back to article Terix boss thrown in the cooler for TWO years for peddling pirated Oracle firmware, code patches

A California bloke who operated an unlicensed Oracle support company has been sentenced to 24 months in prison. Bernd Appleby, former CEO of Terix, an IT support company, was sent down after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He will also serve two years of supervised release. Appleby's co- …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered Am I

    Off subject: Is there no one at Oracle that can open their mouth without immediately establishing their identity as an utter asshole?

    1. Tim99 Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered Am I

      Starts from the top? One Real Asshole Called Larry Ellison, allegedly.

      1. TheVogon Silver badge

        Re: Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered Am I

        "Starts from the top?'

        Customers are number 6.

  2. llaryllama

    How is this even legal?

    I don't get how this kind of behaviour by oracle is legal in a democratic, civilized society. Each time they win this kind of lawsuit it only serves to embolden them to take continually more aggressive action.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: How is this even legal?

      Best democracy and best legal system money can buy.

      The money has bought the relevant laws. From there on it is simply a matter of it being applied.

      Oracle is not alone here, everyone does it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How is this even legal?

      downloading patches and firmware updates for Solaris from a customer support site, and then charging companies to install and maintain the patches, costing Oracle millions in lost licensing revenue.

      So they downloaded patches, for which they would have had to have their own contract, and then resold them to their customers? Why would that not be illegal? The guy was jailed for wire fraud, not for some obscure copyright or IP infringement.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How is this even legal?

      I don't get how this kind of behaviour by oracle is legal in a democratic, civilized society.

      In the case of EULAs between large tech companies and private individuals, where there is vast asymmetry of knowledge and power, you would have a point. In the case of Oracle, much as a I loathe the company and Ellison, we are talking about contractual agreements between one big company and a range of medium and large customer businesses,

      The customer businesses signed up for Oracle products after reading the contract, after taking legal, technical and financial advice. If they don't like paying the Oracle tax for using Oracle's systems or the "right" of Oracle to vary the conditions as and whenever it sees fit (and likewise the similar terms of competitors) then they could and should use FOSS, or more likely homebrew systems that they own the IP of. Many of the companies using the products of Oracle, SAP, Infor et al are NOTHING without a fully functioning ERP and CRM - if they chose to expensively outsource the IP of those business critical systems to large and untrustworthy IT houses, including control of the terms and costs of all continuing support, they can't really complain.

    4. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

      Re: How is this even legal?

      America scares the fucking shit out of me.

  3. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Devil

    Well done, well done

    What I'm reading here is that Oracle uses a reverse warranty where the customer pays the manufacturer for defects and repairs... and customers are OK with that.

    1. SVV Silver badge

      Re: Well done, well done

      That's called a "support contract", not a reverse warranty. See also : Every other big vendor of software and hardware beloved of big businesses. It's the way to keep the money rolling in forever and those buying it generally pay up without too much thought, as it gives them "peace of mind" and is a small cost in the general scheme of things. Having worked in many big places where this support was bought, it's actually quite nice to have available to you, as some problems then become the vendor's problem, not yours.

      However, the fact these people have been sent to prison for providing 3rd party support is crazy. At the most it should have been a big fine Legalised vendor lockins are an unfortunate fact of life in big IT, but surely civil law rather than criminal law is the only appropriate way to pursue such cases of contract terms being broken?

    2. Schultz Silver badge

      Re: Well done, well done

      It is unclear to me why the support company requires the licence. If the customers had properly licensed oracle software running, would they not have a right to download and apply the patches? The support company may then take over the hassle of performing the patching but actually never runs the oracle software on its own computers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Well done, well done

        If the customers had properly licensed oracle software running, would they not have a right to download and apply the patches

        As always "it depends". Some Oracle software, like compilers IIRC, can be downloaded free for use, but to get patches you need to be a paying customer with a support contract. If you take out such a contract, download the patches, and then sell them on to your customers, you'll be in trouble.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Well done, well done

        "If the customers had properly licensed oracle software running"

        That right there is the problem: the customers *did not* have properly licensed software. Terix was telling its customers that it could obtain patches for them (using its own support contract) even though their support had expired, falsely telling them that their support was "perpetual", even though the customer could no longer download the patches for themselves.

        The thing about customers having "valid logins" is a deliberate misdirect by Terix. Anybody can get a valid login (heck, I have one); but once logged in you can still only download the software you're paying support for.

  4. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Remind me never to do any deals with Oracle then.

    1. iRadiate

      I wish I could but you're anonymous :)

  5. Velv Silver badge
    Mushroom

    who operated an unlicensed Oracle support company

    Why does this make me think of Ghostbusters and their unlicensed nuclear accelerators...

  6. mark l 2 Silver badge

    So if you create a support company supporting Oracle systems you can't download patches from Oracles website without a license from Oracle even if your clients have a login?

    From reading the earlier article it appeared all of Terix clients had their own Oracle logins but in the Oracle T&Cs it says:

    “While a customer may engage a third party – instead of Oracle – to provide support services on Oracle hardware, neither the third party nor the customer can access Oracle’s support web site to support that hardware."

    Therefore it pretty much makes it impossible to offer support without paying Oracle for the privilege. How is this even legal? I could understand if they were passing themselves off as being affiliated or official licensed but from reading the article it doesn't appear that was the case.

    So even accepting they were breaking the law, how does it deserve 24 months in prison locked up with muggers and murders for downloading some firmware that the clients had access to anyway.

    Reminds me of the case a few months ago where the support guy who re-installed Windows on PCs got nicked for giving his customers a copy of Windows on DVD to go with their official licensed Windows computer, and was arrested because he had burned a DVD rather than just letting people go to Dell's support site where they could download the same thing for free.

    1. Loud Speaker

      Racketeering

      How is this even legal?<p>

      Racketeering is legal in America, apparently.

    2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      It is entirely legal to offer support without paying Oracle for the privilege, but doing so is pointless. Without a customer with a support contract with Oracle it's illegal to distribute any product updates to the customer, which basically means your support is based on your own experience and possibly the Oracle knowledge base, if there's no contract terms against that.

      The customers had 'a login' but not a login authorised to download patches.

      Without the ability to log support calls direct with Oracle or to provide product updates, a support contract is fairly useless.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wait...

    People still pay Redhat and Oracle for things?

    Why?

    Can some explain what their "killer app" is?

    Or are they a "nobody ever got fired for recommending IBM" style setup?

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Wait...

      An Oracle database can still be the best choice in a few rare cases.

      But in my opinion, in 99% of Oracle databases deployments, the support overhead and expense are not necessary.

    2. JakeMS

      Re: Wait...

      I can't comment for Oracle as I've never used them.

      However, Redhat support is decent, if you have their support subscription they are usually more than happy to help and will hold your hand through any issues you may have and offer as much help as you need to get something done.

      If there's one thing Redhat does right, it's support.

  8. MonkeyCee Silver badge

    You don't hire the Mafia

    If you get the mafia to help you out, it's not just a loan. They own you, you now work for them. Your business now only exists to pay them protection money. See Goodfella's for terms and conditions of the vig,

    Oracle works on the exact same system, although without the physical violence. Same legal tricks and niceties. Once your business is running on Sun kit, it's now Larry's business.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You don't hire the Mafia

      Now the guy's got Larry as a partner. Any problems, he goes to Larry. Trouble with the table join? He can go to Larry. Trouble with the data cops, query deliveries, Nadella, he can call Larry. But now the guy's gotta come up with Larry's money every week, no matter what. Queries timing out? "Fuck you, pay me." Oh, your "unbreakable Linux" had a break-in? "Fuck you, pay me." Shards got hit by lightning, huh? "Fuck you, pay me." Also, Larry could do anything. Especially change the licensing terms to per-core or double the support contract rate. And why not? You ain't getting supported any other how. And as soon as the terms are changed, you start calling bug fixes implementation requests. You take two hundred dead replicas and you write it up as a support request. It doesn't matter. It's all profit. And then finally, when there's nothing left, when you can't borrow another buck from the bank or replace the CPU, you bust the joint out. You install PostgreSQL.

      1. MyffyW Silver badge

        Re: You don't hire the Mafia

        @Mongo - you're a funny guy ....

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bankers, no jail for you...

    Techies, off to the slammer...

    Got it!

  10. werdsmith Silver badge

    Telephone call out out of the blue from Oracle :

    Voice says "Hi we are conducting a survey to see how our customers are using our products, to help improve our services, have you got time for a quick chat?"

    I hear "Hi, what Oracle products are you using? I want to compare your answer to our client licence database so we can try and send you another big invoice."

    I am so pleased that our last Oracle products will be gone in 3 months. Never again.

  11. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    Oracle is a pain to deal with. As were Sun, even before they were owned by Oracle.

    When I first started, we made fairly extensive use of Sparcstations for various functions. One had a CD drive fail. On first inspection, it appeared to be a standard SCSI 2 speed CDRom.

    Nope.. The hardware was a standard SCSI CD Rom, which should have cost about 100 pounds (being generous). The firmware was custom written, and Sun want around 600 pounds to replace the drive.

    1. Rusty 1

      Ah yes, the different block size that Sun used on their CD ROM drives.

  12. HmmmYes

    Hmm, some of my thoughts on this.

    Id have thought license infringement was more a civil case ie fines than criminal i.e shagged up ass by BigBob.

    I think i well avoid Oracle. Ive waded thru their licenses. And tgey are opaque.

    Will the court be willing to jail all those CEOs who dont provide the support and services? Ginni esp.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Because this was fraud. The company charged customers money, for support that they could not legally provide, ergo fraud.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How to turn a civil lawsuit into a felony

    I'm no fan of Oralce, but a lot of people here seem very confused about the facts. Making and selling unlicensed copies of Oracle's IP is a civil offense, sure. Unfortunately, it's also fraud against the customer for taking their money for something they don't have the right to sell (despite what a lot of commentards seem to think).

    And the thing is, once you commit fraud it's a small step to wire fraud, if you use any telecommunications equipment to commit the fraud, and that is a felony.

    Oh, and there's also the bit where the Terix bosses tried to move assets to a shell company and carry on business to avoid paying the civil fine. And the bit where they destroyed evidence of their downloading practices. Those are the kind of things that will very quickly have the feds asking whether there is something more they can charge them with than just IP violations.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lesser of two weasels

    Oracle is a horrible company, but that doesn't mean Terix is in the right here.

    Terix were not just helping customers obtain the patches and fixes they were legitimately entitled to. They were providing continuing updates to customers whose Oracle *SUPPORT HAD EXPIRED*. And they have deliberately (and successfully, it seems) confused observers with their talk of "valid logins".

    In fact, Terix was using its own support contract to obtain the fixes, and it was then distributing those fixes to its own clients, who were not entitled to them. And it was defrauding those clients by assuring them this was legal because they have a "login" to the website, and/or because that's the way Sun used to do it. And of course, just because somebody has a login to the patch download site, that doesn't mean they have a right to download everything on site, support contract or no!

    In other words, Terix is just like that bloke we all know who has a nice little business selling cheap PCs with Windows installed, when in fact he bought one copy of Windows and installs the same license on every machine he sells...

  15. GrapeBunch

    ......................... The Humanity

    IN CASE OF

    SOCIETAL COLLAPSE

    BREAK MIRROR

    So when family friends have computer problems, the particular EULA will say whether I will go to jail for helping them.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    PS I live in a different country. However, national boundaries are to protect and enrich large corporations, not for the good of mere fleshly beings unprotected by eternal aegis.

    Coming soon to a Universe not so far far away ...

    Sorry, Aunt Hermione, I am not allowed to touch your computer. Only a licensed mcse may do that. That's the advert that goes: "Put some McSizzle in your life." What was that? Fanciful? You know you can't say that, Auntie, it's a registered trademark of that continental agribiz. No, for the record, "Put some McSizzle in your life" is not fanciful. It is exactly what it says on the tin. Fix your computer? Quickly? Well, you should count on a couple of days' work to assess what the problem is. After that, it's really the druck of the law. Yes I love you too, but I don't even want to know how to spell the name of that place. Thanks for calling.

  16. GrapeBunch

    Moderate, as ever.

    "Thanks for your post. Our moderators will get to it as soon as possible."

    I've made a lot of posts here, and a lot of them have been bol^H^H^H^H intentionally humourous. But I don't remember receiving that message before. Is it because I used the acronym for a collectivity often reviled? Or a segment of all caps to mimic the message on a fire alarm?

    What I really wanted to know was how to insert a line break (not a paragraph break) in text. <br> and its variants don't work here. And to centre / center a snippet of text on a line. For the sake of Art, as always.

  17. Milton Silver badge

    The heart of the problem ...

    As several posters who did take the trouble to understand the facts have pointed out, Oracle are, for once, clearly in the right, legally. The defendants were selling a product that was not theirs to sell, trousering cash that would otherwise have gone to Oracle. They were not, as some posters have concluded with an unwarranted jump, simply providing alternative support for Oracle products.

    The heart of the problem, though, is that Oracle has a somewhat similar position and stranglehold that Microsoft does. By no objective measure does either company provide a product that is best of breed. There are better, more secure, more robust, more efficient OSs than Windows—especially now that Win10 has many of the behaviours we previously associated with malware—and an abundance of productivity software that represents vastly better value for money. Oracle was briefly the go-to RDBMS product, with genuine advantages for the enterprises of the late 80s and 90s, but rapidly fell behind the wave of superior rivals in terms of efficiency, bloat, cost and infrastructural impedimenta. Both companies have splurged on acquisitions, often anti-competitively, Oracle in particular going on to claim "integrated suites" of this is that fashionable TLA which were, in truth, clumsy bodges of poorly glued-together, heavily-marketed dross.

    But as was once said of IBM, nobody gets sacked for buying {enter big name here}, so there are tens of thousands of businesses out there paying absurd sums for licences for OS, productivity apps, database and integrated TLA suites which, taken together, deliver pitifully little for the money spent. If you wonder at people paying for MS Word or Excel, who don't even understand 90% of the supposed functionality, using maybe 5% of what's available, do not imagine the equation is any better for companies burdened by the colossal footprint of Oracle.

    What MS and Oracle both became very good at—beyond the quotidian business of marketing shit to lazy, uncomprehending idiots, never much of a challenge in the Anglo-Saxon corporate universe—was insinuating their products in ways that would make them very hard, and expensive, to replace. Just as with outsourcing, there are now tens of thousands of businesses which exist primarily as cattle: hosts to be feasted upon and drained by the relentessly munching parasites of MS and Oracle.

    It's interesting to consider that the sheer power of modern software, and the kit it runs on, should make it easier than ever before for a business to shift its dependence from those vultures onto FOSS systems. Integration—which is always the biggest hurdle—ought to be easier to achieve now than it ever was. The prospect of finding yourself, in a couple of years' time, paying a quarter as much for something faster, more secure and reliable, should be driving businesses to really exploit the power of modern computing, even "cloud". (Even MS has had to offer *x systems on its "cloud", FFS. Talk about naked, shit-eating humiliation.)

    But I don't see the stampede I'd expected, and I wonder why ...

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