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"Kidnapped" Data

By DQuicken ·
I have a client transitioning from one software package to another due to growth. Since they will no longer need the original software within a couple of days, they have not renewed their support package with the software company. And at an annual fee of $3,000.00, I agree this would be a waste of money to resolve just one last problem. The program has been giving errors on a DLL file and has stopped working. My client called another company they knew who were also using the program and they had the same problem. They, however, will be continuing to use the software and upon renewing their support contract, the software manufacturer dialed into their system and "fixed" their problem. After searching for, and not being to find, the DLL file I tried one last option. I back-dated the date on the server and one of the workstations to last month and the program started working just fine. This proves my thought that the DLL file is ?programmed? to expire after a year. And the software company absolutely refuses to provide any support until the contract is renewed and paid for. Since there is no way to get to the data unless the $3,000 is paid, I find this tactic to be very unethical and close to being ?extortion?. While my client sees no need to pursue legal action since usage of the software will be discontinued within a couple of days, I was wondering if anyone else sees this practice as standard or ethical? Whether in a contract or not, I believe this to be an unfair practice in ANY industry. As an IT professional of 22 years and a strong believer in consumer rights, this is not something I would even contemplate doing. This is a vertical market program and, software copyright issues aside, the data belongs to the client and should not be ?held hostage? until a $3,000 annual contract is paid for. I am not going to mention the software company here, but I would never refer them to anyone.

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Need a legal opinion.

by DC_GUY In reply to "Kidnapped" Data

I'd have an attorney review the software license agreement before making a blanket statement like, "the data belongs to the client." At the very least, it can be argued that the data format is copyrighted and that the only software capable of deciphering that format belongs exclusively to the vendor once the license expires.

I have seen good software passed up in favor of something not quite as good, because the buyer's attorneys spotted language in the license agreement that gave the vendor access to the data under certain circumstances.

It is always wise to have every document, including license agreements, reviewed by an attorney before you sign it -- unless it's a word-for-word standard form that you've already had reviewed previously. I know that sounds really inconvenient, but you only have to deal with the consequence of failing to do so once, in order to make the cost and inconvenience of doing so routinely seem petty.

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What about getting your data back?

by DQuicken In reply to Need a legal opinion.

The data files are in "mdb" format, which makes them accessible via Microsoft Access. Only problem would be re-building relationships between tables and some other debugging issues. However, doing this would probably have cost more in labor than renewing the contract. Also, I agree with your point that the structure of the data files and programming thereof belong to the software company. This software had been in use for a few years before I came into the picture so I have not seen the original contract.
However, for them to not even provide the service of exporting the data to a text delimited or CSV file unless you pay the service charge is where I have a problem with this. This same company (my client) has aquired other companies in the same industry that were using a different type of vertical market program in which the programmers were kind enough to understand the obsolescence of their software (too small to handle the companies growth) and extract the data necessary to then be imported into the new software. This was done at no extra charge and no contract.

And I agree completely with your suggestion on having contracts interpreted by a lawyer or at least read in full before signing. Vertical market software is sometimes more restrictive in usage and support than other software, such as office productivity programs.

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Buyer beware!

by pgm554 In reply to What about getting your d ...

They are lucky.

In some software contracts there is a clause known as the "evergreen".

What this is ,is a clause in the contract stating that if you don't tell them in writing 90 days before the end of the contract,you are obligated to renew for another year.

I had a client that was moving to another system and figured that when their present contract for the old software expired ,they would just move on.

Not so,they had to pay for another year for software that they weren't going to use because of "evergreen".

It is now banned in some states(New York).

Your guys are lucky that they didn't have this pulled on them.

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