Mon, 11 Aug 2003 21:08:44 GMT

You Don't Own What You've Bought. Just a sad reminder that, thanks to ridiculous software licensing practices, if you buy used equipment on eBay, you might not be able to use it. In fact, if it's from some companies like Cisco, you might want to make sure you hide it from anyone who works there. People who have bought used equipment, and then had the original company find out about it are discovering that the company is saying their software license is not valid and they need to buy a new one – even though the equipment was already paid for by the original owner. Apparently “owner” is the wrong word, because these companies are basically saying you never actually own what you've bought. This is nothing new, of course, but the stories included in the article demonstrate just how ridiculous this practice is. Buy a data storage system for $4,000, and then have the company tell you you need to pay $15,000 if you actually want to use it? Have a Cisco rep spot a router you bought on eBay and have them demanding relicensing fees and an “inspection”? Thanks to bizarre intellectual property rules, you no longer own what you buy.

Apparently, owning something is an Industrial Age pint of view. In the Information age, we only get to lease something, even if we have possession of a physical object. What happens if the company goes belly up? Well, someone still holds the rights and can keep anyone else at bay. This is one problem of copyrights in the digital age. Incremental value can never be added because of the often stringent licensing agreements made, usually by lawyers who have no clue to the real worth of something. [A Man with a Ph.D. – Richard Gayle's Weblog]

This is why GNU exists… You own you nothing, you license everything, well software-wise most of the time. If you write software you could own it, but in all likelihood you do not because you were working for someone else and they own a part.