From Visual Developer Magazine #53, January/February 1999


If U Cn Rd Ths...



A 2010 decryption robot might be able to process a million messages or more per hour, and multigigabit fiber networks could transmit a million or more such messages per second.

Dear UCITA Supporter:

Well, it looks like you got everything you asked for. Amazing the laws a little money (or a lot) will buy! Now it's fair enough to ponder how this is going to change the software industry. We can only hope it's for the good.

The whole thing was about piracy, right? Every illegal copy of an application in use is lost revenue, of course. We all know that. And if all those illegal copies were discovered, the pirates would pony up, natch—and your lawyers can certainly squeeze additional money out of the flusher ones in terms of fines. Just solicit their employees to rat on them—works every time, as many decades of legal and government work have proven.

In fact, I'll bet you could expand revenues further by quietly hinting to employees that installing an illegal copy of a software package on a company machine (carefully, so that IS doesn't notice) and then ratting on the company could get them a slice of the fine. Ask your lawyers—they've been perfecting tactics like that for years.

Of course, keep in mind that what you've done is made software ownership dangerous. You have to be prepared for some pro-active companies to drop licensed software (nobody but you can own software anymore, forgot) in favor of open source and other free software. You may see larger companies begin to adapt and expand open source products for in-house use. You might even find that some companies will put sharp young programmers in a cube with Visual Basic or Delphi and have them knock out workalikes to many of your products in a weekend. They don't have to replicate the whole feature set—much of which isn't used anyway. They just have to replicate the features that people actually need.

Doubtless some intransigent customers will simply refuse to upgrade, once they understand that "buying" an upgrade under UCITA might give them less than they used to get for their money—like, um, nothing. I'm sure you took that into account. It's new business that matters anyway, right?

And that problem won't exist in the future, due to that stroke of brilliance, the coup de gras: You can now legally embed back-door controls into your products that allow you to reach in through their own networks and turn your software off. No longer can users coast for years on Version 1, even though you're up to Version 5. If you decide to pull Version 1 off the market, it's really off the market. You just have to flip the switch, and they upgrade or go hungry. Ka-ching!

Don't shuffle your feet and say you'd never do that. Why not? It's legal! You fought for the right and now everybody knows you have it! Everybody assumes you're going to do it!

Just maybe be a little careful of all those merry pranksters who might wish to build back doors into your software even if you don't. Wouldn't it be a riot if some virus writer wrote a virus that attaches to your flagship product and on June 1, 2000 popped up a message box reading, "According to the provisions of UCITA 1999, we are removing this obsolete version of SurlyOffice from the market. Upgrade now to Version 6 for only $299.99! Just call 1-800-BE-SURLY and have your credit card ready! This copy of SurlyOffice is now disabled and will be removed from your system automatically…"

Gosh! Wouldn't you just laugh for days? No? Gee, I would!

And I'm sure you've hired extra legal staff to sort out any possible …um… misunderstandings over who might have disabled all your software. I'm sure all those customers will be too busy laughing at the joke to think for even a moment that you had anything to do with it. Where would they ever get that idea?

Like I said, congratulations! Of course, it's now a little too late to be careful what you ask for, because…you got it!

Have fun!