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Product Activation: A Slippery Slope

by Tony Lovasco, President of Twisted Lincoln, Inc.

Product Activation is a particularly insidious form of "Digital Rights Management" (DRM). Product Activation (aka "Activation") requires that the user of a piece of software inform the software manufacturer of their purchase, and in doing to, links that software to their particular machine. Prior to the activation process, the software is usually crippled in some manner- it either does not function completely, or ceases to function after a set period of time.

Subscription-Based Licensing: A Tax on Both Your Houses

by Tony Lovasco, President of Twisted Lincoln, Inc.

With Product Activation and other forms of "Digital Rights Management" (DRM) becoming more and more prevalent, the rights of consumers to control how they use the products they buy are quickly eroding. While there has been no formal announcement, it is clear that many major software makers are slowly introducing the idea of subscription-based licensing into the minds of the average consumer.

The Tenth Amendment and End-User Licensing Agreements

by Tony Lovasco, President of Twisted Lincoln, Inc.

The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution reads: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

While not immediately obvious, the Tenth Amendment has some important implications. It essentially limits the powers of the United States Congress to those that are established within their Enumerated Powers (as listed in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution). All other legislative activities, at least in principle, are provided instead to the States, or to the people themselves.

Just because you're donating a PC doesn't mean you can donate the software

It is often common practice among PC enthusiasts to donate PCs and notebooks to underprivileged children, charities, etc. Sometimes it is done as an outlet for older equipment, and other times simply as a generous way to give back to the community.

While the act of donating a computer is noble, the act of pre-loading Windows without a valid license is not. Regardless of if you are charging for the PC, or simply giving it away to charity, the unauthorized distribution of unlicensed copies of software is still illegal.

Boycott a product, or use an alternative-- don't use an unauthorized copy

When one is faced with a situation where a piece of software contains oppressive technology such as Product Activation or DRM, it is tempting to simply use an unauthorized copy that does not employ such measures: a so-called "software crack."

On its face, such an act does not seem all that bad; after all, no money goes to support the software vendor that would seek to hinder your freedoms. But when one looks deeper, it becomes clear that using a cracked copy is doing more harm than good.

Always provide access to the full corresponding source code when distributing GPL licensed software.

It is often desirable to distribute free software that is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). When doing so, however, it is important to remember that while such software comes with freedom, it also comes with a certain responsibilities when it comes to distribution.

One of the fundamental protections provided by the GPL is the right to change and improve the software. In order to exercise this right, one must have access to the software's corresponding source code. Because access to the source code is so important, the GPL sets up rules regarding distribution to assure access to the source remains available.

Don't forget that the end-user of your software might be restricted by patents or legislation

Many Free Software developers wish to enhance their products by including features that are covered by patents. While it is often frustrating when popular features are protected by such laws, it is still desirable to respect potential users living in countries or regions in which such patents are recognized.

Even when a developer does not reside in a country or region that recognizes software patents (such as the United States), it is not a good idea to make patent-protected technology part of Free Software in such a manner that it is not easily identifiable and removed.

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