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Wednesday, June 16 12:00 AM ET

Y2K Software Fix Licenses Expiring

By Dave Oatley

Santa Clara, CA - The end of the 1900s saw a flurry of activity in all technology sectors as the industry scrambled to ensure its systems were Y2K compliant. The work paid off, shown by the smooth transition for nearly all systems as they crossed the 1999-2000 boundary. The companies providing Y2K fixes reaped a great bounty during that time, but once the transition was complete, those companies found they had little to offer. Except one small consultancy -- Ray's Plumbing and Y2K Compliance Company -- that had the foresight to sell its Y2K fixes under a EULA, or End User License Agreement.

"I didn't install it for anybody unless they broke the shrink wrap themselves," explained Ray, "So they've got no excuse now for not knowing that the license was only for a limited time." A review of the license agreement -- implicitly agreed to by breaking the shrink wrap -- shows that the software contained therein was licensed for four years. "I've sent a reminder to my clients that they need to upgrade to our latest Y2K product before we retire the previous versions and they stop working."

One of Ray's customers, Silicon Valley Bank, has filed suit to prevent the software from being disabled. "It's clearly fraudulent. When other companies were offering 'Y2K fixes' which were simply changes to existing software, Ray came along offering what he would claim was the same thing, but for a lot less," said SVB Comptroller Andy Graw, "He never said a word about retiring the software or any sort of time limit." Graw admitted that he did not read the license agreement. "Nobody reads those things, they can't be taken seriously."

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"The agreement is full of contradictions and is unable to withstand legal scrutiny," explained Ezra Latwey, SVB's attorney in the case, "Ray will find his prowess with a plunger and skills with shrink wrap will not translate into command of the court room."

Despite threats by other customers to form a class-action suit against Ray, he is going ahead with plans to disable the software at midnight, December 31st, 2004. "Most of them installed mid-1999, but I figure I can cut 'em a little slack. Hey, they're my customers. I've even unclogged SVB's toilets a time or two." The software can be renewed for another four years for twenty percent of the original installation cost. If the license is purchased before August 1st, 2004, Ray said, a five percent discount will apply.

Story used with permission from our fine friends at The Bentinel.

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