Resellers And Users Beware:
Big Brother Is After You
By Stephen Lawton
Resellers watch out. Big Brother is after
you, and your very livelihood could be at stake. The attack is in the
form of the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA), a nasty
proposal that Washington Watch columnist Chris Barnett discusses in depth
this issue. A key to UCITA is how it modifies an element of today's business
world that has become more of an albatross for small and midsize businesses
than a shield for software developers. That element is, of course, the
As a corporate or individual user, you don't
own the software you buy. All you usually get is the right to use it.
If a new version of the software is released and you're forced to upgrade,
what do you do with all of your old versions? Eat them! I've never heard
of Microsoft, Novell, Corel or any other company telling a user, "Sure,
we'll buy back your software. After all, you're not using it anymore."
What you do hear is, "This is the latest version. It might not be fully
compatible with the last version, but if you want it, you'll have to pay."
If UCITA passes, who will get hurt the worst?
Resellers won't be able to dispose of excess stock, and smaller integrators
won't get access to the software they need. And if the big software companies
get the right to delete unlicensed or used software from your systems
without due process, just look out. Can you spell
Recently I needed to buy an older copy
of QuarkXPress. MicroTimes uses V.3.32 because V.4 does not meet
the art director's quality standards.
Quark doesn't carry the older version. Just
because users want or need an earlier version doesn't mean the vendor
wants to sell it to them. That service is for the secondary market to
provide. I was able to find what I needed at Software & More, a hole-in-the-wall
reseller in Citrus Heights outside Sacramento. The company's shelves are
filled with copies of software for long-discontinued hardware. If it weren't
for companies like Software & More, a lot of people would be unable to
find the software they need.
My answer to this issue: Licensing is obsolete.
When users buy software, they should really buy the software and the right
to use it, just as they buy a car or book. A software publisher can still
protect its intellectual property. But users should be able to sell, trade
or otherwise dispose of software freely and without fear of the software
police zapping programs on their hard disk or searching their disk without
Resellers and OEMs should be allowed to
buy and sell software as they do any commodity, such as memory. And in
return, users will still be addicted to buying new versions of software.
It's time for software vendors to open their eyes to the '90s and free-market
economics before the '90s pass them by.