Which just goes to show
You can account for good will, in your books, but you can have no realistic expectation of good will, in law.
Oracle has been handed a partial victory in its IP violation case against software support provider Rimini Street. A US court hearing Oracle's case has issued a summary judgment saying that in two of the four incidents cited by Oracle, Rimini was in the wrong. Oracle claimed to have identified illegal copies of its software …
It sounds like these guys were just taking advantage of Oracle's very liberal _access_ to their software, but not paying for the _support contracts_ that need to go along with it.
In my experience, Oracle and CA have the most open access to their software. If you have any sort of support contract, for any product, you can download the major point releases of any other product. So if anyone has a burning desire to run an instance of PeopleSoft in their basement, they can do it as long as they're not making money off of it or benefiting from it at all. You need support contracts to access the (usually required) patches, fixes, and documentation corrections to get anything working.
The problems come when you actually need to use the software in production. If you aren't 100% licensed, and need help, you're in trouble. Oracle and CA's software almost always needs an army of "professional services" folks to get things tuned properly because the documentation is so awful. These guys will do the work, but they'll also scan your environment and see what isn't licensed properly. It's one thing if you're a company and, oops, you installed Oracle Enterprise Edition when you only paid for Standard Edition, but when you're reselling access to unlicensed software, I guess you wind up in court like these guys did.
With all the IP cases going around about hardware vendors locking up access to firmware, software companies denying patches without support contracts, etc. it will be interesting to see whether cases like this one will keep popping up. Other enterprisey vendors like SAP totally lock everything down now -- so I wonder if Oracle and the like will follow suit.
My conversation with an Oracle customer support representative several years ago about Oracle DBMS led me to conclude that they were happy to have the product downloaded and used for development on a single user machine but that anything beyond that would require purchase of some kind of license. Exploration of the meaning of "beyond that" yielded up that they would consider the following to be violations:
- installing and running the software for any purpose other than application and database development;
- running it for any purpose on a machine that would allow more than one concurrent user.
The context was that we would have liked to put it on a surplus HP 9000 for some skunkworks like development involving three or four developers; the answer was that they would expect about $30K to purchase and $10K annually for maintenance. We chose a different approach to the problem.
Peoplesoft licensing might differ but, knowing Oracle, I doubt it would be advantageous to users.
The issue isn't a question of 'free use' of a commercial product for personal use, but that Rimini Street was selling 3rd party support to customers.
So if a customer was running Oracle 11i and the system is stable and the customer doesn't want to pay Oracle, which would probably force them to upgrade to a supported release, the company could contract with Rimini Street.
What makes this more interesting is that the founder of Rimini Street was also founder of a previous company which Oracle had sued and won for doing essentially the same thing.
Rimini Street also filed for an IPO.... That's one company that is sure to get shorted in to non-existence.
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I know some people at Rimini Street, and I was wondering if what the status of this lawsuit was. I knew that Rimini Street was offering 3rd party maintenance, but I didn't know that they were copying Oracle licenses in the process. Given that, I can see why Oracle took them to court. I am skeptical that Rimini can redvise their business processes to avoid this reliance on copied licenses.
A shame too, because maintenance for various Oracle products is famously (or infamously) expensive, and sucks up a lot of IT budget. So an alternative that can lawfully provide adequate support to price-conscious Oracle customers would be useful.
Well, someone's gotta pay for Larry's yachts...
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