes on a whole new meaning.
- You lose your right to use AutoCAD if you declare bankruptcy, thus depriving you of your ability to make a living and recover from financially difficult times. Although Autodesk claims its licenses are perpectual, they clearly are not.
- You agree to allow Autodesk to search your home for illegal copies, or send agents into your premises. And you agree to let Autodesk charge you for the costs it incurred entering your home.
Last fall, Ed Foster on his Gipe2Ed.com Web site compared the terms of Adobe and Autodesk licenses, and found Adobe's much fairer. He notes that "The AutoCAD license, however, takes some unique steps to restrict users even from actions that are clearly protected under laws in the U.S. and abroad."
More recently, Paul Waddington took up the fight on behalf of users. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, he describes how he was unable to read the license terms outside of purchasing AutoCAD: "I tried to talk with a local distributor and dealer and they would not discuss the agreements. To make matters worse, they do not accept their responsibility to inform customers about the licence conditions, despite the serious potential consequences."
The Australian newspaper notes that "Autodesk is considering a response."
When Paul Waddington wrote to Autodesk CEO Carol Bartz expressing his concerns, he instead received a letter from Autodesk's lawyers; the letter stated he could not reveal the content of their letter.
CADinfo.net is one of the most-visited independent CAD Web sites in the world. When they asked Autodesk to comment on the criticisms of its license terms, they instead received from a letter from one of Autodesk's public relations firms. Unlike the letter from the lawyers, you can read it here.
In contrast to Autodesk's license, Ed Foster praises Evolution Computing's license for its FastCAD software. "I think it ... makes for a good start on a model fair software license agreement." The implication is that Autodesk need not go as far as it does. There is irony: AutoCAD is based on Mike Riddle's MicroCAD, and Mike Riddle is the owner of Evolution Computing.