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Hiding Your Choices And Saying You Made Them 537

An anonymous reader writes "Lawmeme's Paul Szynol describes how during installation RealPlayer hides checkboxes that elect that the user receives spam, making it look like the user chose to make the selections when in fact he probably just didn't see the options. "This is essentially a cheap and dirty marketing tactic which creates an illusion of informed acceptance by the user where no such acceptance really exists." Other people have posted similar examples from other applications. Is this illegal, or just annoying?"
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Hiding Your Choices And Saying You Made Them

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  • My feeling is... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by suman28 ( 558822 ) <suman28@hotmail.cCOFFEEom minus caffeine> on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:03PM (#5096338)
    If they don't show the choices at all, then this hopefully is illegal. I did accept it, but I accepted the choices given to me. But then what do I know. I am no lawyer.
    • Re:My feeling is... (Score:3, Informative)

      by stratjakt ( 596332 )
      No, the choices are there but you'd have to scroll down to see them, or some such. Just like you have to bust out the Owl Eyes(tm) to read the fine print on a loan application.
    • Re:My feeling is... (Score:3, Informative)

      by greechneb ( 574646 )
      The choices are technically there. IF you scroll down, it will show all the choices. However, at first glance, it appears that there are only the 4 top choices.

      The author is talking more about using tactics such as that, or obfuscated language to make users sign up unintentionally. By default most installations have choices for email set to yes by default, so people who next-click through the install agree to giving their souls away by clicking next.
  • by Flounder ( 42112 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:04PM (#5096343)
    IANAL, but I'm sure somewhere in the EULA, they've written themselves a loophole.

    BTW, isn't it ironic that the acronym for I Am Not A Lawyer is I Anal??

  • Illegal? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Prior Restraint ( 179698 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:04PM (#5096346)

    Is this illegal, or just annoying?

    Okay, I'll offer myself up as the sacrificial lamb and ask the obvious: Why would this be illegal?

    • Re:Illegal? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Well, right off the bat it is misrepresentation.
      In this case Real claiming that I made a choice when in fact I did not.

      In a physical world example it would be like giving me a contract to sign but removing several pages from it. i.e. Not just sections that I jump over because it is awkward to review ala most EULA.

      Unreadably small fine print and defaulted check boxes are one thing. This is certainly a new level of sleaze that has been acheived.
      • Re:Illegal? (Score:2, Interesting)

        In a physical world example it would be like giving me a contract to sign but removing several pages from it.

        But the checkboxes ARE there. He just didn't bother scrolling down far enough to see them that they were checked. They weren't missing or hidden or anything. Sure, it's sleazy but we all know Real is a sleazy company. When I have to uncheck fifteen thousand options to NOT get a shitload of spam from them it should tell you something about the company. Honestly though, does anyone actually put their REAL e-mail address on any of these applications anymore? must get a shitload of my spam.

        • Re:Illegal? (Score:3, Funny)

          by ceejayoz ( 567949 )
          I feel really sorry for - if you're reading slashdot, I'm sorry! :-p

          It's also fun to put a e-mail address in...
      • Re:Illegal? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jgerman ( 106518 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @04:16PM (#5096982)
        I hate to defend shady practices but:

        Right off the bat it is NOT misrepresentation. You did make a choice, you chose not to scroll down, part of the standard idiom of reading information on a computer screen, and lazily just click next. You not reading or clicking on something does not constitute claiming that you made no choice. You could easily turn the argument around (and it would be just as meaningless) if they weren't pre checkedby saying you weren't given the choice to say yes.

        In a physical world example it would be like giving me a contract to sign but removing several pages from it. i.e. Not just sections that I jump over because it is awkward to review ala most EULA.

        In a weak, and not applicicable physical example you're right. But let's make it more accurate. In a physical world example it would be like giving you a contract to sign and having multiple pages below the top one that you need to flip through to read, which is SUPRISE how it usually works.

        Personally I feel like to be polite, all check boxes should be unchecked to begin with, but it certainly isn't, and shouldn't, be illegal to do otherwise.

    • Re:Illegal? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:13PM (#5096448)
      Because some folks can't get up the nerve to get indignant about anything unless it's illegal. Especially on Slashdot, if you complain about someone who does something rude or inconsiderate, the inevitable response is: "It's a free country. What are you, some kinda communist?" Not only is this behavior not illegal, but it SHOULDN'T EVER be illegal. But it's still wrong! [If this comment gets modded up, there will be tons of responses from people who don't understand the concept of something being wrong and not illegal, but have no trouble at all with things that are illegal but not wrong]
    • Re:Illegal? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sjames ( 1099 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:27PM (#5096602) Homepage Journal

      There several good reasons depending on why they did this.

      If they are claiming (to advertisers or users) that the spam is opt-in, then their practice is deceptive/fraud (false advertising, etc)

      If they try to claim that the users 'consent' relieves them from fines where spam is illegal, they have comitted a different sort of fraud that is approximatly the same as hiding a real contract behind a reasonable one that covers all but the signature line. (a long time favorite of moustache twisting villains in old movies, I might add). At the very least, it's as bad as using print so small that even a person w/ perfect vision needs a magnifier (in the case of disclaimers, and the health warning on cigarettes, that practice is specifically illegal).

      I think it is fairly clear that REal intended for the selections to be deceptive. Deception of that nature is at least unethical, and in some cases, illegal.

    • Why would this be illegal?

      Because you are making a decision on the user's behalf and hiding that from the affected party?
  • Simple solution... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:05PM (#5096354)
    Your email address is now ''. Despite what Trust-E has to say, Real has a history of ignoring privacy matters. I've never in the history of my using RealPlayers put in an actual email address, other than something with an @ and a .com in it. They can market to /dev/null all they like.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:21PM (#5096541)
      Thanks you insensitive clod. My email address is, and I have always wondered why I get all this junk mail from Real!


      Get your own lies, thief!

      G.Steve Arnold
    • > Despite what Trust-E has to say, Real has a history of ignoring privacy matters.

      s/Despite/Because of/g

      Any time I see the Trust-E logo, I know someone's doing something evil. If they weren't in the spyware business, they wouldn't need to use a front group like Trust-E to feign legitimacy.

      Trust-E is to privacy, what Saddam Hussein is to baby milk factories.

  • by xmuskrat ( 613243 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:05PM (#5096358) Homepage
    Getting spam is almost as bad as... using RealPlayer. At least they are consistant.
  • Oh no! (Score:3, Funny)

    by robbyjo ( 315601 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:05PM (#5096365) Homepage

    If BillG read this, he'll likewise hide the EULA textbox or change the button to "I agree" and "I agree".

    • How would changing the buttons for an MS app be any different than they are now? Last time I checked, "OK" and "Cancel" aren't verbs and can't be used to answer every "What do you want to do?" type question. I mean, who wrote the error message that says, "Application XYZ has encountered an error and will terminate. Click OK to close and Cancel to debug the application?"
  • And? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by invenustus ( 56481 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:05PM (#5096367)
    I've noticed this for years. It seems like every time you redownload RealPlayer, it gets a little shadier. First it's harder and harder to find the free player on their site. Then they think of newer and better ways to trick you into accepting spam.

    It never bothered me, though. You don't have to give them a real email address ( [mailto] is a good one to use), and I mostly find the whole cat-and-mouse game amusing. I never considered it worth submitting to Slashdot....
    • Re:And? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bafu ( 580052 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:15PM (#5096479)

      I scroll down to all the hidden items in the install and uncheck everything, etc., etc., but yeah, they don't get a real email address from me, either. Other than dusting off and nuking them from orbit, it's the only way to be sure.

      What's more annoying to me is the way that RealOne on my Windows box kept clamoring for attention after awhile (telling me I have "a message", etc.). I turned off everything I could find to turn off and it kept it up. Finally I turned off RealOne and went back to rp8. If that option ever becomes unusable, I'll just do without entirely. I don't know what their business model is, but the more it involves annoying me, the less I am inclined to keep it around...
      • Yea, if you try to remove the value from the registry RUN key, it will be added back when you run the player.

        I just eventually renamed the realsched.exe so that it never gets executed.

        My 2 cents...
    • Re:And? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The acceptance-by-omission deception goes further than that. Hotmail and yahoo both have neat tidy pages that allow you to opt-out of receiving mailings from them, however once that big feel good is over and dealth with, they will reveal to advertisers any email address you email to without mentioning that they do. Why? because you didn't tell them not to - it's not a current Real Big Concern so it's not in your mind when you accept their conditions.

      Years back there were no options to 'opt out' of spam, simply because it wasn't a current concern - you signed up for an email address, you expected to get nothing but an email address and the thought wasn't on your mind that the company would do more deception.

      Outlining a few things they won't do only leads these big uglies to continue inventing things they WILL do to make money from you.
      • Re:And? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by AntiNorm ( 155641 )
        they will reveal to advertisers any email address you email to without mentioning that they do.

        Much as I hate to defend Hotmail (I have recently switched email providers after 5-6 years of putting up with Hotmail's ever-increasing level of BS), my tests have shown that this is a myth. When I was getting ready to switch off of Hotmail back in October or so, I set up a dummy email account elsewhere for the sole purpose of testing whether they do this or not. I fired off several emails from my Hotmail account to this email this date, the dummy email account has yet to receive ONE message.
    • I've noticed this for years. It seems like every time you redownload RealPlayer, it gets a little shadier.

      And that seems to be the only improvements they make in RealPlayer. The video quality and frame rates still suck. The installation is fragile. And in my installations, I have a success rate of about one in four systems. If you exclude Windows boxes with a direct internet connection (i.e., no firewalls, proxies, or AOL in the path) then that rate drops to about one in 10.

      I'm astounded that they've survived this long, and that anyone still carries content in their format, when MPEG and Quicktime are so much easier. I guess they owe their survival to these shenanigans and not on merit.

      Gee... that reminds me of another company [].

  • I notice many the forms on websites have a large number of fields and that somewhere buried in the middle is the check box for whether you want to receive "additional information or offers". If you are not paying careful attention, it is easy to miss. It also seems that these boxes are checked by default.
  • by Bonker ( 243350 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:07PM (#5096382)
    Let's face it. There's stuff out there that you want to see that comes in real format. If it's not downloadable, then I skip it. But if it is downloadable and not restricted to stream-only playback, then I don't hesitate to fire up Real Player, secure in the knowledge that it will never be able to communicate my personal details.

    Learn to use software firewalls if you can. Hardware firewalls are great for keeping people from attacking you, but software firewalls are great for managing misbehaving software installations like Realplayer. I've never had a better security tool.
    • by Target Drone ( 546651 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:22PM (#5096557)
      Software firewalls are great for managing misbehaving software installations like Realplayer.

      It does seem rather ironic that nowadays my firewall blocks more traffic coming from my own machine then from hackers on the net.

      • by PhxBlue ( 562201 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @04:00PM (#5096882) Homepage Journal

        Not only funny, but true! Most applications make it very easy to block their dishonest ways, though: ICQ, MSN, AIM, and YIM all use port 80 to download banner ads and upload. . . whatever it is they upload; while the actual message traffic is handled along other ports. Denying port 80 traffic to any application but the web browser is a reasonably good means of making sure you only send/receive the content you want to send/receive.

    • Software firewalls are great for managing misbehaving software installations like Realplayer. I've never had a better security tool.

      There's a rapid-response high-security button on most computers with a little symbol that looks like a capital Q rotated 135 degrees counter-clockwise. You'd be surpised how much more effective it is for managing your misbehaving software installations. Sometimes the mangufacturer is even nice enough to label it "power", as in, it gives you the power of the computer.

      Unfortunately, the evil empire figured that button had too much power over their misbehaving software a few years ago, so a standard called "ATX" was introduced that gave their misbehaving software some control over it. They haven't beaten us yet though. It's still possible to make a hardware mod with just a little soldering that restores the power to you, the user.
    • by pmz ( 462998 )
      Learn to use software firewalls if you can.

      You must be referring to firewalling on a per-application basis rather than on a per-IP-address or per-protocol basis. Are there good application-level firewall software for UNIX out there? How would a UNIX firewall genuinely be able to tell one application from another? Creating a new socket doesn't exactly require registering the application name (or does it at some level?).
  • While I don't know the laws on minimum text size, I am sure that a company cannot make you sign something in .001pt Times New Roman. This is probably very illegal for them to do, and they will probably get away with it...

    • by (trb001) ( 224998 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:16PM (#5096488) Homepage
      No, no, doesn't. Because a EULA goes multiple pages does not that mean you are not obligated to obey it because you couldn't read the whole thing. You are responsible, as an end user, for reading all the documentation that is provided. If there are documents referred to by links, it's your responsibility to read those as well.

      These are similar to the reasons why people hire don't want to get screwed by some hidden text somewhere that you were too lazy to read, so you have someone else read it for you. Taxes? Same thing, lots of small, hidden text. These are all *legal* documents, they're just obfuscated.

      I hate EULA's and the like as much as the next guy, but it's your responsibility as a user to read through stuff that the product provider wants you too. Otherwise, you are subject to their default intentions (which are probably ill, in this case).

      • These are similar to the reasons why people hire don't want to get screwed by some hidden text somewhere that you were too lazy to read, so you have someone else read it for you.

        Um....No. If you are hiring a lawyer to read a document for you because you are too lazy to read it, you are wasting a lot of money.

        The main reason to have a lawyer review contracts for you is to discover (in the lawyers opinion) how the contract will interact with local laws. An apparently innocuous clause in a contract can interact with laws to produce bad results. Just because a lawyer has reviewed a document doesn't me that you shouldn't also. You should question the lawyer in detail about anything in the contract that you don't fully understand. Don't sign anything that you don't understand.

  • If we have to risk making "choices" that we had no idea about to install priatary software, then why install it?
  • No kidding (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kableh ( 155146 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:08PM (#5096388) Homepage
    This has always bugged me about Real Player. Their newest player installs a lame little executable, that isn't easy to get rid of, that starts up their little message center in the system tray. It was bad enough with their old version which loaded RealPlayer every time you booted, but at least you could turn it off.

    These days, if it is encoded in Real it isn't worth my time to watch. I make sure everyone I know is aware of this too.
  • Real writes the pushiest software there is and they have a history of public lying on these matters, such as Glaser's testimony before a Senate committee.
  • by Flounder ( 42112 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:08PM (#5096391)
    then you deserve to get spam. That's what Hotmail is for. Gives you a free address that you don't care about, and soaks up bandwidth that Microsoft has to pay for. It's a win-win.
  • Default options (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Junior J. Junior III ( 192702 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:08PM (#5096396) Homepage
    Maybe software should come completely unconfigured, with all options set to some kind of null value. It'd be a lot less user-friendly that way, but in another respect it'd at least be user-respectful.

    I can't stand Real media, and haven't had their player installed on my systems for a few years now. Unfortunately, it means I have to pass on a lot of content that is only available in that format -- including NPR archive broadcasts, of all things. It's particularly galling that *public* funded radio archives are made available to the public in a format that is not Free.

    Why can't websites publish streaming video in some kind of open format that doesn't suck? What's wrong with ogg or mpeg?
    • Why can't websites publish streaming video in some kind of open format that doesn't suck? What's wrong with ogg or mpeg?

      Because neither supports lower bitrates. In particular, Ogg Vorbis is poorly suited for voice compression (i.e. newscasts, which is about the only thing I use Real for). There may be other open source options for this kind of thing, but I'm not familiar with any of them. Even with a good connection, low bit-rate streams are nice to have.

  • Is this any different than many software companies practice of saying "By opening the plastic wrapper, you agree to our EULA".
  • Already knew that. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by da3dAlus ( 20553 ) <> on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:10PM (#5096414) Homepage Journal
    I noticed that quite a while back when I installed RealPlayer. I say it's annoying just because I have to remember to disable those checkboxes. I also say it's gotta hurt them, because it makes me place my feelings about Real (the company) at a very low level. I don't think it's illegal, and I know they're out to make money like everyone else. However, I say don't screw over your customers, and they'll come back. Piss them off, and you will certainly regret it later. And yes, I know the RealPlayer I download is the free version, and I'm not technically a customer, but if they pull that stuff with me on the free products, I can only imaging the "features" they'll put in the big version I pay for. Again, my opinion of them is quite low because of their tactics.
  • by Dynedain ( 141758 ) <> on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:10PM (#5096418) Homepage
    Yep, know exactly what the article is referring to. There's a scrolling box for 'we can market these things to you:' and by default none of the visible checkboxes are marked. However, if you actually scroll the box there are 5 (i think) options at the bottom of the list that are checked.

    Tricky Tricky Tricky

    And this isn't just on installation, it happens if you fully open RealPlayer to change the stupid take-over-your-computer prefferences.

    This is one (of the many) reasons why I don't install RealPlayer on any of my machines, and encourage friends to remove it from theirs. If sites don't have their downloadable content in an alternative format (QT, WM, MP3, Ogg, i don't care which) I just won't watch/listen to it.

    I'm doing my part to force 'em out of business. Sure, they are providing competition for MS/Apple, but I find their business practices despicable.
    • by octalgirl ( 580949 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @05:36PM (#5097674) Journal
      Around 2 years ago I purchased the real RealPlayer, because I was going to do some video development with it. I bought it online, and the purchase process was horrendous. After I clicked buy it, I was taken to a screen with a ton of things checked off for me, including signing up for their monthly subscription for realplayer maintenance - the gold package I think it was. I unchecked everything, but when I clicked next, there was another screen with different things and the gold player was checked on again. I unchecked everything again. Third screen, same thing.

      Since I'm in tech, I would like to think I have some idea what's going on and not get tripped up by this stuff. But I can't imagine how the average user gets through this. Anyway, on the next months credit card bill, there it was, 11 and change charge for RealPlayer maintenence. I swear I unchecked everything. I wish I had taken screen shots to prove it. So I go on their web site to try and cancel. To get to my user account was very difficult (of course I wasn't aware I really had one so I had to figure it out) Under subscription maintenence, I finally found the option to cancel. I click cancel. Up pops a phone number to call to actually get it canceled. I was very busy, lots to do, and I think they counted on that. I had planned to cancel when I got home, but of course I forgot. I kept thinking about it at work, but when I got home I would forget again. Three more months went by, before I finally remembered on the weekend to sit down and take care of it. I had to go through the online process again to get the number, which I finally called and got it cancelled, which of course the guy tried to sell me real player again! Never, never, never again!!!
  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:10PM (#5096419) Homepage
    But that has not stopped people before. P.S. the End User Agreement itself has NEVER been found to be legal. If they do not get a real honest to god SIGNATURE, than it does not stand up in court.
  • How about using a fake or secondary address for Real et al? It's a good idea to have separate (e.g. webmail) address for things that require it (for instance to send you your password) but look like spambaits otherwise.
  • I can use 'em. Can you?
  • illegal in france (Score:4, Informative)

    by Spaham ( 634471 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:10PM (#5096425)
    In France, if I'm not mistaken, they risk either or both 300k euros (same in $), and/or 5 years in prison. But since their scam is also practiced on french users, I guess someone could sue them for that. check out for more info
  • While it may (or may not be) legal, (I have no idea and wont even posit a guess) it is annoying, but even more importantly, it is
    unethical and that probably worries me more than the other two.

    there is nothing to stop people from being both illegal and annoying.. they do it all the time.. in fact I suspect a number of companies engage in practices knowing full well they will be declared illegal in the future, but for now they get away with it. However, I would hope they realize unethical would mean loss of business from people who have ethics.

    Caveat being, this is slashdot, and while we hold a definite majority here, in the "real world" we are but a drop in the bucket of the rabid consumer.

  • ...I always give them . So when I installed Real Player they got to send spam to .

    Why do I do this? First, because it's ALWAYS a valid e-mail address. Second, it's to let the company know I don't approve of them selling my e-mail address. I am sure to uncheck all of the "send me special offers" type boxes and everything else, but if they are going to sell my e-mail address without my knowledge I feel they deserve it.
  • I suppose not... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:14PM (#5096460) Journal
    Is this illegal, or just annoying?

    IANAL. Of course, if you wanted a real legal opinion, you'd ask a real lawyer. So here's my best guess:

    There is no legal issue at stake here. Real doesn't need to ask your permission to send you spam any more than Laurent Kabila's widow and toner salesmen do. If a law were passed banning opt-out spam, then there would be an issue as to whether this constitutes opt-in.

    The linked site, which does seem to be by an actual lawyer raises the question of legality, but in a hypothetical question about whether a similar technique could be used in an EULA. There seems to be precedent that it would be invalid.

  • Real Player (Score:2, Insightful)

    by koan ( 80826 )
    I refuse to use real any longer and the truth of the matter is they are hurting them selves with these types of cheap tricks.
    I only wish I could convince people putting up media on the web to not encode using real.
  • "To my mind, this is irregular. It is un-English; it is un-American; it is French."*

    Not sure if it is illegal, probably not, but it sure as hell is annoying!

    *From Mark Twain's Essay "Concerning the Jews" []
    caution, many popups and unders at that stupid link
  • If click-through EULAs that you aren't even presented with until after you've bought the software are legal, this must legal too. It's basically the same principle.

    Of course, both are dishonest and wrong, but alas, that's not the same as illegal.

  • They are using the point you agreed to accept this stuff. I think this would be a contract of sorts.

    If someone makes a deceptive contract to fool you into accepting it, it may not be valid.

    This was a large issue with informed consent, and I think this issue was brought when people were electing to risky medical procedures because they didn't fully understand the risks.
  • MPlayer (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This is why things like are so darned good. It can play the RealPlayer format with having to use the evil, user-unfreindly RealPlayer.

    And MPlayer is open source so they can't hide this kind of crap on you

    Sorry Windows people...this is a Linux thing (and yes, you can stream .rm with it)
  • by coyote-san ( 38515 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:17PM (#5096512)
    IANAL, but this is something that anyone over the age of 12 should understand. Just because something is not "illegal" (or unlawful) doesn't mean that it's fully accepted. There is a gray area.

    If you force me to sign a contract, it may not be illegal. But it will be unenforceable - contracts must be entered into freely.

    If I sign a contract, then you change the pages in the middle, it may not be illegal. But it will definitely be unenforceable - you can't change contracts after the fact without the consent of all parties.

    And in this particular case, you can't hold somebody to a contract if parts of it are never disclosed. It's one thing for the EULA to explicitly give them the right to do something on a "take it or leave it" basis, it's a very different thing for them to have hidden (or unduely hard to find) checkboxes to "prove" you agreed to optional terms.

    This is the reason why every(?) court that has looked at EULAs has held them to be unenforceable - why the companies felt it necessary to force the issue via the UCITA.

    Well, my state hasn't passed UCITA and I consider EULAs basically null and void precisely because of their widespread abusive use.
  • If I read the article correctly, they're not really "hiding" the options. They're all displayed where the user can get to them, you just need to scroll a window in order to see them all. The article is complaining that a user could hit the "Next" button without scrolling the window. If someone accepts default options without scrolling down the window and reading them, they sort of deserve what they get.
  • by joshv ( 13017 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:18PM (#5096522)
    As I recall, I noted that it was a scroll box, scrolled down, and unchecked everything. - thought it was sleazy, but I caught it.

    I avoid using RealPlayer at all these days - I can rest assured that if I have not used it in two weeks , when I fire it up it will ask "There is a new version of Real One player available, would you like to update?".

    Anything that needs updating this frequently is a massive POS in my mind.

  • by Xerithane ( 13482 ) <> on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:19PM (#5096525) Homepage Journal
    Other people have posted similar examples from other applications. Is this illegal, or just annoying?

    If you don't read the fine print, and agree to something, and it burns you, and you complain, you are stupid.

    It's not illegal. I'm sure somewhere they fully detail out everything, so that the next person who thinks it's "illegal" and tries to launch a suit can be fed the EULA that they agreed to. It's like people bashing Gator for being shady spyware when they fully disclose on their website what they do in big bold letters.

  • The thing I hate the most about Realplayer is the message service that it installs by default, without the user's knowledge. A few days after installation a little text box appears over the taskbar telling you that you have a message. In W2K the only way short of uninstalling that I could find to remove the message service is to edit the registry keys for startup programs.

    Older versions used to add the taskbar launcher app. and change file associations without giving an obvious choice which was also annoying. Real has always been my least favorite media application for these reasons. I'm glad other people find their software annoying also.
  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) <> on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:21PM (#5096549) Homepage Journal
    "There should be a law!!!" I hear it every day. I figure I'm in some socialist Green country, but then I realize I'm not. People are just unbelievable.

    If someone gives you a contract in .001 font size, no it is not illegal. It is up to you to say "I won't sign this, and I won't use your product."

    If someone decides to "hide" some options down a scroll list, or maybe on a back page, it is still your responsibility to see if there is more, before signing it.

    If they ask you to "Accept" a 40 page long list of rules and rights you are relinquishing, it is not illegal -- its just lazy of you to scroll through it all haphazardly and click "Agree!" You don't need their product, so close the window and say screw it. Follow up with a letter to their management, and if enough people complain, maybe things will change.

    If you enter a fake e-mail address in, THAT might be illegal. Check the text to see. If anything, entering "OK" and moving on just gives the companies the knowledge that you agree (which you do by accepting their terms). Don't regulate these guys with LAWS, regulate these guys with MARKET tactics.

    There should never be "consumer rights." I hate that term. YOU are not a consumer, and THEY are not a producer. You are BOTH market exchangers. They are exchanging their product for either your money, your e-mail address, or your personal information. You feel that any of those items you are exchanging is worth less than their product. This is true of ANY market exchange. You produce your cash, or your address, or your information, they product an item or a service.

    There are no magic "economic" theories behind any of this. This is common Austrian School of Economics theory. It works. Go check out to learn more.

    Consumers don't exist. Producers don't exist. We're both just equal partners accepting one person's services or products for the bartered exchange for another.

    Keep the government out of it.

    • a Codified Society (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Madcapjack ( 635982 )
      >"There should be a law!!!" I hear it every day.

      Yeah we do it hear it everyday. And it is a terrible thing to hear. At one end, we feel that the government is ultimately the only institution that can protect us from greedy and unscrupulous corportations, and at the other end we get tired of the government interfering in everything.

      The law is becoming more and more important in our society. We are becoming an explicitly codified socieity. there are a lot of reasons this is the case. one of them, though, is that politicians need to get re-elected, and if they aren't passing new laws all the time, they are seen as not doing anything. for my part, i think that education, for example, has been reformed enough for a while. any statistician knows that you can't evaluate the results of some reform without ample time to evaluate it.

      >Consumers don't exist. Producers don't exist. >We're both just equal partners accepting one >person's services or products for the bartered >exchange for another. agreed! except for one thing. we aren't equal in the larger scheme of things. your statement sounds more like a justification of the inequalities of the capitalist system than anything (actually, it sounds like you are saying they don't exist). But I won't say anything more, because I'm not familiar with the Austrian school of Econ. i will certainly go and learn more about it. ( :

      as for Real Player? its not illegal, just shady, annoying, and we should write them and tell them that. and boycott. if they hid it in a way that you would have to hack into the program or install it first to see, then that would be illegal (hopefully)


    • by MeanMF ( 631837 )
      If someone gives you a contract in .001 font size, no it is not illegal. It is up to you to say "I won't sign this, and I won't use your product."

      I used to work in the automotive finance industry, and in many states you have to print contracts in a legible font and size. Anything that is smaller than a certain point size will render the contract invalid in court. California is even more strict - they require lenders to put all sorts of disclosures on contracts. They also specify font sizes, etc. The company that I worked for was not in the business of trying to deceive customers, so this really wasn't an issue for us, but I imagine it could create some real problems for some of the shadier lenders out there.
    • by regen ( 124808 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @05:51PM (#5097829) Homepage Journal
      If someone gives you a contract in .001 font size, no it is not illegal. It is up to you to say "I won't sign this, and I won't use your product."

      Let's take this arguement to the extreme. What if you and another party are entering into a contract, and you review the contract and everything seems reasonable so you sign this contract.

      The other party then asks you to give them all of your money, as that was part of the contract. You dispute this, claiming that the contract says no such thing. They then pull out a microscope and show you that one of the periods in the contract contained a clause that required you to give all your money to the other party.

      Is this contract valid?

      No, because the other party was not negotiating in good faith. They were clearly being deceptive and this contract would be invalidated in any court in the land.

      I contend that if Real is intentionally trying to hide the information from the end user, then they are not negotiating in good faith. The are intending to decive the end user, and the contract could be voided.

  • Horrible (Score:3, Insightful)

    by (trb001) ( 224998 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:22PM (#5096551) Homepage
    Is this illegal, or just annoying?

    How can you even suggest this is illegal? These are default options. I guarantee you would be pissed as a first time user if Apache didn't come with default options. Whether or not this is in the best interest for the consumer is debatable, but easily justifiable by Real. A simple argument would be that the checked boxes provide helpful information to a new user (funny, i know, but bear with me).

    This isn't a product where you must provide a legitimate email address to register. You're getting something for nothing, literally, and it was your choice to download. Skeazy, perhaps, but most certainly legal, and not a terribly large pain in the ass. Compare it to other applications out there (Gator comes to mind, that vile, repulsive worm of a legal piece of spyware) and I think you'll find this process is quite pleasant in comparison.

  • by morganjharvey ( 638479 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:22PM (#5096553)
    This is just another reason why I don't use RealPlayer -- I decode my streams by hand. I have the help of fourteen trained cats, and as the stream is "played' accross a readerboard in front of us we all translate it into .au format.
    A central server compares all the files in realtime and averages them to compensate for any typing errors/drunkennes.
    It's a surprisingly efficient system. Right now I'm listening to the White House's response to the leopard inspectors in Iraq who just found a forbidden stash of Gucci pants in an Iraqi bunker.
    I'm eager to upgrade to a 28-cat system, thus effectively doubling my sample rate and allowing me to listen to stereo feeds and possibly even allow video by... er.... damn, I gotta get a life...
  • RealPlayer accepts a fake address, and you're not missing anything by diverting those helpful marketing messages.

    A lot of people will put in. Don't do that. The mail admin will hate you. Use something instead. is never going to be a live domain.
  • I just to update my user preferences to fix my email format and there were two boxes that weren't there before, both checked as if I had checked them. One of them said I wanted junk snail mail from ebay and the other said I wanted junk telemarketing phone calls. I unchecked both but haven't flamed ebay yet. I should add though, I don't think I've actually gotten any junk phone calls from ebay.
  • by tcc ( 140386 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:23PM (#5096569) Homepage Journal
    Every new REALplayer release always brings up a privacy/spam/security issue on slashdot.

    There was a time when Real was one of de facto thing for efficient streaming or simple encoding. Today it's not true. The player is bloated, the codec's CPU/quality factor isn't anything close spectacular (nor good I'd say), everything feels like molasse with their stuff, and on top of that, they are still pulling their dirty tricks. Why do people bother downloading it when there are TONS of alternatives?

    Webmaster? heck you can encode DIVX, Quicktime, even Mpeg-1 codecs got good enough to make low bandwidth application (ok not at the same quality, but if you UNDERSTAND the basics of Mpeg you can manage to make a video that is efficient and still retains decent quality, and mpeg is cross-platform with no issues, I still use it, I do proper optimization with the vector settings vs skipping frames and chose the right encoder for the right application, each has it's strong and weak points), You can tweak the right encoding setting for the target bandwidth and voila, you're set. My last contract required me to encore a 4 minute clip, and I manage to make it small enough so dialup users could download it, it wasn't 320x240@30fps, then again same would apply with REAL, unless you like blurry/blocky transition and loads of frame skipping. That's another thing with most low bandwidth REAL content, clueless encoder put "maximum quality/crisp" with low bandwidth, that gives you 1fps or 2 but not on a second calculation but on let's say 10 seconds, you see 1 second with 2-3 frames, wait 2-3 seconds, then se another 2-3 frames, ARGH! it's totally annoying.

    I'd rather have lower resolution and see something smooth than seeing skipping or blurryness. With mpeg I was doing 6-10FPS at the same low resolution, it was doing a very good job, wasn't annoying, and the video was actually useful where as the guy who made the "REAL" thing simply should have encoded audio without video for the viewer's sake. Anyways, I've managed to make good stuff with Realvideo but I stopped being impressed after their G2 system, they just bloated the damn thing where some others managed to make better codec, players, and so on.

    Anyways, I've fixed the "REAL" problem here at work, all of the REAL networks ip addresses are banned, this takes care of all of the problems at the same time. If someone on a laptop goes download it at home, you can configure your firewall to send you an alert once it tries to do it's thing and go remove it from the offending laptop. This is how you deal with spyware/lameware/FS-EULAware. If everybody would do this, the net would be just a tad more enjoyable, too bad people don't care about this.

  • I noticed no such thing when installing RP8 for linux. I may have missed it. But is this a windows only thing? Perhaps because windows users will put up with anything?

    Best wishes,

  • EULA Rating Service (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SlipJig ( 184130 )
    I think the problems here are that:

    1) It's a PITA to read through all the legalese in a typical EULA, and this discourages people from doing so;

    2) Most users aren't lawyers, and many probably don't trust their own judgment when it comes to evaluating what the real-world effects of an EULA are.

    There seems to be an opportunity here. I'd like to see an organization that reviews the EULA's for widespread software titles, and gives them a simple rating according to useful criteria. The rating process could be done by a panel of lawyers or other informed independent individuals. I might even subscribe to such a service, if it were painless to quickly check the rating and block the installation of poorly-rated software.

  • by SlashChick ( 544252 ) <erica AT erica DOT biz> on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:29PM (#5096629) Homepage Journal
    I installed RealOne recently, and much to my dismay, they have removed the preference setting to kill "StartCenter". StartCenter is the annoying thing that sits in your system tray and starts up with your computer. In RealOne Player, not only does it have a systray icon, but it also places little pop-up "message" windows on your computer! It's completely disgusting.

    There are no preference settings in RealOne Player to disable this, so I thought I'd post this here, since I'm sure this thread will be filled with people who hate RealOne as much as I do.

    The startup code for the popup window is hidden in your registry. The easiest way to get rid of it is to use 'msconfig', which comes with every version of Windows except for 2000. (In a minute, I'll explain how to get rid of it on Windows 2000 as well.)

    To use msconfig, go to Start->Run and type in 'msconfig' (no quotes.) Go to the Startup tab. You should see an entry beginning with "real". Uncheck the box next to this entry so that it won't load on startup. In addition, look for an entry called "eventsvc" whose command is "c:\Program Files\Common Files\Real..." This is part of RealPlayer as well, and you can uncheck it safely. (While you're at it, this is the place you can disable those useless ATI control panels and other muckety-muck that likes to sit down in the system tray. Don't worry; you can always go back and re-enable the services later if you disable something you need.)

    Once you've unchecked whatever you don't want to load, hit "OK". You will be prompted to restart your computer to make the changes take effect. Go ahead and restart. When you log in next time, you'll see a box explaining that your system is now in "diagnostic" mode. Check the box that says "Don't show me this again" and click OK to be on your merry way (hopefully with a faster bootup time.)

    In Windows 2000, you can manually edit the Registry to get rid of these keys. Unlike msconfig, there is no going back, so make sure you know what you're doing! Look in HKLM or HKCU under Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run. You should find the little bugger there. Delete it.

    (Standard disclaimer: If you screw up your computer doing this, I am not responsible. If you don't know what a key is, it may be best to leave it alone. Doing a Google search may help you figure out what is necessary and what isn't. In general, leave anything that has to do with your hardware alone, especially modem software, as your modem may require it to work properly.)

    Also, when installing RealPlayer, always take the time to read the installer to know what it's doing! You can, and should, disable most of the crap it tries to do, such as opening MP3s and auto-updating your RealPlayer with the latest advertisements. Try "compact" mode as well--that should kill most of the remaining advertisements.

    I hope this helps those of you who are (unfortunately) faced with RealPlayer's wrath. The tips above can help to tame your system and make it a bit nicer to use your computer.

    As always, if you have relatives who use RealPlayer, or you maintain it in an office setting, it may be best to perform that procedure on every computer. There's really no need for workers to be distracted by RealPlayer advertising. If you're using msconfig, don't forget to restart the computer and disable that "diagnostic" mode box that pops up, as well, or your less technically-inclined relatives/co-workers may be calling you for help! ;)

    • StartupCPL [] by Mike Lin is a very nifty utility with a gui to disable programs started by the registry. Its freeware. Also check out the software in his page which notifies you if any other application attempts to change the registry so that it gets automatically started up during booting.

  • by rdmiller3 ( 29465 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:32PM (#5096650) Journal
    They don't need your permission in a check-box if you're already giving them your e-mail address during the regsitration. They can just put a clause in the license agreement that says you agree to receive solicitations from them. You probably didn't bother to read it anyway.

    (My favorite part of most EULAs is how they say, "User agrees to abide by any future changes Company may make to this agreement." How legal can that be?!?)

    Technically, they're being "nice" by making it possible for you to un-check the box at all.

    It's easier just to give a fake address like other posters have suggested. We've been using that trick ever since Radio Shack started asking for your home phone number.


  • mplayer (Score:3, Informative)

    by ViXX0r ( 188100 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:33PM (#5096654) Homepage
    This may be OT for this discussion, and it may be completely anti-EULA altogether, but is anyone else here aware that mplayer [] has had Real support for some time now in the 0.90 series? It works pretty good for me and you can even use the included mencoder program to convert realvideo into any number of less annoying formats.
  • Enforceability (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chazmyrr ( 145612 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:38PM (#5096685)
    A key point on the issue of consent was raised in the comments to the original article. This or a similar case is probably why Dark Age of Camelot requires you to scroll through the EULA and rules of conduct before the Agree button can be clicked. I think this practice will become more widespread in the future.

    Re: Cheap Trick: RealPlayer Windows Installation (Score: 1)

    by Barry on Thursday, January 16 @ 11:43:36 EST
    (User Info | Send a Message)
    The practive may or may not be "unconscionable," but it does likely fail to create an enforceable contract, at least in the 2nd Circuit. See below.

    In Specht v. Netscape Communications Corp.,[*] the court stated that, to be enforceable, click-wrap and shrink-wrap agreements require users to perform an affirmative action unambiguously expressing assent. In this case, there was one small box of text referring to the license language, which was "couched in the mild request 'Please review and agree . . .'" The court found that this was a "mere invitation" and not a condition. Failure to require users to indicate assent was "fatal" to Netscape's argument that a contract had been formed. To be enforceable, language must indicate that a user "must" agree to the license terms. Importantly, for purposes of this post, on appeal, the @nd Circuit found it important that the notice of the existence of the contract was not visible until a user scrolled to the next screen and not visible when the user made the decision to "accept." The Second Circuit said that a reasonably prudent person would not have known or learned of the license terms prior to using the software and could not be held to have had "constructive notice" of the terms. The Second Circuit held that "in circumstances such as these, where consumers are urged to download free software at the immediate click of a button, a reference to the existence of license terms on a submerged screen is not sufficient to place consumers on inquiry or constructive notice of those terms." If the hidden terms at issue here ("consenting" to unwanted spam) would be material to the user's decision to click/accept, Specht may be instructive.

    [*] Specht, 150 F.Supp.2d 585 (S.D. NY 2001), aff'd Specht, et al. v. Netscape Communications Corp., et al., Nos. 01-7860(L), 01-7870 (CON), 01-7872(CON) (2nd Cir. October 1, 2002).

  • Not a problem (Score:5, Informative)

    by Trogre ( 513942 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:39PM (#5096693) Homepage
    Just as well we don't need to use realplayer [] any more for "realmedia" content.

  • by robyn217 ( 575679 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:40PM (#5096698) Homepage
    Opt-out marketing is about as annoying of a tactic as a company can employ. They may get the extra eyeballs, or clickthroughs, for some period of time--but they're creating ill-will and hostility toward the brand.

    Damaging the brand may not be worth the short-term payoff, and may have devasting long-term effects. Doesn't seem worth it to me... especially not for a company like Real.

  • stupid (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pummer ( 637413 )
    first of all, if you don't scroll through all the choices, that's your fault, and if you don't use a fake email, that too is your fault. Granted, RealPlayer's policy is immoral, but what else can you expect from companies nowadays?
  • by zaren ( 204877 ) <> on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:45PM (#5096752) Homepage Journal
    don't install the fscking software!

    After reading about the license agreement in the last batch of betas, I vowed that there will NEVER EVER AGAIN be a new(!) version of RealPlayer that I install by hand on ANY of my computers, or ANY computer that I have a hand in for installing software.

    The only content online that this really costs me is the NPR archives and the Dr. Who stuff at the BBC. Should I truly desire to view / hear this content, I fire up an old version of the player that I know doesn't give me hissy fits about spam, because I long ago registered it to an email account that no longer exists.
  • RealPlayer has a new version of its infamous product, which is called "RealOne []" Player. If you use one of the previous versions of their player, you get a pop-up that encourages you to switch to the new version. I thought I'd try the new player. So I went to the download page for RealOne.

    At the bottom of the page, in tiny print, are links for "Legal Notice/Terms of Use" and "Privacy Policy". So I clicked on each.

    Up came blank windows in my browser. So then I viewed the source for each of the two pages:

    Which explains why the windows were blank. What do you reckon the terms of use and privacy policy are really like?
  • by 21mhz ( 443080 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:46PM (#5096766) Journal
    Reading comments on the article, I noticed a related discussion on a sneaky install process that adds one of the AOL's domains to the Trusted Sites list in the IE settings, and reportedly modifies the Trusted zone settings as well, all without user consent. I discovered such modifications done on my system too, and I suspect it was either Netscape 6/7 or ICQ. Any evidence on the origin of that "AOL hole installer", to warn the world against?
  • by failedlogic ( 627314 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:52PM (#5096818)
    Don't agree w/ these practices but, I always use user@ as my e-mail address. Most programs or websites asking for such information almost always fail to recognize it as invalid. That'll teach em.
  • by KalvinB ( 205500 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @04:10PM (#5096953) Homepage
    You can download RealPlayer 8 at in the apps folder. It's the last version before they shit all over themselves.

    Also, thanks to the US government I tend to be Under 13 quite a bit. It's a lot easier than unclicking all those stupid boxes. I'd also like to thank Real for not verifying my e-mail address and that my name is not actually FUCK OFF.

    Seriously though, why are we complaining? You're not required to put valid information in those fields. Even if you feel moraly obligated not to lie, at least sign up for a junk Hotmail account to use when you fill out various forms.

    If some site/program actually has the balls to force valid information out of me I go somewhere else. Unless I'm paying you, fuck off .com. can have my real name and address when I pay for their software. Until then I'm under 13 and live in Uganda.

  • by stud9920 ( 236753 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @04:11PM (#5096958)
    give a fake adress that will bounce AND check the five upper boxes, to maximize the amount of spam that wil bounce to them.

    Alternatively, you can give as an address, so support becomes unmanageable.
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @04:46PM (#5097255) Homepage
    1. Try something completely illegal, like nospam@no.mail.

    2. Try something with a .com, like

    3. (or me1...me9). These adresses are actually valid, and made for this purpose.

    4. If you need to "answer" to the mail, create a one-time throwaway account. On page 100 of google noone will recognize it as a "free account" if they don't like hotmail etc. Reply, and ditch account.

    5. Don't ever give out your real email for any crap. Get a different one for all the newsletters/mailing lists etc. Give your real one only to real people(tm) on- and offline.

    6. Enjoy a very spamfree account. That's what I have anyway :)

  • by cardshark2001 ( 444650 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @08:08PM (#5098772)
    I don't use the real player anymore, period. I don't trust a program that tries to contact the internet without telling me what it's going to do. Furthermore, the last time I installed it (quite a while ago), it tried to change my www home page. This is one of my biggest pet peeves with software. Just because I dl your software, I want to change my home page to your crappy website? How does that follow?

    Same goes for ICQ.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982