world of 'free'
software can be confusing, but if you try it and like it, do the right
by Alan Zisman (c) 1995 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue #308 September 19, 1995 High Tech Office
an Internet e-mail address for this column, readers have plenty of
opportunity to agree, disagree, or ask questions about anything that
appears here. I promise to read, and will try to respond.
weeks ago, a column
about free software (The best tools for the Internet are often
free, and well worth a try, Aug. 29--Sept. 4) brought this response
from a reader who has asked to remain anonymous.
your recent column on commercial use of freeware and shareware. I
currently use a local Internet access-provider, for both personal
and business uses, the latter primarily for e-mail. My concern with
the shareware is the agreement that I accepted when loading the
onto my PC at work, which states that the programs are for evaluation
purposes only, and should be purchased if commercial use is intended.
with me using the 'evaluation' software indefinitely for e-mail
from a corporate office? The account is in my personal name, but I
wish to include the e-mail address on my business cards, as I find
it an efficient way to communicate informally with my clients."
isn't alone in being confused--there's a lot of fuzziness about
that's distributed outside normal commercial channels, and the rights
and obligations of the user.
software has been released into the public domain, meaning the author
has given up any rights or responsibilities for it. Users can run
it, copy it freely, even try to rewrite it and alter it--all without
any cost or obligation. This is somewhat different from another
of free software, so-called freeware. In these cases, the author
copyright, but allows free use--including copying and distribution--of
the software. A subtle, but real distinction.
confusing to many
people, however, is shareware. As our correspondent mentions, he
a number of programs, in his case from his Internet service-provider,
that said that he could freely evaluate them. After a reasonable
period (sometimes clearly indicated, and at other times left to the
user's discretion), a user is expected to register the software in
order to continue to use it. If the software is not registered, the
user is as guilty of software piracy as someone with an illegally
copied version of WordPerfect.
confusion is natural.
Consider this example: an unnamed Internet provider sells a disk of
Internet utilities for $25, offering features similar to those found
on commercial products costing $200-500. It includes Trumpet Winsock,
a program allowing Windows users to connect to the Internet using
a modem. This turns out to be shareware, with a $25 registration fee.
There's Eudora mailreader, a free version of a more elaborate
Navigator, a World Wide Web browser which I incorrectly mentioned
as a free product. In fact, after an evaluation period, Netscape is
now requiring a US$32 registration (although this is waived for
teachers, and educational and non-profit organizations).
that you may
have paid to acquire the disk with these programs does not change
the registration requirement. Similarly, you can now purchase floppy
disks with shareware games and productivity programs in outlets ranging
from Future Shop to some supermarkets, at prices between $5
and $10. Again, while you have bought the disk, you haven't bought
the software: you still have the obligation to register the program for
with not registering shareware--just as many people get away with
other forms of software piracy. But registered users get benefits
such as technical support and cheap (or, in some cases, free) upgrades,
often along with fancier printed documentation.
fun) shareware products are created by people who write shareware
for a living: if they don't get enough registrations, they'll move
on to more lucrative occupations, and soon, the shareware channel
will dry up.
have found that they could get enough return through shareware to
make a reasonable living, although the most successful, in many cases,
move to more traditional forms of commercial distribution as soon
seems to have acquired more than its share of successful shareware
programs: the well-respected ProComm and QModem programs for PCs began
as shareware, as did Red Ryder and White Knight, among others, for
the Mac. And we shouldn't forget the recent wave of gory games, such
as the wildly successful Doom--again, a shareware startup that
evolved into the commercially distributed Doom 2.
So freely try
you probably won't replace your office's word processor, but you may
find a number of useful and entertaining specialty programs. Then
do the right thing, and register the ones that you want to continue