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What Will Happen to Rented Software When Its Publisher Sinks?

Cliff posted more than 13 years ago | from the stuff-to-think-about dept.

The Almighty Buck 272

MightyE asks: "With the advent of subscription software with renew-required keys, I have a question. What happens when a software company from which you lease goes under? Who will provide you your software keys in the future? Should a law be required that if such a company goes under, they must either sell the rights to rent keys to another company, or provide non-terminating keys to the current subscribers?" With many large software corporations looking to put these systems into effect, I think it's better to discuss this question now, rather than later.

"Currently if you purchase software, and the software company goes under, all you lose is support, you still have a working product. Consider a large corporation making a major rollout of "rented" (rented meaning any software with a time-limited key) software. If the software company closes its doors, the corporation has now invested thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars into rolling something out that may only work for the rest of the quarter.

On the other hand, consider that you are a company that rents software. If you are required to enable non-terminating keys for the event of corporate liquidation, this would only have to be broken once and one single non-terminating key could get out on the net, thus defeating one of the largest concepts behind "rented" software, anti-piracy (not that I don't whole-heartedly believe that any good software with a rented key won't be cracked with a key patch or something).

Certainly it seems a viable solution to require such companies to give or sell their key distribution duties to another company."

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J00r Scr00ed (1)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 13 years ago | (#298190)

"Well, I guess that's your problem, not ours"
- CEO, every software company that ever existed.

Simple (1)

Unknown Poltroon (31628) | more than 13 years ago | (#298191)

Just hire an 1337 h4x0r to crack the key system.

Oh Well (1)

alen (225700) | more than 13 years ago | (#298192)

Guess you have to find another company to rent from. Bigger question is what if you have apps that rely on the rented software?

ok... (2)

tang (179356) | more than 13 years ago | (#298193)

So lets say a company that rents software goes under...And they are required to give the keys to another company so you can keep running your software. What if no company will take the offer? If the business failed in the first place, it may just be that there is no money in the software...So whos gonna want to take on a losing product?
If no other company will touch the software, are you then just S.O.L?

Good point (2)

vinnythenose (214595) | more than 13 years ago | (#298194)

That's a very good point. But the only problem with using non-terminating keys is that someone eventually finds them, publishes them on the Internet and the whole pirating software thing continues (with nullifies the reason for using the renting system).

The obvious answer is to just say no. (1)

Kaz Kylheku (1484) | more than 13 years ago | (#298195)

Demand freely redistributable software with
source code.

Laws are the *last* resort (4)

gunner800 (142959) | more than 13 years ago | (#298196)

How about this for a solution...

If you (or your company) are comfortable with the risks of renting software, then rent software. If you're not, don't.

Nobody is going to force you to rent software. If you want to pay the (arguably) extra money, then go buy some non-terminating software. Even if every piece of software in existence is rental-based, nobody will force you to use it.

Just don't accept a license you don't want to agree to.


My mom is not a Karma whore!

Transfer (1)

TheWhiteOtaku (266508) | more than 13 years ago | (#298197)

I would guess that before going under the publisher would arrange to sell the lucrative subscription rights to another publisher. So your subscription fees would be transfered to the new publisher.

Your contract is for/with the company (2)

HerrGlock (141750) | more than 13 years ago | (#298198)

If that company goes out of business and your contract is renewable, you cannot renegotiate with an entity that does not exist, therefore you cannot renegotiate. Your contract does NOT state that both parties will be there at the end of the term, I'd bet.

DanH
Cav Pilot's Reference Page [cavalrypilot.com]

Re:Simple (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#298199)

Your sig quote is uncorrect. Not only that, but in its current state it is pointless. The actual statement is "Technically, a cat locked in a box is alive and dead. You never know until you look."
Your version makes no sense in the context of which the original version is speaking of.

It's not rent to own... (2)

dannywyatt (175432) | more than 13 years ago | (#298200)

As bad as this sounds, if you're renting something you don't own it. If the company from whom you're renting goes under, you are no longer renting from them and don't get to use whatever you were renting.

Your best bet is to buy, not rent. And if a company will only rent to you, start one that sells what they're renting. You'll have a market. (On /. at least.)

on a related note... (3)

popular (301484) | more than 13 years ago | (#298201)

Can those PPV Divx movies be used anymore, or are people stuck with stacks of useless DVD's after that company shut down?

--

I would imagine... (3)

michaelb (10890) | more than 13 years ago | (#298202)

if the company from which you are renting your software goes under, you would become the owner of the software. Obviously, this would have to be covered in the lease agreement, but any good legal team should be demanding such clauses. In my company, for example, we have a clause in all contracts with various vendors that if they fail to meet their contractual obligations we obtain full rights to the source code. Which it then becomes my job to support and implement upgrades to. ;-)

What happens to drivers, etc... (3)

caffeineboy (44704) | more than 13 years ago | (#298203)

Presumably the subscription will continue to be source of assets that somone will be interested in. As long as support costs a company less than they make in renewal fees somone will have an interest in collecting money... After there are too few people renewing to justify the cost of customer service, I would think that benevolent companies would make a "eternal key" public domain, but that's not to say that they would.

This reminds me of the drivers for my hayes modem. They disappeared for a while and now have come back since the rights were finally purchased by a company that cares... Of course, there is no advantage to the company offering the drivers now. It's kind of like legacy hardware support except that the money will keep coming in. It wouldn't surprise me if companies could be started merely to sell renewals for extinct companies.

Easy... (2)

jonfromspace (179394) | more than 13 years ago | (#298204)

...you'll have to swith back to MS.

Unless THEY are the ones to go under.... While it is unlikely, it would be an interesting happenstance...

Boss: Install Windows on those 20 new Laptops for the boys in sales.
IT Dept: Uh, boss? The authentication server at Microsoft is not responding...

Re:Transfer (1)

Spamalamadingdong (323207) | more than 13 years ago | (#298205)

That might be the case if the bankruptcy court appoints a clueful receiver. This cannot be guaranteed; there have been examples of the assets of bankrupt brokerage firms being frozen while clients' options expired, for example. It is all too likely that a bunch of businesses are going to come to the end of their rental period and find that they have no-one authorized to renew their license. For businesses which have deployed this software in a mission-critical application, it is going to serve as an extremely rude wake-up call.

Legislation and rental agreements should address this up front, but I doubt that's going to happen.
--

Re:Transfer (2)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 13 years ago | (#298206)

Of course, if it was so lucrative, you'd have to wonder why the company went out of business. Why not just fire all your staff and sit back and collect the subscription fees?

Some more likely scenarios:

  1. You're using old software that you think is great, but nobody else is using it anymore. It's not lucrative for the publisher. The go out of business, and you're out of luck.
  2. In preparation for going out of business, the publisher offers to sell you a new version of the software that doesn't have subscription enforcement. In other words, they offer to convert you from rental to ownership, and if you don't like the price they offer for ownership, you're screwed (or you can pirate it). Note that this gets rid of the problem of designing nonterminating keys into the software.

The Assayer [theassayer.org] - free-information book reviews

Keys on the net. (2)

Kujako (313468) | more than 13 years ago | (#298207)

Having a key posted to the net is only a problem is the key is general and not location specific. How hard would it be for a company to sell a key to a corporation that only works on a given TCP/IP range or domain name? For the single user it could be bound to one of a number of hardware specific identifiers. This is the only way the Anti-piracy system would work. However even that is flawed. There are a lot of shareware registration systems that work in a similar way. However most of them have been circumvented by someone reveres engineering the key generator. This is frequently no small feet but once done is a source of unlimited keys. Bottom line is that there is no way to stop piracy, you can only make it harder. This in turn makes the lives of honest users more difficult as we too have to deal with the effects of anti-piracy features. A good example of this is products such as 3D-Studio. I own a legit copy but use a crack so I don't have to mess around with the hardware lock (it uses a parallel port dongel). In my own shareware (shameless plug) Net Weasel (Search on cnet or zdnet. Download it, I need the hits) I use a non-hardware specific encryption system that could be easy negated if someone where to build a key generator.

Human Nature... (2)

Sodakar (205398) | more than 13 years ago | (#298208)

Insightful article, and a great discussion piece. Sadly, as human nature will have it, we will probably do nothing until it actually happens, and we get bit HARD by it. California energy crisis, gasoline shortage panic, ozone depletion, rainforest depletion, shortage of fossil fuel, Y2k panic in 1999, etc... I'm no environmental freak -- just saying that like those issues, folks are not likely to try to fix the problem until it actually happens.

Re:Transfer (1)

TheWhiteOtaku (266508) | more than 13 years ago | (#298209)

Here's how they go out of bussiness: debt. If you accumulate interest on your loans faster than you bring in money from subscriptions then you go bankrupt.

A friend of mine had this problem... (1)

TWX_the_Linux_Zealot (227666) | more than 13 years ago | (#298210)

... with Shareware BBS software... his door program's creator couldn't be found, and the door software was reporting that the SysOP was committing piracy, for the door had been unregistered for eight years... The problem was quickly solved when the 386's hard disk failed last year, losing the BBS software, a 5 year old TradeWars 2002 game, and lots of fidonet mail. So much for being the last BBS just about in this area...
"Titanic was 3hr and 17min long. They could have lost 3hr and 17min from that."

Re:Good point (1)

hex1848 (182881) | more than 13 years ago | (#298211)

if the company goes under is it still considered pirating?

Internet games. (2)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 13 years ago | (#298212)


Either like games which the publisher stops requiring CDs/CD Keys/Internet authentication and releases a patch to disable it or it will stop working since all you did is buy a time-limited license and you can't buy that license anymore.

IMHO (2)

Auckerman (223266) | more than 13 years ago | (#298213)

Not to sound like a fanatic, I think the very idea of renting software will go down in flames. First, it will provide the final proof of monolopy pricing by Microsoft (anyone here old enough to remember that Ma Bell used to make you rent phones, and this was protected by law) and second, when .NET is released in the wild, are people really gonna care when their current hardware/software doesn't force them to keep paying over and over and over? I don't think they will.

Which, btw reminds me. If you want to combat .NET, there needs to be a OSS initive at starts using Mozilla services to write applications, all GPLed, which finally would let Linux companies make a profit by selling diskspace in a program similiar to Apples iDisk.

Why should they have to do anything? (1)

Sho0tyz (147844) | more than 13 years ago | (#298214)

If they go out of business that's your tough luck. Rent software from someone else. If car rental company went out of business would they be required let me keep the car I rented?

Who Cares? (2)

paul.dunne (5922) | more than 13 years ago | (#298215)

"What Will Happen to Rented Software When Its Publisher Sinks?" Dunno. And who cares? If people and companies are dumb enough to pay to be screwed like this, why should it be an issue when the inevitable happens? OK, with today's commercial software, when a software house sinks, the license to the software is usually snapped up by another company. A captive user market can be quite an asset. I presume this will continue to be the case. But smart people should be using free software anyway, so it's a moot point.

Re:The obvious answer is to just say no. (1)

13013dobbs (113910) | more than 13 years ago | (#298216)

Yeah, we see how well that has worked so far.

Re:Laws are the *last* resort (3)

Masem (1171) | more than 13 years ago | (#298217)

"Hi, we're Microsoft. Office 2005 will be sold only as rentable software. Since it has feature X which every one of your competitors is using, you'll have to use it too."

Software renting puts too much power in the hands of a monopoly (which aren't illegal in and of themselves!), and as proven by the MS trial, if such a company did do this, say in 2004, and were charged under anti-trust act, they could continue to do that deed for several more years, up to at least 2009, collecting rent from their customers.

I believe that if renting software comes to pass, there must be a law to allow rent-to-own or outright purchasing provisions to prevent a monopoly from maintain their position.

That's easy (2)

Pinball Wizard (161942) | more than 13 years ago | (#298218)

How many of us already support outdated software(in binary form, mind you) that has long outlived the vendor support?

I've got Word Perfect 5.1 for Unix and VSIFax 2.0, both multiuser, text-based, binary software running on AIX. I was amazed when they lived past the year 2000. As far as I'm concerned, they can stay as long as people still use them or they die.

What will really suck is if your ASP that hosts your apps on their server dies. Then you're kinda screwed.

Free Market (2)

deebaine (218719) | more than 13 years ago | (#298219)

So who do we propose should regulate this? Who is going to escrow the perpetual keys or pass judgment on the terms of a license transfer in case of bankruptcy? The government? Verisign? Please.

Moreover, do you as an end user want to be subject to the shenanigans that will inevitably take place when a company goes under? Keep in mind that Software Rental 'R Us has your address, email, name, etc. etc. If Software Rental 'R Us goes out of business and they have a database of, oh, a million active emails, Direct Marketers 'R Us might just want to take a look at purchasing the keys.

There's a better solution: don't do it. If Microsoft comes along with Office 2005 (now with polka-dot highlighting!) with a rental license and 2 Fortune 500 companies purchase it (everyone else stays with Office 2004), how long do you think rental software licenses will last at MS? If people make informed decisions as end users (or, more saliently, IT Directors), this problem may still be avoidable.

Let's hope so.

-db

Let's just put an end to this. (4)

fmaxwell (249001) | more than 13 years ago | (#298220)

The software "licensing" system is broken. Companies sell licenses and rent software because they are desparately trying to keep software from being considered a "product" that has been purchased. If it was a product (in the eyes of the law), then they could not get away with providing buggy crap that fails to perform and crashes constantly. It would be no different than a toaster that failed to work one out of 20 times -- it would be considered defective and the manufacturer would be required to fix it.

The black-helicopters-are-spying-on-me/lower-my-taxes/ there's-a-Waco-coverup/they-want-to-take-my-guns-a way crowd will disagree, but we need government legislation that makes software a product just like anything else that we buy in a store. Then Microsoft would quit trying to find ways to embed javascript into e-mail and, instead, make Outlook reliable and secure.

lets see.... (1)

loraksus (171574) | more than 13 years ago | (#298221)

Pretty much guaranteed money for doing nothing. I somehow doubt that a company with this business plan would go under, perhaps "sell" the product to the VP's new company, but by no means is the company going to give a guaranteed source of income

We aren't talking about upgrades and shit. I know people who just upgraded from word perfect 5.1 - develop a strong product, you won't have to issue upgrades. If it works - it works.

I have a shotgun, a shovel and 30 acres behind the barn.

How about putting it in escrow? (1)

Dutchy (312061) | more than 13 years ago | (#298222)

I work for a small company that has had to think about these issues, not because we rent software, but because we lock our software using host ID's, which are generated from BIOS ID's, hard drive ID's, etc.

One option that we've just started looking at is the idea of having the software licensing system (not the source code itself) held in escrow. I'm not sure what the ramifications are, but maybe it's worth a look.

Non-expiring keys (2)

buss_error (142273) | more than 13 years ago | (#298223)

To the worry that a non-expiring key would be broken: Make the standard software not be able to not expire. When and if the non-expiring key is required, issue a new .dll or patch that will accept a non-expiring key, issued with the key.

I think that software rental is pretty much a pipe dream anyway. Anyone who has managed large (5,000+ workstation) networks knows that it is simply impossable to manage that many desktops effectivly. When things start breaking because of no support available, or when IT budgets get so far out of hand because of the people required, rented software will find a niche in smaller, easier to manage workplaces. When that happens, profit margins for the software renter's will fall, and it will just fade away.

On the other hand, it is such a lovely looking possibility for continued revinue stream, no doubt there just won't be any other choice.

Who cares - wrong forum (2)

Pingo (41908) | more than 13 years ago | (#298224)

You are obviously posting into the wrong forum. I'm sure most Slashdot readers don't give a f*ck about this 'problem'.

Obviously you have identified a huge problem area with this key-leasing scam. Then don't go for it.

When designing defense electronics, there was allways this nagging about having a second source for as much components as possible. This was to achieve project safety for long term project.

I'm sure the software using industries would benefit from this kind of thinking. Long term project safety and how to get that in the software world.

Opensource makes it so easy since I can hire some college kid to do some editing and recompilation if necessary. If it's more complex, I might have to hire a consultant to fix the problems.

With Opensource I'm in full control all the time. No ugly surprises anymore.

//Pingo

What do I do if my Apt. Mgmt Co. goes under? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#298225)

What happens if the company who rents me my apartment goes under? Do I lose my place to live? Do I now own my apartment? Do you see how ridiculous these questions are?

Just like Northpoint. (2)

sulli (195030) | more than 13 years ago | (#298226)

The supplier will be toast, and so will you.

So don't buy it.

So what about when "they" determine . . . (1)

Rootman (110962) | more than 13 years ago | (#298227)

that you need to upgrade to version X.Y.Z of their "rented" product and pull the plug on the old one. I don't know how many pieces of software that I have just hung on to the old versions despite the fact that there were "newer" "better" versions availiable that just were not worth the $$$ to upgrade.

So when software rental company "X" says they will no longer support / rent product "Y" and I have to eventually reinstall the old "Y" due to crash / hardware upgrade etc. and they can't / won't supply me with a key for "Y" any longer??

I think the sofware "rental" is one of the stupidist flim-flam jobs to come down the pike. Linux just keeps looking better and better - due in part to MS and their cohorts extorting the customer with their practices.

Go ahead MS - self distruct - rent away. Drive up the cost of support through the roof from ignorant users constantly hosing their products and calling in or choking the web servers every other day trying to get new keys. Drive off the corporate customer who just won't stand for it. Make yourself a target for a new breed of virii that screws up your registration key. Image a widespread worm that wipes your precious key out and MS being inundated with millions of phone calls from pissed off customers. I think MS and other companies getting into the "rental" business are setting themselves up for a real big fall.

I'd probably buy a pencil from Bill Gates on a street corner just for "old times sake" :)

Same thing as... (1)

nahtanoj (96808) | more than 13 years ago | (#298228)

What would have happened if the California power companies had said: "Well damn if we aren't out of money. Oh well, turn it off." In other words, the customers are screwed. Oh, I suppose the companies could charge the customers to get their files sent to them on CD so that the customers could upload them to whoever they sign up with next, but that is darn inconvienient.

No, I'll continue to store my files on my own storage devices, thank you very much.

Ciao.

nahtanoj

or the company chooses to stop renting to you (1)

jageryager (189071) | more than 13 years ago | (#298229)

The point to this story is that renting something is only a temporary agreement.

If I own software, and the product is discontinued, I can still use the product. But I won't be getting much support or many updates.

If I rent software I must not assume that I will continue to be able to use it after the terms of the contract..

This kind of thing happened to me (4)

BluedemonX (198949) | more than 13 years ago | (#298230)

I bought a piece of software called Bodycraft, which is supposed to generate a workout and eating plan appropriate to your wants/needs (e.g. gain muscle, lose weight, stay same weight)

I bought it, and installed it on a computer, and called for the code to unlock the stupid software dongle, and everything went relatively well: although the program was buggy, I could hack it to work.

Moved to a different computer some time later - whoops! Need to re-register. The phone was disconnected when I tried to call back for a re-registration (some stupid software dongle).

Contacted the big name fitness guru who's name is all over the box - who said "I can't help you, that's the company, they screwed me too, yadda yadda yadda - but you know what, with this new company I'm working with, you can buy the same program AGAIN for $30 more!"

In freemarket it would be... (1)

Joe 'Nova' (98613) | more than 13 years ago | (#298231)

...hashed out by all the different vendors, and you would pick one. In reality however, I'd say embed an 'immortal' key, then when they go belly up, give out the key, free, or allow another to license/lease it.
There are alot of gaming companies that do things like this, TSR sold to WoC, WoC sold to Hasbro...We still can play Monopoly(tm). What needs to happen is better control on the developers side, so they won't lose out to crackers, etc., and take risks.
Then you have service providers that leave you out to dry, ie Ameritech buys out competitor, then you get their bill in the mail saying you didn't pay for the service that was previously free. Tough tacos amigo!
I think there needs to be less schitzo in all laws in general about aquisition, saying if you aquire it, you need to have the same level of responsibility to customers[gets off soap box...]

What happens depends on when it happens (2)

Badgerman (19207) | more than 13 years ago | (#298232)

To speculate on "one thing" happening when subscription-based software companies go under is inaccurate. Public reactions to events change over time.

What is critical is how the public reacts to subscription-based software and how people react to the first time a subscription service goes under in a very public way. That will set the stage for how people react in the future - and if people will maintain the subscription model.

It is my hope that people are made aware of the dangers of subscription software - and that the first time a subscription service goes under (and one will) people raise merry hell about it. Then we will see precautions, then we will see harsh and serious reactions.

But if this is not done, this will become "just another computer problem" people put up with. It will become like blue screens and failing dot-coms.

What happens when subscription services go under? That depends on what WE are willing to make happen.

Re:Your contract is for/with the company (1)

ahde (95143) | more than 13 years ago | (#298233)

however, in other situations, the renter/leasee/tenant has rights. That is the whole point of the discussion. What rights from the physical world should extend to software. What new ones should be required? The obvious response is don't rent, unless you are willing to accept the risk. But the reality is that some applications are becoming prohibitively expensive and like physical objects will be rented. I don't know what the answers should be. But it seems like linux and other free software have shown that it doesn't neccesarily need to be so.

Insist on source code escrow (2)

BillyG (100244) | more than 13 years ago | (#298234)

I used to work for a medical lab software company. While we didn't rent our software to labs, we did charge support and maintenance, which included free upgrades, etc. As part of each contract, we notified the client that the source code was placed in escrow: in the event that we went under, all clients got free access to the source so that they could maintain it, or hire others to maintain / enhance, etc.

Seems like the same deal might work for rentals, *IF* (and I know it's a big if ...) you have the clout to insist on this from the software firm.

Re:Laws are the *last* resort (1)

donutz (195717) | more than 13 years ago | (#298235)

The libertarian in me agrees that we don't need more laws regulating this and that...so what are we left with?

Well, you could always find out if the company renting the software to you has a contingency plan, for what happens to their software if they go belly up. Granted, you'd probably have a hard time, as a customer, finding this kind of information out from the company, but if they wont provide it, you can always take your business to someone who will.

Even if they do promise continued support via some contingency plan, promises might be broken. Still it's better than no promise at all. If you do your business with a company you trust, even better.

. . .

There is a law (1)

Stultsinator (160564) | more than 13 years ago | (#298236)

If the company folds during your rental period they are only under the obligation to fullfill the terms in the lease (such as a support agreement.) What happens when they can't and they go bankrupt is, the court decides (or the commitee of debtee's) who gets the company's assets. In this case the company's source code is an asset, and because the company failed to supply you with what you paid for (support) they are indebted to you. You therefore get either a seat or at least representation on the debtee's commitee and may get a shot at the source code. If not, another party will get it and you'll be able to strike a relationship with them.

A safer solution for your company (regular Joe's probably don't have enough leverage for this) is to ask the software vendor to put their source code into escrow in return for your business. That way, if the company folds you automatically get the source code.

Word to the Wise (1)

Caraig (186934) | more than 13 years ago | (#298237)

Something like this MUST be stated in the licensing. Any MIS director out there whose company goes to a software subscription plan should, right off the bat, have this in mind, and they should get something in writing in the subscription contract that the company has with the software vendor.

Ideally, they should have clauses in the contact for backup, in case they're unable to get a non-terminating key before the subscription expires.

Personally, if I had no choice about some sort of anti-piracy system (that is one thing I would NEVER advise any of my clients doing) I'd rather have a dongle hanging out of each of my client's machines COM ports. It's ugly, and supposedly expensive, but producing a hundred thousand of them has got to be cheaper than maintaining a subscriber database and the hassle of dealing with customers when the inevitable something goes wrong. Ideally, the software companies are going to realize that not all of us are VV4r3z pir8z.


--- Chief and Sole Technician, Helpdesk at the End of the World

Wrong question. (2)

imadork (226897) | more than 13 years ago | (#298238)

When you're renting, you have the right to use something for a specific period of time. That's all.
If Hertz went out of business while I'm on my next trip, do you think they'd let me keep the rental car? Hell, no!
I use EDA tools at work,which are typically time-licensed (for 100K+ per license) and if one of those companies were to go out of business, you'd be SOL. This doesn't happen too often in the EDA world, however. You're much more likely to have a struggling company bought by another company, and have the users hope against hope that the new company would continue to support old products (especially when all the employees in the acquired company have likely left).

Which leads us to the question you should be asking :

What happens when an old version of rented software works fine for you, but the vendor will only license newer versions that don't fit in your work flow or that would invlove significant cost on your part to perform the upgrade?

At best, the vendor would sell you licenses without support, since they only have the resources to support the newest versions. At worst, they'll tell you that if you don't want to buy the new version, you can suck eggs. And they can do that, since you were only renting the software to begin with.
This arrangement works for EDA tools, where you get significant support from the vendor in exchange for your $$$, but I imagine that when deployed in the software industry at large, it will only serve to screw the consumer even more, and put more money in the vendor's pockets in exchange for doing less.

Is it any wonder that software rentals are the ultimate dream of any software company?

Re:Transfer (1)

david duncan scott (206421) | more than 13 years ago | (#298239)

Clearly you weren't a Northpoint customer...:)

No different from now. (1)

neo (4625) | more than 13 years ago | (#298240)

What happens when the company you bought software from now goes under? It's the same thing. In six month you are going to end up with a useless software package. It's not different from the subscription service. Pick up your bits and find another program.

3Com did this to me! (1)

Just H. (83152) | more than 13 years ago | (#298241)

This exact thing happened to me with 3Com's LANSentry RMON software. They build hardware probes that required proprietary software to access them,. The software required an ELM key to operate. When I needed a new ELM key, 3Com said that they sold the company that wrote the software , and the keygenerator along with it and I'd have to purchase new probes and software.
Needless to say, I was astonished! The probes were only a year old!!

My experience indicates that the answer is to the Slashdot question is "not much".

its happened before... (1)

powerlinekid (442532) | more than 13 years ago | (#298242)

Back in the early days of dvd, existed Divx (not to be confused with divx :-) which was more or less a movie rental in which you paid for the movie and never returned it. However you could update your plan from a say 48 hours to 2 weeks, to unlimited viewing depending on how much you pay. This seems to be similiar to the current software subscription models being set up, in which you pay for probably a time frame, and then pay more for an extension to that. Now, the question is what happens to that software when a company goes out of business and for that, I think we can draw a pretty clear picture from what happened to divx. When divx ended, the first thing they did was offer a $100 rebate (which doesn't really fit into the current issue but i'm geting there). The next thing they did was to NOT ALLOW anyone to lengthen the time frame for watching their movies, yet allowed them to finish off what they currently had paid for. Now for the software subscription method I don't see any reason why this would be different, in that when the company folds do to contract they must honor their customers purchase. When the contract expires they don't renew it. The customer goes and finds some other software to fill their needs and the world moves on. (Personal Note: I'm up for change, but I really don't see any point of this... I mean if you want to move things to the internet then just use credit card and sell software Whole... none of this microsoft release and patch crap)

Non expiring keys? doubtful.... (1)

Arethan (223197) | more than 13 years ago | (#298243)

Isn't the whole point of a key expiration system to keep the user up to date with the latest versions and prevent piracy?

The mere implementation of allowing a non-expiring key to exist will completely destroy the anti-piracy ability. Someone, somewhere will reverse engineer the code, determine what the non-expiring key is, and then post it to all the warez IRC channels and newsgroups. So much for improved anti-piracy.

I don't forsee software companies willingly implementing a non-expiring key. The example I mentioned above will push many non-programmer types (which normally end up controlling the feature list) to sway away from them. Aside from that obvious problem, what does it say about the intentions of the company? Sure, Microsoft can get away with just about anything, but if Joe's Software Barn writes an application that uses this software rental model, do they put one in, or not? Not putting in a non-expiring key will lead to problems if they ever go under, however putting one in could look as though the company is not sure of itself, which could easily cause many potential customers to steer clear of their product.

This whole rental idea on software is a pretty shakey model IMHO. Yes, it keeps the costs of software down for businesses. However, the repurcussions of totally relying on the survival of the authoring company can be very extreme.

If this model ever really catches on, I will stick to 1 rule. If the company issueing the software is not one of the VERY big few (MS, IBM, Oracle, etc), I will not be renting from them, and would opt to buy instead.

Re:Human Nature... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#298244)

where I work, all the software is rented. The contract gives us the code if the suppliers go under. A contract without something similar is a clear risk, as has been known for years. this is not new.

This has already happened, hasn't it? (4)

ewhac (5844) | more than 13 years ago | (#298245)

In the consumer space, this has already happened with DIVX (the DVD "rental" scam). DIVX's answer to its customers was, essentially, "Fsck you."

However, there are also several high-end software packages out there -- the old Diab C compiler and Perforce source repository system come to mind -- where you have to install a "license" server and periodically update the key that allows it to continue to operate. Doubtless others exist. How many of these have had their parent companies fold? What did their customers do? Was the eventuality covered in the contract?

Schwab

Re:Laws are the *last* resort (5)

rgmoore (133276) | more than 13 years ago | (#298246)

The biggest problem is that you don't always have a real choice in the matter. There are real world cases in which there's a single vendor for a critical piece of software that you desperately need. Even worse, that's likely to become the case more often as software patents become more prevalent, as they give the companies legal monopolies in specific areas. If the company that holds a monopoly on your critical piece of software decides to offer their software only on a rental basis, you have only unappetizing options. You can break the law by writing your own software that violates their patent, rent their software with the odious terms that implies, or do without something that may be critical to your business success. This is the kind of messy decision that happens in the real world of effective monopolies that "free market" appologists choose to ignore when claiming that consumers aren't really stuck.

What do you do when all of your choices are bad? Since the government is fundamentally responsible for this kind of mess by giving away monopolies in the form of software patents shouldn't they be involved in protecting people who wind up being screwed by them?

A problem with selling keys to another company... (1)

Mossfoot (310128) | more than 13 years ago | (#298247)

Concider an appartment building that suddenly gets a new manager? With the less scrupulous, the first thing they do is raise the rent.

In some places in North America, there is nothing to stop a landlord from raising the rent as high as they want, in order to essentially evict tenents. Of course, there is no way a company would want to evict key holders, but if they already have their infrastructure based on the technology, how fair is it if the new owners raise the rent by several hundred percent?

There are laws in many places that limit how much the rent can be raised in appartments at a time. Perhaps the same should be done for this business as well?

Re:Transfer (1)

Chakat (320875) | more than 13 years ago | (#298248)

I've got one word for you. Northpoint.

Their lucrative subscriber base was purchased by AT&T, who promptly discontinued service. So, while I hope most people aren't as nasty as that, it could happen.

Re:J00r Scr00ed (2)

Fervent (178271) | more than 13 years ago | (#298249)

If it's Microsoft this isn't even a valid argument. They're not going under anytime soon, and they are the ones leading the push.

Already happening with EDA tools... (1)

smasch (77993) | more than 13 years ago | (#298250)

The EDA tool industry already rents software on a subscription basis, and from what I have seen, what usually ends up happening is that anyone currently using the product is given a permanent license but no more support. I have seen this with both companies going under and with companies discontinuing their product (usually by "selling" their product to a competitor, but not giving them any of the IP for the product). I have not heard of licenses for these tools getting cracked as this is very specialized software, but that doesn't mean it hasn't happened. They usually use a licensing system called FlexLM, and it usually uses licenses that are both time limited and node locked (can only exist on/be served from one specific machine with a particular serial number (or in the case of PCs, the Ethernet card's MAC address, as most PCs don't have a serial number)). Either of these limits can be removed (to make non-expiring keys, for example). The only real problem is if the machine on which the key resides dies (or the Ethernet card dies) those "permanent" licenses have effectively expired, as you no longer have a machine to run them on (and you have no one to turn to to get a replacementkey ).

Re:Let's just put an end to this. (1)

gaudior (113467) | more than 13 years ago | (#298251)

Your concept of 'software as product' analogy falls down as follows:

I sell toasters. I sell you a toaster. You cannot make 20 copies of that toaster, and give (or sell) them to the people waiting to get into the toaster store, depriving me of my rightful income for my toasters.

The problem is, if you can make a perfect copy of something, with little or no difficulty or expense, you can rip off the producer of the item. There has to be some means of protecting the property rights of the producer.

Re:Non-expiring keys (1)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 13 years ago | (#298252)

To the worry that a non-expiring key would be broken: Make the standard software not be able to not expire. When and if the non-expiring key is required, issue a new .dll or patch that will accept a non-expiring key, issued with the key.
Someone else could just release a .dll that makes it so it doesn't even NEED a key.
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Re:I would imagine... (1)

tcgardner (442498) | more than 13 years ago | (#298253)

I bet you do not use Microsoft/Sun/Oracle/IBM products. :-)

Re:The obvious answer is to just say no. (1)

Amokscience (86909) | more than 13 years ago | (#298254)

Taking this a step further, the obvious answer is to just write it yourself.

I can't tell whether this is going to be taken seriously or sarcastically.

Remeber who's liable... (1)

MikeLRoy (246462) | more than 13 years ago | (#298255)

no one!

Its been shown time and time again that if you write a program, and especially if your license agreement is good, you aren't liable. This applies to everything, including radiation therapy machines (with which there have been incidents), and pc software (who's liable if there's a problem with a program you use and you lose everything?).

Basically, there needs to be some kind of legistlation to hold coders/software engineers who SELL a product responsible. ie, a universal clause that goes in every EULA for pay software (ie, freeware/gpl/etc immune) saying that if you payed for the software, the company that makes it is responsible for makeing sure it actually works, or something like that.

As for rentable-apps, well it'd mean that the developer was responsible if it went belly up... I know it seems flawed, but if a car-maker discontinues a car, they're still responsible if there's a design flaw (can you say Pinto?). Make the coders personally liable (ie, not Company XYZ, but the employee who works for the company). Just like a civil engineer who signs his name to a bridge, so too have professional coding standards. As for software keys, the whole idea is flawed. Software keys ALWAYS depend of a mathmatical formula to derive valid keys. If the company can create them, so can someone else. The best solution is that if you're outfitting huge offices with tonnes of rented software, you use hardware keys/dongles/whatever, and put an exiration in the code on the key. Harder to crack, and you can simply release a non-expiring key if your company went belly-up.

-MR

The market will correct this. (1)

bungalow (61001) | more than 13 years ago | (#298256)

What happens to the infrastructure of any company that cannot afford it?

Intel had a building going up in Austin, until the .bomb eroded their bank balance, and now the building just sits. There was a newspaper "contest" yesterday, challenging us all to repurpose the existing architecture that was already there. Among the entries: homeless shelter, art museum, paint it trailer - park pink, etc, to hilgight the fact that it really was an unwanted eyesore. My favorite: encase it in three miles, or so, of barbwire (ie use a series of barbwire wrappings to approximate "walls".

The point is, the company that wanted it, doesn't anymore and it just sits and will deteriorate until someone decides it's cheap enough to buy.

The same thing happened with the VUE boxes that came out in the early 80's (think basic TV + HBO)
Sure, they tried to reclaim the boxes, but didn't have the means to do so and since there's no programming left for those particular set - top boxes, they collect dust. There is a price point there - I'd buy one for $0.50, just to throw on a shelf and not look at it. Maybe I could tweak it sufficiently to get content from China, I just don't have the will.

The infrastructure here (computers!) have purpose outside of rent - ware. Software exists that can read M$ proprietary file formats, with proper tweaking. and if it's imprtant enough, software will be created to read other proprietary formats, whether they're created with rentware or some other software.

Re:Keys on the net. (1)

Auckerman (223266) | more than 13 years ago | (#298257)

"Having a key posted to the net is only a problem is the key is general and not location specific. How hard would it be for a company to sell a key to a corporation that only works on a given TCP/IP range or domain name? For the single user it could be bound to one of a number of hardware specific identifiers. This is the only way the Anti-piracy system would work."

Which would, of course, defeat the benifits to consumers that MS says .NET will provide. "Anytime, Anywhere"

Re:Let's just put an end to this. (2)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 13 years ago | (#298258)

If Linux were a beer, you wouldn't be able to play your favorite drinking games with it. Nevertheless, drinking it would give you a false sense of superiority over all the people who don't drink it.

-- Dr. Eldarion --

can you say *altavista*? (1)

blackholebrain (90909) | more than 13 years ago | (#298259)

whether the company sinks...

or their software stinks...

we'll get the same thing we get now: a big fuck-u

like, who in their right mind thinks we're gonna get *rent* back if we don't like somebody's software?

when the landlord closes the doors, you better be looking for new digs.

and what if (1)

CrackElf (318113) | more than 13 years ago | (#298260)

a company dissolves itself for whatever reason, and the keys disappear. And then another company starts, mysteriously with the same management as the first, and creates a competing product (which happens to be the only one compatible with the proprietary software of the previous company)... thus 'forcing' you to buy the new product(and soon, since your old key is about to run out), and sign into a new, less reasonable, contract for the keys. sounds like a m$ scheme to me... oh wait, m$ is trying to do this ... (I am sorry. I could not resist. M$ is just makes it so easy to insult them)
-CrackElf

Code escrow (1)

isomeme (177414) | more than 13 years ago | (#298261)

Big companies buying big software products from other big companies already (usually) demand that a copy of the source code be placed in escrow, to be delivered to the licensing company in the event that the provider goes under. This is considered to be necessary to protect the licensing company from having critical business apps "orphaned" and unsupportable.

For time-limited software, purchasers should similarly insist on a contractual guarantee that, if the licensing organization goes under without finding a new home for the product, an escrowed infinite-use key will be released.

But, as others have pointed out, this is an issue for "caveat emptor", not more government regulation. If you don't like the risks involved in renting software, either mitigate them contractually per my suggestion, or don't rent software.

--

Re:J00r Scr00ed (2)

Ronin X (121414) | more than 13 years ago | (#298262)

And what about my apartment? What guarantee do I have that the guy I'm renting from will give me a place to live for the rest of my life?

HELLO. Why do you think they call it RENT? You have it, the rental period ends, it's done.

Think this is a raw deal? Think you might get screwed? Then reconsider the software rental model.

software keys, and RPGs (2)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 13 years ago | (#298263)

Online RPGS potentially have this problem right now. Usually the way it works if the game is sold for about $30-$40, and you pay $10 to play after that. What if the company that owns Everquest or Ultima Online decides they no longer want to run the game? They close thier servers, all the players are SOL. UO has server emulators out there. I guess the same thing could be done with the subscription software. Someone would have to write a server to "emulate" the real keyserver. I wonder if a company could sue someone for providing software keys after the original company stopped providing them.
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Simple (1)

SomeOtherGuy (179082) | more than 13 years ago | (#298264)

What Will Happen to Rented Software When Its Publisher Sinks?

The same thing that happens when walmart wants to build a store where the apartment complex you live in now sits.

Data loss (1)

Traicovn (226034) | more than 13 years ago | (#298265)

I would care more about what a user could do about the data stored by the software once the software has expired more than the software itself. Software can be replaced, however, what about the data that was stored in a proprietary format by my word processor, or by my tape archive system? In addition I've noticed some people post that it would still be legal to use the software once the company has gone under because they would not be stealing from an existing entity. Not entirely true unless you were authorized to. The companies copyright would still be in effect. They could sue you.

Re:Free Market (4)

sphealey (2855) | more than 13 years ago | (#298266)

Actually, "source code escrow" agreements used to be quite common, and are still to be found in contracts for business-critical applications such as EPR systems. The vendor agrees to put a copy of the source code in escrow with a law firm or CPA firm that handles such situations, to be release to the customer if the vendor ceases to be a going concern (or in some cases if they terminate the product line), at which point the terms automatically change from license to ownership. I imagine most of the really big guys will put similar protection in the contracts with M$.

Now, has anyone ever made actual USE of such an agreement? That I can't tell you.

sPh

Real network software instead of Renting? (1)

cmat (152027) | more than 13 years ago | (#298267)

For a while I've seen alot of people saying that "centralized, rented software" is a bad thing(tm). But realistically, it's a dream for system admins that need to support applications for a large (100+) userbase.

Now, I'm not saying I agree with the rental model, but I think the network model that X windows provides is an interesting and potentially very viable solution to purchasing multiple copies of software "A".

I'd be very interested in seeing technologies like X start to be pulled more into the mainstream office and corporate network models. What technologies exist currently that do this (aside from X)? Are there companies that are pursuing this model of software design?

Cheers,
Chris

Speaking of drivers... (1)

Bingo Foo (179380) | more than 13 years ago | (#298268)

What happens to drivers of cars from car rental places if the rental company goes out of business? Can we get a law passed that says that any car rental business that closes its doors must allow all current customers to keep their cars? It's only fair....

Bingo Foo

---

Why is this even a question? (1)

electragician (227518) | more than 13 years ago | (#298269)

When you rent something, you are allowed the use of that property for the rental period... that's it. End of contract, and end of obligation. Lets say that my company rent's you a hammer, on a yearly basis. For the sake of discussion, lets say it's a magical hammer, and that it's stipulated in the contract that it will disappear in one year. One year later, the hammer disappears and you come back to "Magical Hammer Rentals-R-Us" to get another, only to find that we're going out of business and won't be renting anymore magical hammers. How in the hell could you possibly think that it is "Magical Hammer Rentals-R-Us's" responsibility to find you another hammer, or to give you a magical hammer that would last forever, before we closed our doors? It's a friggin' yearly contract, for crying out loud.... after a year it's OVER, end of obligation!! Now, back to reality. I'm not sure whether or not I like the idea of yearly software "rentals" or not, but it might have it's advantages. Instead of "MS Office" costing $300.00, only to be outdated in 1 1/2 years anyway, it might be beneficial to pay, say $50.00 a year, and get presumably newer versions of said software on a yearly basis. Of course, there's always the possibility that you could use a competing product that you outright buy (or GPL'd software) if you could find one that performed well and did what you needed it to do.

Re:Easy... (2)

powerlord (28156) | more than 13 years ago | (#298270)


Boss: Install Windows on those 20 new Laptops for the boys in sales.
IT Dept: Uh, boss? The authentication server at Microsoft is not responding...


Of course it could be that the largest DDoS attack in history is being AIMed at the MS Authentication servers. Gee... I wonder if that would make people notice the inherent flaws in the system (probably not).

Code Escrow (2)

Fencepost (107992) | more than 13 years ago | (#298271)

You don't really see a lot of this on the PC side (though I've seen it for some development tools), but on larger systems I believe it's pretty standard to have a code escrow option available. Any large package that's in a mission-critical niche probably has this available, especially products that aren't easily replacable. Examples of products where I'd be surprised if this wasn't available: PeopleSoft, SAP.

Basically with code escrow, you have the rights to obtain the source code to the product under defined conditions, including the company going under or the product being discontinued. The details of how it's managed vary from contract to contract - the code may be stored with a third party (generally a law firm) or may be retained by the software provider.

The kicker is that escrow contracts have a cost associated with them, and it may not be small (on an absolute scale; if you're doing a $10 million replacement of all your financial software then $100,000 for code escrow becomes just another mid-sized line item). They're also generally term contracts, renewable either when you renew your software license or annually though as with any contract other terms are possible.

-- fencepost

Better Yet.. (1)

jacklf (214580) | more than 13 years ago | (#298272)

Your favorite software giant (oh, let's leave it to your imagination) purchases the company selling the product then promptly discontinues it to celebrate Tuesday. The keys expire within a year and POOF!

A slick new way to eliminate competing software might be upon us. (not that anyone I can think of would every do this)...

What about your data? (1)

MagikSlinger (259969) | more than 13 years ago | (#298273)

Most of these services are talking about storing the data on their servers! The big question is: can you get your data back out when the company goes under?

Software escrow with a trusted 3rd party (1)

hamjudo (64140) | more than 13 years ago | (#298274)

Big companies can arrange for a software escrow agreement. Software escrow agreements can are usually written to kick in when the company stops providing some service. When the agreement kicks in, the escrow company takes the escrowed source code out of the safe and delivers it to the customer's agent.

More importantly, a new license kicks in, so the customer is allowed to use the source code.

Software escrow is expensive, because someone has to pay for auditing the software. The escrow isn't worth much if you're not positive that the source code actually builds the right product.

I've worked at little companies, with big customers, where the big customer demanded source code escrow. I've never been on the other side.

There are many variations. I assume that license keys could also be escrowed.

Some relevant experiences (1)

nicestepauthor (307146) | more than 13 years ago | (#298275)

Our company built some systems based on products that used to be supported by Arthur Andersen. Later they stopped supporting these products, but they had the source code put in escrow and all of their customers got the source. We ended up having to do some conversion work because the code we got was for a later version than what we were using, but it could have been worse.

Many years later we bought a product called Excelerator from Index Technology. This was a terrible piece of crap that only did one thing well: keep you from using it without paying for it. When they went from the MS-DOS version to the Windows version they got rid of the "dongles" and replaced it with something even worse, which was copy control that expired if the product was not upgraded. By the time the software had expired we had lost enough productivity trying to use it that we were willing to just give up on it. My bad experiences with this product helped me to see the value of Free Software.

Re:ok... (1)

papskier (263483) | more than 13 years ago | (#298276)

Well, no matter if the company goes under or not, if you rented the software, you're S.O.L. anyways. But more specifically, I think what he was considering was a sort of key escrow for temporary license keys. A sort of clearinghouse that just pushes out keys, sans product support/development, so that the failed businesses' customers can keep using the product. Or at least that's the way I interpreted the proposistion.

$man microsoft

As usual, software analogies fail... (1)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 13 years ago | (#298277)

...when comparing to physical goods.

If you had a contract for a week, and the company went under two days after you signed the contract, they'd have to let you keep it for the duration. A better analogy would be leasing a car, since that's a long term contract. I'd imagine you'd be able to return it for your money back (adjusted for the time you used it).

However, even those analogies fail, because in comparison you'd have to say something like: you lease a car and create luggage that will only fit in that car. You build up quite a bit of luggage, then the company goes under. There is an understanding that you require use of your luggage, so the company includes a failsafe: if we go under, you can purchase the car for it's current value, and continue to use it for your luggage. Or, since we're going under, you can just keep the car.

I have yet to see a good analogy between the problems in the software industry and "the real world". You need to compare to similar items - items that have a huge initial cost to develop and create, but a tiny cost to distribute each individual unit (like software), and not items that have a huge cost associated with each unit (like cars).

All I can say about it is "caveat emptor", but unfortunately this system will be rammed down our throats by the likes of MS, and most people are going to have to live with it.

Re:Wrong question. (2)

sphealey (2855) | more than 13 years ago | (#298278)

"When you're renting, you have the right to use something for a specific period of time. That's all. If Hertz went out of business while I'm on my next trip, do you think they'd let me keep the rental car? Hell, no!"

The difference being, when a car rental company goes out of business, they don't come by and rip out of your brain all the memories of any place you travelled to using one of their cars (ala "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale"). When business-critical software disappears, the virtual knowledge developed though the use of that software can disappear also, destroying your business process. That's a bit of a bummer.

sPh

Re:Remeber who's liable... (1)

Zal42 (311906) | more than 13 years ago | (#298279)

I couldn't disagree with the legislative approach more. As a consumer, if I want to take a risk on my own shoulders, I should be able to do so, and a company should be able to service me.

OTOH, some sort of "plain language risk disclosure" law might be a good move, so at least consumers will have a shot at knowing what they're getting into. (Reading licensing agreements is worthless -- they're far too easy to misunderstand, even if you have the patience to muck your way through them)

This issue hits close to home to many universities (4)

Lostman (172654) | more than 13 years ago | (#298280)

My university's mathematics department relies heavily on the use of Mathematica (a "god" in the mathematical notation and symbolic problem solving front). I loved it and I bought it -- and found out that there will be a problem if the publisher (Wolfram Research) ever goes out of business...

When you run it for the first time, it notes all your hardware and creates a unique "id" that has to have a matching unique "password" to unlock the software.. sound familiar?

The gist is, when the university decides that their 180 mhz computers just "dont cut it no 'mo" and upgrade, if wolfram isn't there to give out their unique passwords then the university has lost out on QUITE a lot of funding (The student version (full w/o manual) goes for 150 but the retail version (full w/ manual) goes for about 1150).

Now, in these cases would it be "correct" or "right" to reverse engineer the software's security or at least use a keygenerator as found on the little warez kids sites... and what kind of trouble could a university find itself in if they did this?

Or abandons the software! (3)

Sly Mongoose (15286) | more than 13 years ago | (#298281)

"What happens when a software company from which you lease goes under?

Suppose the company, without going out of business, decides they do not want to support the software any more? Perhaps they have a new version with more features (and a higher price/rental) that they are interested in pushing? Perhaps they merge with a competitor and now have two similar products competing with each other and decide to kill off one of them? Suppose they want everybody to switch to the (buggy?) version 6.0 so they can close down their v5 support department?

There are any number of ways you could have the rented-software rug pulled out from under you. I guess you had better address that issue before signing on for a particular product and structuring your company's survival around it's continued availablilty!

er, *ASTALAvista* (1)

blackholebrain (90909) | more than 13 years ago | (#298282)

that's it, yeah

Re:Laws are the *last* resort (1)

gunner800 (142959) | more than 13 years ago | (#298283)

I think the problem is with anti-trust / monopoly laws and fights in general. It just takes too long to get results, and the solution is not retroactive. The problem may be extra bad with rental software, but not unique to it.

Maybe some form of reparations should be made when a monopoly gets broken up, to compensate the customers who were getting shafted for the time between determining that a monopoly existed and the time the solution is implemented. It would be a big change from the way anti-monopoly law works now, but it might be a good update to deal with modern business.


My mom is not a Karma whore!

Assett Liquidation (1)

ag3n7 (442539) | more than 13 years ago | (#298284)

AFAIK, if a company declares bankrupcy, all assets have to be sold off to pay off as many creditors as possible. I'm sure one such asset would be the ability to sell and generate keys. Since the software could become 'unsupported,' it would be a pretty easy way to cause a steady influx of money for very little work. It could be valued the same way as a bond (i.e., pay $30000 now to get an income of $1000 a month until the software is obsolete).

"Rental" software like "rental" cars... (2)

verbatim (18390) | more than 13 years ago | (#298285)

Lets say you rent a car from some car rental place for 4 weeks. Sometime on week 2, the company is liquidated and they pull out of the car rental business. Now... do you really think that car belongs to you? Even though the people who loaned you the car don't exist? Nope. It belongs to the people with invested interest in the company - creditors. The assets (cars) will be sold off to pay the creditors as much as possible. It is possible that you could *buy* the car for an additional fee, but you may decide to go to another car loan company for your needs.

Unlike the above example, software isn't a tangable thing. You have a right to use the software for as long as your licence term is valid, but once it is no longer valid you are required to stop using it - it no longer belongs to you - even if the company goes under. However, the creditors of the company may choose to do one of two things: (1) sell unlimited licences to recoup any losses, (2) sell the software rights to another company. In case 1, you may be given the chance to get an unlimited version that will never expire. Cool. However, if the company takes route 2 - which is likely if they can get a larger amount of $$$ up front - you'll have to deal with the new company for your needs OR go somewhere else.

The good thing for consumers (on the software loan thing) is that we get to choose month-by-month what software we use. If we get tired of Word, for example, we stop using it and find another product - without wasting the whole cost up front. Say $10 per month for three months until you realize you don't like the software instead of $2000 up front with (as Microsoft seems to want it) no right to sell it to recoup your losses.

Good: Choice, lower costs (short term), keeps software up-to-date.
Bad: Instability of companies, higher cost (long term), someone else controls your software, lack of privacy (?).

You decide.
---
Computer Science: solving today's problems tomorrow.

Re:Free Market (1)

n0ano (148272) | more than 13 years ago | (#298286)

Now, has anyone ever made actual USE of such an agreement? That I can't tell you.

Oh yeah, they have. I was one of the founders of a company called Netwise. We made a cross-architecture RPC compiler and some of our customers required a software escrow clause. When MicroSoft bought out Netwise the escrow clauses went into force and the customers got their own private copy of the source to our product. Whether or not they could make heads or tails of it I don't know but they got it.

PS: Yes, MicroSoft bought Netwise. No, I didn't make a penny off the deal. I'd quit a year before and the 22,000 to 1 reverse stock split kind of destroyed my holdings. I'm still a wage slaev.

--
Don Dugger
VA Linux Systems

A related question (1)

downix (84795) | more than 13 years ago | (#298287)

I still run PFS Write and Professional Write, long after the company stopped supporting each. The thing that I thought was what if the company is renting out software then suddenly decides it's not going to, for whatever reason? What happens to the software your business needs then?

Re:A friend of mine had this problem... (1)

Erasmus Darwin (183180) | more than 13 years ago | (#298288)

with Shareware BBS software

This is an issue that strikes near and dear to my heart. I've been trying to (legally) get my hands on the source to a number of old MBBS games, so I could run them, primarily out of nostalgia.

Unfortunately, it looks like most of the companies that did the interesting games have vanished. Even Galacticomm, the company that sold MBBS, sold it to a company called NetVillage, which is now marketing it as corporate groupware.

I've also looked into running some of the old DOS-based doors via DOSemu, but I really don't want to go through the grief of getting them up and running only to have the registration checks get returned. I have neither the time nor the expertise to crack them in the absence of a legitimate reg code.

And Data Too? (2)

stonewolf (234392) | more than 13 years ago | (#298289)

Let's take it one step farther. Let's say your company accounting software is rented as a service over the net. Everything is web based and you just pay a monthly fee to use the application. Then application provider goes out of business. You suddenly find that not only does you application stop working but, you can't change over to another application because all your billing information is "unavailable." You see, as part of the "service" they store and protect your data too.

Then you either pay up to get the data or you go out of business. You can sue the provider but they've already filled for bankruptcy.

Or, say that application is written using Curl from our friends at Curl.com. And... One sad day one of their data entry clerks makes an error and your ASP's monthly payment is credited to the wrong account. This tiny error automatically instructs the curl plug-in in browsers around the world to start refusing to let anyone access the application. Then both you and the application provider go out of business. The ASP dies because of all the suits from pissed off customers and you die because you can't bill your customers. Then Curl.com dies because you all sue them.

Well, probably not. But you get the picture. Everything is connected. Anyone stupid enough to rent software that way or to use spyware like curl gets what they deserve. You see....

Stupidity is its own reward.

StoneWolf

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