Trial(Demo) Version software - commercial software which is licensed on
a trial basis for a certain number of days. Typically many features from
the retail software are missing in the demo.
Shareware - "try before
you buy" software. There is typically unrestricted usage for a certain
number of days (typically 30) after which payment to the author is required
to continue using the software. Typically has all the same features available
before and after registration.
Freeware - Software which
can be freely copied, used, and distributed without cost. However, it may
not be resold or relabelled.
- Software with no copyright restrictions at all. It may be copied, used,
distributed, even resold, relabelled, and incorporated into other programs
without cost or consent of the author.
Why do I never hear about cyberlicense abuse?
Specific cases of cyberlicense abuse are very hard to come by. Since
many shareware and freeware programs are written by individuals rather
than corporations, it would be near impossible for one person to track
down and police violations of the license agreement. Prior to the growth
of the internet, keeping track of your software was more feasible. Now,
your program can be on the other side of the globe within minutes of posting
it on the Internet.
Even corporations who write shareware are doing little to stop the abuse
of cyberlicenses. Many times shareware makes for only a small fraction
of a company's income. It's simply not worth the effort to pursue lawsuits
when people are found abusing cyberlicenses.
Of course, this mentality only serves to propagate the idea that shareware
means "free software". The number of unreported cases of cyberlicense abuse
far outnumbers the reported cases. It's simply impossible to keep track
of everything that goes on with your software.
What's being done about the problem?
By far, the most common safety measure is being taken by the programmers
themselves. Many have resorted to distributing severely limited versions
of their shareware and not allowing anyone to even demo the full version
without paying the registration fees. This is lovingly referred to as "crippleware"
by some people.
Even more common than crippling is creating "nagware". Nagware is not
limited in any way from the full version software. However, it will repeatedly
nag you in some form or another until you register. Some programs nag from
the moment you download. Some only nag after your trial period is up. Some
pop up a dialog and you can just press "Register Later" and it will go
away. Others take control of your computer and won't let you do any work
for a certain specified period of time.
Some programmers have gone so far as to booby trap their internet shareware
programs. For example, someone may write an internet chat program which
will send the programmer information about you and your computer if you
haven't registered his software after a specified time. This is a very
There are many ways of "nagging" the consumer to pay the registration
fees. Of course, this is to be expected. Shareware programmers typically
get no compensation for their work except through registration. Who wouldn't
want to get paid? Even if you have to twist a few arms to get it.
Unfortunately, these "nag" tactics tend to work. This means that more
and more programmers add "nag" features to their programs. There are, of
course, ethical considerations here. How much is "too much" nagging? Will
this eventually lead to the shareware business dying because nobody wants
to download nagware anymore? Do the benefits to the programmers outweigh
the inconveniences to the consumer.
People who abuse the system, any system, always make it harder for the
people who are going about life and doing things the way they were intended
to be done. The world of cyberlicensing is no exception. As long as there
people who abuse their licenses, they will continue to hurt the honest
consumer. Unfortunately, this trend does not appear to be changing anytime
Explicit vs. Default
One of the main differences you will see in various online license
agreements is the way in which they are accessed. Some websites require
you to explicitly agree to their terms and conditions before using their
services, or downloading their products. Others
provide a link to the terms/agreement at the bottom of the page, and state
that by using the page, you are agreeing to the terms.
Which is better?
Is the first approach enforceable?
Is the second?
Is this similar to the opt-in vs. opt-out issue, where end users must
take action to find out what they are agreeing to?
In order to enforce some agreements online, some companies will record
information about the transaction, such as IP address, hostname, etc.
How much weight should evidence like this be given when considering
disputes about online agreements/licenses?
Once the transaction is completed, should the information be retained?
Should the consumer be told that the information will be recorded prior
to entering the license agreement?
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