July 2003 Archives

How not to pick a contractor

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Rhye and I were talking about the painting contractor tonight. Rhye told me that one of her sisters was the one who chose the contractor, and later it came out that the sister chose them because the owners are Korean. According to her sister, Koreans do a better job painting houses.

That was apparently the only criteria that went into selecting the painting contractor. Not the price, not their business reputation, nor any other objective criteria. Their contractor's license wasn't even checked to make sure it was in good standing. (It is, but we know that only because Rhye and I checked it long after they started working on the house.)

I've met the owners of the company - they are nice guys and they are doing a good job here. But here's the kicker: They don't do any of the painting work at all. They spend their day managing the company and their painting crews. The painting crew working on this house doesn't have a single Korean working on it - they are all Mexicans.

I don't know if her sister is just stupid, racist, or both. I told Rhye that if this is the way her sister picks contractors, she shouldn't be allowed to pick any more. When you're spending $18K+ to do a job, selecting a company based on the race of the owners just doesn't cut it.

Rhye read my last post this morning and confessed that she has been cheating the last couple of weeks. She's been stealing one or two cigarettes a day from her mother or me, when we weren't in our rooms or when we were sleeping.

I never noticed, but evidently Rhye's mother has caught her at least once. Last night, Rhye's mother stopped by our room and silently offered Rhye a cigarette. I saw the offer, thought it was odd but said nothing.

This morning, Rhye woke me up and said she needed to tell me something that was going to make me mad. I was wondering what could be so bad I needed to be woke up about it. My first thoughts were that it was about the car, or the painters, then I decided it was too early for any crisis to have happened to either of those yet. I closed my eyes for a few seconds to think, and I remembered Rhye's mother's offer a cigarette, plus my post about Rhye yesterday. I put two and two together and asked Rhye if she'd been smoking. She said yes, then told me the whole story.

Rhye said the stressful things I listed in my previous post were just to much to deal with and she just couldn't stay smoke-free. One thing I found a bit amusing: She said the cigarettes didn't taste the same - they tasted "nasty". Rhye's mother smokes generic cigarettes, which don't rank high on the taste scale (yard clippings taste better), but I got the impression that the "nasty" taste was due to more than just her mother's brand of cigarettes.

I wasn't mad, but I was a bit disappointed. I told Rhye that she was only cheating herself - she chose to quit smoking because it was something she wanted to do. She was doing it for herself and no one else.

Rhye told me that she's going to quit again today. I don't know if she'll be able to kick the habit this time or not. My advice to Rhye: If you want to quit, quit. If you don't, don't. But don't pretend to quit.

Rhye - Smoke-free for 23 days

Rhye has not smoked a cigarette in a little over 3 weeks. She hasn't really said too much about it in the last couple of weeks, but I wanted to give her credit for making it this long, especially given the stress she's been going through: the loss of her previous job, trying to find a new job, filing claims against her ex-employer for back wages, continuation of her medical insurance, plus all the hassles involved with contractors and repairs to the house - locating them, setting up appointments, getting estimates, checking their licenses, etc.

In retrospect, this may not have been the best time for Rhye to give up smoking, but she did it anyway. I'm proud of you, Rhye!!

Glenn Reynolds for President in 2008!!

I'm all for it and I'd vote for him. There's even a blogger cabinet being assembled over at Smallest Minority. Some of my favorite nominations:

VP: Rachel Lucas - With her guns, you can bet she won't be hiding out at some "undisclosed location".

Attorney General: Eugene Volokh - I can't quite put my finger on why, but he just seems like an excellent choice.

Sec. of Defense WAR!: Donald Sensing - Retired Army artillery officer and ordained minister. I agree that this combination is a plus.

Sec. of State: Steven Den Beste - This choice is borderline genius. Also nominated for Head of the CIA/NSA, he would serve well in either position.

Sec. of Treasury: Mindles H. Dreck - Not bad, but I wonder if Mindles wouldn't serve better as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

There's also a table listing the current nominations here. (Hat tip: One Hand Clapping)

In the course of running an errand yesterday, I took my first trip to the Haight/Ashbury district of San Francisco. (I ended up about one block from the intersection of Haight & Ashbury.) I hadn't been there before and didn't know what to expect. The store fronts and hippie style clothes were definitely unusual to see. I half-expected to see smoke shops in the area. One guy I did notice was this white guy I saw there who had dreadlocks in his hair. I don't suppose there's anything wrong with that, but it did look strange on him.

I was surprised at the number of people on the streets during the middle of the day. One day I'll have to go back there and just wander around on foot to see what all is there. It definitely looks like an interesting part of San Francisco.

Fun With Contractors

Blog posting has been light the last few days because we've been having to deal with various contractors who are either doing work on the house or who we're trying to get cost estimates from to do work on the house.

I initially started to write about all the headaches of dealing with various contractors (painters, plumbers, siding, window & glass) over the last few days but it sounded too much like whining. Before the current mess, there were the roofers and the guys who installed a support beam to reinforce the garage and support the rest of the house which sits on top of it. After this, there's talk of kitchen and bathroom remodeling.

One problem I've ranted about to Rhye for quite a while - there is no clear person in authority and responsibility. Someone in the family needs to assume the role of project manager. Rhye's mother can't do it - she's elderly and not up to dealing with all the contractors and all the stress. Rhye is not comfortable doing it. I can do it, but most of Rhye's sisters are opposed to me doing so. Rhye's sisters insist on having approval and veto authority, but they will not or cannot meet with the contractors during the day, nor can they supervise the contractors as the work is being done. What usually ends up happening is a lot of wasted time, wasted effort, and headaches, for both us and the contractors.

I sometimes jokingly tell Rhye that no good deed goes unpunished around here. That has certainly been true this past week - no joke intended.

Back on June 10, I criticized Jenesse Miller's letter to the editor that appeared in the SF Chronicle, in which she supported a $1.50 per pack increase in California's cigarette tax. Thanks to the wonder of Google, Ms. Miller found my post and decided to leave her comments. Her comments have been repeated below in italics, along with my response:

Since you asked, I think that if I was still a smoker and I knew that the tax would actually go to programs that help people quit (not to mention an analysis showed that the additional tax would cause over half a million smokers to quit), and help kids decide not to start smoking in the first place, I may not love it, but would at least consider that to be a fair proposal.

The question I asked was, "I don't really have $1,000 to spare. Do you?". How can a new tax be fair if it so high that it is unaffordable? If the tax is excessively high, what difference does it make where the money goes? Considering that only 20 cents of the $1.50 per pack tax would be earmarked for anti-smoking efforts, how is the other $1.30 of the tax fair to smokers? Since you are only pretending to know how a smoker would think or feel, it is easy to see how you can pretend this tax is fair.

I have a problem with the whole concept of forcing people to quit using a legal product by raising the price so high they can't afford it any more. I made my choice to be a smoker, and those who support high cigarette taxes are interfering with my right to choose.

As far as the kids who start smoking - where's the parents? If parents are unable or unwilling to keep cigarettes out of the hands of their minor children, why is that my problem? There are already laws on the books prohibiting the sale of cigarettes to minors. Enforce them.

The reality is that right now the tobacco tax is being redirected into other things and that's not fair to smokers -- if they're going to be taxed, part of that tax should go into quit programs that actually benefit them.

Part of the current state cigarette tax is already directed into programs that are supposed to benefit smokers. 25 cents of California's current 87 cent per pack cigarette tax is earmarked by Proposition 99 (November 1988) for:

  • Tobacco-related health education programs and disease research.

  • Medical and hospital care and treatment of patients who cannot afford those services, and for whom payment will not be made by any private coverage or federal program.

  • Programs for fire prevention; environmental conservation; protection, restoration, enhancement, and maintenance of fish, waterfowl, and wildlife habitat areas; and enhancement of state and local parks and recreation.

The other 62 cents of the cigarette tax is earmarked for the following:

  • 10 cents goes to state General Fund.

  • 2 cents goes into the Breast Cancer Fund.

  • 50 cents funds Proposition 10 (November 1998) ("California Children and Families First Trust Fund")

If the current cigarette tax is not fair to smokers, increasing it by 172% surely cannot be fair and is not an answer. To raise tax revenue for quit programs, I would seriously look at repealing Proposition 10 and direct those funds into Proposition 99 - effectively tripling the revenue available without costing smokers one cent more than they are paying now. Why do smokers alone have to bear the cost of a program to benefit children? (With California's current budget mess, that 50 cent tax would actually be more helpful if it were routed to the General Fund instead.)

And frankly, if you keep smoking, it is likely that my tax dollars (and the tax dollars of the 82% of Californians who don't smoke) will be the ones paying for your treatment for cancer or heart disease, hospitalization, and so on, as they are currently paying for people who are now dying from years of tobacco use.

So what? The costs of medical care for the minority who need it are spread across the majority through the tax dollars and insurance premiums paid by everyone. This is by design; this is how it is supposed to work. The 18% of Californians who do smoke actually pay higher taxes and insurance premiums than non-smokers do. Their tax dollars benefit non-smokers too - it is hardly unfair that medical care is provided to those who need it, smoker or not.

You can point at any disease or disorder - only a minority suffer from them at any given time, and the costs of their treatment is spread across everyone. Approximately 6% of the population suffers from diabetes. The cost of medical care for diabetics is spread across the 94% of the population that does not have diabetes. Should taxes be raised for diabetics so that the majority does not have to pay for that care?

Perhaps that will further your belief that I'm a loser... and I have lost; lost my grandfather at age 62 to cancer caused, in all likelihood, by smoking, not to mention my 21-year-old sister has been smoking since the Joe Camel marketing-to-little-kids days when she was 12 years old, and I know she might seriously consider quitting smoking now if it became too expensive to continue.

You seem to miss an important point here. Your sister is an adult now - she has the right to make her own choices. You may want her to quit, and it may even be better for her if she does, but that is her choice to make, not yours. She has apparently made her choice, and you don't like it. Get over it. If the only way she can be convinced to quit is to make cigarettes prohibitively expensive, your arguments must not be that persuasive. (I certainly don't find them to be so.)

I stand by my position on the proposed tobacco tax.

It looks to me like you're standing on pretty weak ground.

Good luck in your own quit attempts. It can be done.

If you would read my prior posts a little closer, you would see that it is my girlfriend Rhye who is attempting to quit smoking, not me. She has been smoke-free now for 2 weeks. I am well aware that it can be done but I have no intention of quitting at this time.

Thanks for your comments, but I am not any more in support of this tax than I was last month. Despite whatever lofty goals you think may be achieved, a tax that is a bad idea and bad policy is not the proper way to accomplish them.

You would think that blog software could handle linking to your own posts using relative links. Radio Userland can not (as far as I can tell). In my posts over the last few months, I have maybe a half dozen links to previous posts. I tried to use relative links so that if I ever moved the blog, the links would not be broken. No matter what I tried, Radio Userland screwed them up when I published my blog.

When a new post is made, the post ends up in 3 files on my blog: the main blog page, the daily archive page, and the monthly archive page. The link on at least one of those pages invariably would not be rendered correctly. The only solution I found that worked was to use full URLs to link to my prior posts. Very aggravating.

New About Page

Not having an "About" page has been bugging me for about a week now, so I finally put one together. You can access it from the list of links on the left, right under "Home" (or click here if you don't want to look for it).

Stupid security procedures

Bruce Schneier, in his monthly Crypto-Gram newsletter, comments on stupid and intrusive "security" procedures that people must endure:

Sadly, I believe things will get much worse before they get better. Many people seem not to be bothered by stupid security; it even makes some feel safer. In the U.S., people are now used to showing their ID everywhere; it's the new security reality post-9/11. They're used to intrusive security, and they believe those who say that it's necessary.

I'll admit that I believe them when they say that some stupid or intrusive security procedure is necessary - necessary for them. Whether it is for the appearance of security, marketing data, avoidance of liability, protection from fraud - these are interests that do not make me one bit more secure. A company or agency that does these things is inappropriately shifting the burden and cost of protecting those interests onto the individual, in the name of security.

Bruce writes an excellent monthly newsletter providing summaries, analyses, insights, and commentaries on computer security and cryptography - I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the subject. His archive of past newsletters can be found here.

Pizza delivery follies

A couple of days ago, Rhye ordered a pizza over the phone for delivery. The pizza place either made the wrong one or delivered the wrong one, so we called the pizza place and requested a replacement. It was clear that they did not want to make or deliver another pizza, as they tried pretty hard to get Rhye to accept a discount on her next pizza order instead.

Two hours later, the pizza hadn't showed up yet, so Rhye called the pizza place and asked them what the situation was on our replacement pizza. I worked for a pizza place back in my college days - it was unheard of that a pizza would take two hours to get delivered. I was betting that the pizza place never made a replacement pizza and was hoping that we would go away.

Rhye talked to both the order taker and the manager on duty; she was told the following excuses as to why our pizza had not been delivered (all in the same phone call):

  • The pizza place was very busy.
  • There was only one delivery driver.
  • There were only three delivery drivers.
  • The delivery driver had been involved in an accident.
  • There was too much traffic coming into our area.
  • The delivery driver had received a traffic ticket.

The pizza place then offered to make another fresh pizza if we would come down to the restaurant to pick it up. Rhye said she was not willing to do that as she had already paid for delivery, there's no parking at the restaurant, and if she wanted to drive down there to pick up a pizza, she would have ordered it that way the first time.

Rhye again asked how long it would be. The pizza place said they would have to call the driver and get back to her. Five minutes later, they call back. The delivery driver had miraculously come back; they would make another pizza and offered Rhye practically anything she wanted for free off the menu: buffalo wings, soda, etc. Rhye took them up on a free six-pack of soda. 20 minutes later, we had a hot pizza plus the soda.

Until that last phone call, I felt like we were getting terrible customer service. I had a complaint written up and ready to send to their corporate office, pending how everything turned out. Since they did make it right in the end, I decided not to send the e-mail. But I wonder what really happened that changed their attitude. The ex-pizza delivery guy inside of me thinks the store manager checked in, and upon hearing about our order, ordered the crew to make it right immediately.

We'll probably order from them again, but they have one strike against them now. If something like this happens again, we plan on sending a complaint to the corporate offices, regardless if the situation is eventually resolved properly or not.

Steven Den Beste has an excellent post about blogging software, and in that post he talks quite a bit about CityDesk. He speaks very highly of it, he uses for his web site, and I was willing to give it a try based just on that. I downloaded the free Starter Edition, which is limited to 50 files. There is also a Home Edition for $79 (limited to 500 files) and a Professional Edition for $349 (unlimited number of files).

CityDesk appears to be everything Steven says it is. It is quality software that will allow a user to create and manage a blog, a web site, or both. I would have liked to use CityDesk, but two issues killed it for me: 1) the price of the Professional Edition, and 2) the limitations of the Starter and Home Editions.

In CityDesk, every blog post counts as a file. The free Starter Edition is therefore limited to 50 posts max, and the $79 Home Edition is limited to 500 posts max. (The actual maximum number of posts will be less, because each web page template also counts as a file and any graphic files included in a user's web pages also counts towards the file limit.) Once those limits are reached, CityDesk will no longer publish to a web site until the number of files (posts) is reduced below the file limit.

The file limits seemed to me like they would be a real problem, so I tested them to see what options I would have once they were reached. I created a database with 55 files in the Starter Edition, so that CityDesk would not publish. I then set 10 posts to not publish (I enabled the "Do not publish after this date" option and set that date to a month earlier.) CityDesk would still not publish even though only 45 files would be published. I then started a second copy of City Desk with a blank database, and tried to drag-and-drop 10 posts from the full database to the empty one. CityDesk would not allow me to drag-and-drop posts at all. The only real solution I saw, once the file limit has been reached, is to delete posts until the total number of files is below the limit. And when you delete a post from a CityDesk database, CityDesk deletes the post from the blog server as well, so those posts are gone forever.

As nice as CityDesk is, the Starter and Home Editions of CityDesk are useless for blogs. Once the file limit has been reached, a user has two choices: 1) pay for an edition that has a higher file limit, or 2) delete (old) posts from the database. The only permanent solution to this problem is to purchase the Professional Edition (no file limit).

I do not want to pay $349 for blog software. I do not want to have to delete posts from my archives from time to time (this kind of defeats the whole purpose of having archives). I don't want to pay $79 for the Home Edition, knowing that it's going to eventually lock up on me unless I delete data I want to keep or pay for the Professional Edition.

If the Home Edition had no file limit, I would have bought it and would be using it now. I'm glad Steven is happy with CityDesk, but with the limits and prices on the different versions as they are, CityDesk is just not a viable option for me.

Way to go, Rhye!! Yesterday marked one week for my girlfriend Rhye being smoke free. Every now and then, Rhye tells me that she gets an urge to have a cigarette, but I don't think they have been real bad as she hasn't gone crazy for a cigarette nor has she cheated / relapsed.

I talked around a legal topic in a previous post ("What is a software license supposed to protect?") but was not aware it existed at the time. In that post, I said "Whether it is legal, legitimate, or "right" for a copyright owner to include license terms that go beyond the rights contained in federal copyright law is somewhat of an open question."

That issue is not as open a question as I had previously thought due to a relatively recent legal doctrine known as "copyright misuse".

The copyright misuse doctrine prohibits the owner of a copyright from enforcing it against an infringer if the owner has exploited the copyright in order to secure an exclusive right or a limited monopoly that is not granted by the copyright laws. (For a list of what rights are granted by the copyright laws, see my earlier post.)

This defense generally extends to copyrights covered by license agreements that include an attempt to leverage a copyright monopoly into a larger monopoly or exclusive right.

Typical situations where misuse can arise include:

  • Licenses that prohibit a licensee from using a competing product or service.

  • Licenses that require a licensee to license or purchase other property of the licensor.

  • Licenses that prohibit a licensee from independently developing products or works that compete with products or works of the licensor.

  • Licenses that seek to extend the temporal or territorial scope of copyright protection.

Courts that follow this doctrine will withhold remedies for infringement of the copyright (i.e. not enforce the copyright at all) until the anti-competitive effects of the misuse have completely dissipated.

U.S. Circuit Court Case precedents on copyright misuse:

On a related note, I did a little reading of the copyright law - specifically, what is *not* covered by a copyright. From 17 USC 102 (federal copyright law):

(b) In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.

The way I read section 102(b), various software services such as installation, support, design, etc. would likely be categorized as "procedures", "processes", or "methods of operation" and thus not protected by copyright. If such services are not protected by copyright, then a copyright owner has no basis (legal authority) to grant rights to or restrict rights from a licensee regarding performance of those services, as those rights already fully belong to the licensee.

The usual disclaimers apply here: I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. If you have legal difficulties in this area, seek out and consult with a competent attorney.

Tech Support Follies

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I e-mailed two questions to Earthlink's tech support in the last couple of weeks. The way they selectively answered my questions really irritated me.

1. This blog is hosted on my free "Personal Web Space" that comes with each Earthlink DSL account. I have been wondering for a while if I could run Movable Type in that web space. Movable Type conveniently provides a sample letter, so I sent the following:

I am interested in running a weblogging content management system called Movable Type (http://www.movabletype.org/) on my account. This system has the following requirements:

* The ability to run custom CGI scripts
* Perl, version 5.004_04 or greater

And, either:

Support for the DB_File Perl module *OR* MySQL & the DBD::mysql module

Does my account on your service meet these three requirements?

This is the response that I received:

We understand that you want to know if your account meet the requirements that you have provided. We are sorry to hear your situation.

Regarding your issue, we are sorry to inform you that you will not be able to run CGI scripts on your free webspace. We apologize for the inconvenience caused to you.

Notice that I asked 3 questions and Earthlink only answered one. I still have no idea whether my Personal Web Space can support applications that require Perl and/or MySQL.

2. In the course of migrating this blog from Blogger to Radio UserLand, I tried to set up .htaccess files on the web server to redirect traffic. No file I set up appeared to function at all (no matter where I placed it), so I sent the following to Earthlink's technical support:

I would like to know if I can use a .htaccess file to redirect file requests from one URL to another.

As an example, I would like to redirect http://tweezerman.home.mindspring.com/blog/index.html to http://tweezerman.home.mindspring.com/blog2/index.html.

1. Am I allowed to use a .htaccess file?
2. What directory does the .htaccess file need to be placed in? (root? /www? /www/blog?)
3. Can you show me how the proper Redirect command should look in the file? (There are others I need to set up besides this one.)

And here's the response I received back from them:

We understand that you are inquiring about redirecting, and htaccess.

You can redirect a web page to another address by uploading the file with the following lines:
<script>
window.location='http://www.yournewpage.com';
</script>

What really ticked me off about this answer was that I specifically asked about .htaccess files, and they tell me how to do redirects with JavaScript. I know about using JavaScript to do redirects (and that's what I ended up using). If I wanted to know about JavaScript, I would have asked about it. I can only assume that Earthlink's web servers will ignore any .htaccess files I place on the server, but who knows?

Fortunately, I was able to work around with the answers I received. It sure would be nice though if tech support would answer all the questions I actually asked.

Migration complete

Tweezer's Edge has fully migrated from Blogger to Radio UserLand. It took some work, but I was able to import all of my old Blogger posts, plus I think I managed to set things up so that old permalinks are not broken. If something appears broken or not working right, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Tweezer's Edge up on Radio Userland

My first official post using Radio UserLand.

Based on my previous posts ( here, here, and here) discussing Movable Type licensing issues, I thought I'd post what I consider to be my basic understanding of software licenses and copyright law.

Note: I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. If you have legal difficulties in this area, seek out and consult with a competent attorney.

What is a "license"?

When a copyright owner wishes to commercially exploit the work covered by the copyright, the owner typically transfers one or more of these rights to the person or entity who will be responsible for getting the work to market, such as a book or software publisher. It is also common for the copyright owner to place some limitations on the exclusive rights being transferred. For example, the owner may limit the transfer to a specific period of time, allow the right to be exercised only in a specific part of the country or world, or require that the right be exercised only through certain media, such as hardcover books, audiotapes, magazines or computers.

If a copyright owner transfers all of his rights unconditionally, it is generally termed an "assignment." When only some of the rights associated with the copyright are transferred, it is known as a "license." An exclusive license exists when the transferred rights can be exercised only by the owner of the license (the licensee), and no one else -- including the person who granted the license (the licensor). If the license allows others (including the licensor) to exercise the same rights being transferred in the license, the license is said to be non-exclusive.

Basically, a software license is a granting of limited rights to a licensee in the interest of "commercially exploiting" the software protected by copyright.

What exclusive rights does a copyright owner have in a copyrighted work?

  1. Reproduction rights - The right to copy, duplicate, transcribe, or imitate a protected work.

  2. Distribution rights - The right to distribute copies of the protected work to the public by sale, rental, lease, or lending.

  3. Modification rights (also known as derivative works rights) - The right to modify the protected work to create a new work. A new work that is based on a preexisting work is known as a "derivative work."

  4. Performance and display rights - The public performance right is the right to recite, play, dance, act, or show the protected work at public place or to transmit it to the public. The public display right is the right to show a copy of the protected work directly or by means of a film, slide, or television image at a public place or to transmit it to the public.

An important limitation on those rights is the doctrine of "fair use": "...the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright."

A software license often contains provisions that restrict or grant rights other than those listed above. Those provisions exist outside the scope of what is protected and regulated by federal copyright law. As a software license is also an agreement (a contract), those provisions would be generally subject to applicable state law (the usual domain of contract law).

Note that copyright law protects a copyright owner's right to control and commercially profit from their software, but it does not in general "protect their business". A software copyright owner does not have any rights in the skills and knowledge acquired by a licensee during ordinary use of licensed software (and by extension, services provided using those skills and knowledge). Some examples of what a software copyright owner has no rights in (based on federal copyright law) include:

  1. Knowledge of how to install and use the software

  2. Performing installation of the software

  3. Training of other licensed users in how to use the software

  4. Troubleshooting of software issues and problems

  5. Charging of fees to provide items a through d ("support services")

  6. Designing new (i.e. not derivative) works with the software, where the software is used as a tool as it was intended

  7. The new works themselves, created via f. above

  8. Charging of fees to provide items f and g above ("design services")

Whether it is legal, legitimate, or "right" for a copyright owner to include license terms that go beyond the rights contained in federal copyright law is somewhat of a open question. The answer, I think, depends on what state the license is enforced in, the exact nature of the license terms, the applicability of the "fair use" doctrine, whether the license terms can be shown to have a legitimate basis in copyright law, and probably a dozen other things.

When I read a software license, I basically look at 1) how restrictive the license is with respect to the legitimate rights of the copyright owner, and 2) how many rights the copyright owner tries to assert outside the domain of copyright law. The less restrictive a license is, and the fewer rights a copyright owner asserts outside of copyright law, the more agreeable I am to its terms.

It is often said that a copyright owner can write any terms they want into a software license. Identifying which terms are granting you legitimate rights under copyright law and which license terms have nothing to do with copyright law is important in weighing the cost and value of that license. The ones that don't are more than likely taking away rights from you, and copyright law does not require you to give up any of your rights.

Links to sources:

Definition of copyright license and rights protected by copyright:
Copyright Ownership: Who Owns What?
Copyright Law: The Exclusive Rights

Update 01-Jul-2003: I was mistaken in an assertion that "fair use" did not derive from federal law. I had previously written:

"Fair use" does not derive from federal law - it issues from U.S. Supreme Court precedent. The doctrine of "fair use" does not grant any rights; it is instead an affirmative (legitimate) defense to allegations of copyright infringement.

Perhaps this was true sometime in the past; I don't know and it doesn't really matter. Section 107 of the Copyright Act specifically deals with "fair use" of copyrighted works. By accident (coincidence?), I became aware of the error while reading one of Eugene Volokh's posts at The Volokh Conspiracy.