Borland users mixed on anti-piracy clauses

Users of Borland products are mixed in their reaction to clauses in the company's software licences giving it the right to enter customer premises to check for pirated software.

Users of Borland products are mixed in their reaction to clauses in the company’s software licences giving it the right to enter customer premises to check for pirated software.

For the past three years the licences for JBuilder and Kylix have included clauses giving Borland the right to enter the customer’s premises and access their records and computer systems to verify that the customer has paid the correct amount under the licence. Another clause takes away the customer’s right to a jury trial in legal action and then goes on to rule out class actions in any dispute with Borland.

In January Borland boss Dale Fuller responded to widespread criticism through an open letter, saying the offensive wording was mistakenly inserted into individual user licences. “This language is industry-standard boilerplate for enterprise licences, but it should not have been included in individual products’ licences.”

Borland says it has only ever acted on the clause once worldwide and that customer was found to be substantially under-licensed.

IT law specialist and Computerworld columnist Craig Horrocks describes the clauses, even if restricted to enterprise users, as unjustifiable.

Reaction from enterprise licence holders in New Zealand is mixed. Financials suite developer exo-net 6 is built using Borland tools. Exo-net 6 chief software architect Kieron Lawson read about the clause on www.slashdot.com but wasn’t aware of it beforehand.

“I think it’s a bit of a sly thing to sneak in. It’s not something I would be happy about purchasing if they had put it up front.”

Lawson would prefer vendors trusted their users. “At the end of the day, they have to trust their customers to own the number of licences they’re using. I know we certainly do.

“They also have to recognise that a lot of their customers have been very loyal to Borland for a long time. That loyalty needs to be returned in the form of trust.”

Datasquirt technical director Mark Loveys says he is generally supportive of anything that holds down the price of software. “I think that following up on software piracy does that. Borland enterprise agreements let you write fairly large-scale systems [and] always brings new technology reliably and well in advance.”

Bank Link technical director Steve Agnew isn’t concerned with the clause. The development shop sells software for a living so understands that vendors need to protect their intellectual property. He says he didn’t bother to read the licence on the box.

Meanwhile, as noted previously in Computerworld, Network Associates is in legal hot water over language pinned to most of the its software diskettes demanding that no benchmarking or public reviews be done without its permission.

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