TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Ken Poshedly wonders: <<When I purchase a software package from a
retailer or legitimately online, I already know that am entitled to
all the bells and whistles and updates that go with it. I register
the package so the software company knows who I am and that I have
It's worth noting that the actual answer to your question depends on
the license agreement you "signed" (by clicking the "Accept" button)
when you installed the software. You did read that, didn't you? <g>
fwiw, I never bother reading the license terms either, and don't know
anyone who does. I'm sure such people exist, though.
When I used to read such things, most agreements "licensed" you to
use the software, but did their best to imply that you don't actually
own the software. Whether this would stand up in court is anyone's
guess. In the strict legal sense, of course it would: you read and
agreed to the contract. But I suspect such a contract would prove to
be unenforcable in court, because there is a huge tradition of
jurisprudence that protects the rights of purchasers of a product
(e.g., the right to transfer the lease to your car), and a good
lawyer with a sympathetic judge could overturn the contract.
Moreover, in a practical sense, no company in their right mind would
enforce the terms of their contract: they'd lose so many future sales
to competitors with more of a clue that it would be suicide.
<<But what happens if I sell or give a software package to someone
else? If I sell my legit FrameMaker 5.5 package to John Doe, what is
he entitled to? A knock on the door from the Software Police? I
assume he is not entitled to register the package, nor can he get
free tech support from the manufacturer. But that's no big deal.>>
Again, it theoretically depends on the agreement you signed. But in
practice, all of the big names I've worked with have been more than
happy to transfer licenses. (When I sell computers with software I no
longer need, I simply type up and sign a letter specifying that I've
transferred all my rights to the software as well as the original CDs
to X, and that I haven't retained any copies for myself.) Think of it
this way: if they allow the transfer, they have a good chance that
the new owner will become an ongoing source of income to the company,
and a good chance that I'll buy another copy. There's no downside.
As for the software police, they're several orders of magnitude more
clueful than (say) the Recording Industry Association of America.
They recognize that going after small-time pirates isn't worth their
time or money or the bad publicity it would create; this is why
you'll see dozens of classified ads on university bulletin boards
(online or otherwise) offering bootleg copies. The software police
are more interested in cracking down on the high-volume pirates.
Speaking as an author myself, I have considerable sympathy for this.
Programmers are humans too, rumors to the contrary notwithstanding,
and deserve to make a decent living from their intellectual property.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - --
Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)