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Last post Author Topic: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"  (Read 9320 times)

superboyac

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The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« on: October 07, 2011, 04:16:33 PM »
This lifetime license issue keeps coming up occasionally for our favorite software.  The most recent one I ran into is from DOpus.  Read this:
Quote
When you buy Directory Opus you get a lifetime licence to use the current major version (e.g. 'Directory Opus 10'). All updates released for the same major version are yours for free and you can keep using them forever.
...
So, buying Opus gives you a lifetime licence and (typically) a lot of free updates over a long period of time, but it does not entitle you to free updates forever.

The same has been raised for Roboform, Ad Muncher (just off the top of my head).  Anyway, when you read that, the TONE of the text and the conversation sounds like there is a confusion between what people understand to be a lifetime license vs. a lifetime of updates AND upgrades, all versions no matter what.  Basically, you pay one time for a software and you get everything that company makes from that point on until the end of one of your lives.

To me, this is not that confusing, nor is it the point of any issues or disagreements arising due to this.  However, lots of highly charged arguments and debates usually follow when this issue comes up.  It usually happens when a developer realizes that a lifetime of upgrades is an impossible business strategy and has to change the policy, then people start complaining (justifiably) that the developer can't just change the policy like that since that's the whole point of the term lifetime!!

So let me carefully point out the psychology behind it all, which nobody ever seems to mention.  Instead, the debates circle around the definitions of the terms, and they completely avoid the heart of the matter.

The problem is this:
The developers pretend (i.e. play dumb) that what they meant by using the term "lifetime" in whatever context is limited to some sort of restrictions.  But there's no real good way around it, not even with all the legal jargon and cleverly constructed arguments.  The reason why is because the whole concept is contained in the definition of the word "lifetime".  You can't wiggle out of that word...lifetime is lifetime, no matter how you slice or dice it.  The only end to lifetime is death.

So the developers usually resort to the tactic of saying lifetime only meant the lifetime of the currently numbered majored version (the lifetime of v9.x is distinct from the lifetime of v10.x)  Of course, users will want lifetime to mean any version (vX.X).  But nobody says that.  They just go back and forth about the definitions.

Also, the developers will NEVER admit that they have to change their policy due to finances.  They also won't admit that, yes, they are breaking a promise (if they did indeed offer lifetime licenses before).  So if you don't admit those two things, any explanation they give to their customers is a clever little tap dance around the issue while still trying to be "nice" and polite.

The absolute funniest part is when they start bragging about the fact that they offer lifetime upgrades for the current version.  Like DOpus' explanation (I'm not picking on them, by the way, I love DOpus):
Quote
All updates released for the same major version are yours for free and you can keep using them forever
They say it as if when the customer hears this, the customer will react like:
"Oh My GOD!!  No way!!  That is sooo awesome!  I get to use the software that I bought forever?!  Holy crap!  What a great, unqique thing!"

And I'm always wondering, what the freak is the big freaking deal??  Who gives a flying sink?  Who in the world would buy a software where the currently installed version would stop working after any given amount of time??  That doesn't make any sense?!  There is no software like that!  And if there was, it's an insane person who would buy it, unless they had to for some reason.  So this is not a feature worth bragging about, or even mentioning as a freaking feature!  It's like bragging that a windows software has the 3 buttons in the upper-right corner for close/minimize/maximize.  It's not even worth mentioning.

So when it is mentioned, it is either a deliberate attempt to distract the customer in the argument, OR the developer is clueless.  And most developers are not clueless, and it's an intentional clever tactic.

I don't know why I just went off on that.  I've seen the exact same thing develop about 3-4 times now, so I was festering a little bit.  Again, I'm not taking sides here.  The customer's complaint is justified, and so is the developer's need to change a ridiculous policy like lifetime anything.  Just listening to the debate is interesting because they go on forever and nobody ever nails the heart of the matter.

superboyac

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2011, 04:19:20 PM »
Most of these debates swirl around the EXACT definitions and interpretations of the following words:
update
upgrade
major upgrade
minor upgrade
lifetime

40hz

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2011, 04:53:10 PM »
The big print giveth and the small print taketh away.  :P

It's only confusing because people who want to use the term "lifetime license" in a manner inconsistent with what a rational person would understand it to mean (i.e. use of the current plus all subsequent versions at no additional charge) has a tough task in front of them.

As the old saying goes: If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

End of story.  :)
« Last Edit: October 07, 2011, 05:01:56 PM by 40hz »

superboyac

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2011, 04:55:50 PM »
The big print giveth and the small print taketh away.  :P
So true.

mwb1100

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2011, 05:17:37 PM »
Most of these debates swirl around the EXACT definitions and interpretations of the following words:
update
upgrade
major upgrade
minor upgrade
lifetime

That's exactly right. And that's why what you've quoted from the DOpus site is an example of what should be done by every vendor - spell out the license policy clearly.  Unless your business plan is based on deception or fraud, the more clearly, the better for everyone because there's less chance for misunderstanding.

zridling

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2011, 05:33:47 PM »
Since only biological beings -- in this case humans -- have "life," software doesn't technically share the same quality. Lifetime means my entire life, not until the software stops working. Oh crap, this is yet another reason it's so liberating to run Linux: this issue never comes up, ever.

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tomos

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2011, 05:42:49 PM »

wasnt the confusion really started by "subscription" licenses where (I dunno here - I dont have any like that) the software would no longer work after subscription period had ended?
Tom

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2011, 05:50:09 PM »
Oh crap, this is yet another reason it's so liberating to run Linux: this issue never comes up, ever.
Oh really? Lifetime updates one version of a distro? Or even lifetime for a distro?
- carpe noctem

40hz

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2011, 06:01:20 PM »
Oh crap, this is yet another reason it's so liberating to run Linux: this issue never comes up, ever.
Oh really? Lifetime updates one version of a distro? Or even lifetime for a distro?


Prediction: The smaller and indy developers are really going to miss the GNU/Linux/FOSS movement when Microsoft and the other players finally put it out of business with their portfolios of merit-less patents, paid-off government lackeys, and deep pockets.

Sure hope those guys don't mind the lumpen programmer future Microsoft, Google, Oracle, and Apple have in mind for them.
 :)


40hz

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2011, 06:10:10 PM »

 Oh crap, this is yet another reason it's so liberating to run Linux: this issue never comes up, ever.


+1! :Thmbsup:

We have our own separate issues of stupidity. But fortunately, we at least don't have THAT one! ;D


superboyac

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2011, 06:19:58 PM »
Yeah, I'm feeling like I will eventually join z's camp.  My last final hope is going to be windows 8.  If Windows 8 isn't really great both for the desktop and the pc, that probably means my move to Linux won't be far off.  Unfortunately, what that probably really means is that I will give up my general interest in computers and software, etc. and I will slowly come to not rely upon it for my life.  I really feel like that is coming, perhaps less than a decade away.

vlastimil

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #11 on: October 07, 2011, 07:16:49 PM »
Like tomos said, these are some subscription-based apps ("software as service"). They stop working when the user stops paying the recurring fees. They are mostly web services or MMORPGs, but also regular desktop software. It sounds ridiculous, but this business model may actually be better than the current one (pay once, use until the app becomes obsolete (~5 years?)). If the pricing is right...

But this is not really relevant in this case, a developer offering lifetime whatever is usually bad sign. "Lifetime" usually means "as long as the author chooses to". There is nothing easier than renaming the product or simply stop developing it if the income is insufficient... I think offering X years of free upgrades and eventually overdelivering is better in the long run.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2011, 07:23:24 PM by vlastimil »

Jibz

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2011, 02:42:48 AM »
So let me carefully point out the psychology behind it all, which nobody ever seems to mention.  Instead, the debates circle around the definitions of the terms, and they completely avoid the heart of the matter.

The problem is this:
The developers pretend (i.e. play dumb) that what they meant by using the term "lifetime" in whatever context is limited to some sort of restrictions. ...

I think that is a very good observation -- it is more of a psychological trick than anything else.

Using the words "lifetime license" in this way is a lot like when commercial software companies advertise "free download". They use the word "free", not because there is any chance anybody would ever charge $5 for a download, but because they can con a percentage of people into downloading and installing their software, thinking it is free.

y0himba

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2011, 10:03:28 AM »
That is the tactic that PlayOn used.  When we purchased the first version we were offered a 'lifetime' license.  They did not post or disclose anywhere on the site that it was for a lifetime of that version only.  When they were called on it, and shown wayback archives of the site, the response was "Everyone knows that lifetime means major version only'. By the way, Playon/Medimall is another company to stay away from.

I prefer to purchase each major version, or pay an upgrade fee when the version changes. However, companies will abuse this as well, by releasing 'major' upgrades really fast and charging each time.

The only company I have ever trusted to pay a subscription fee to is Cerulean Studios, makers of Trillian IM.

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Carol Haynes

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #14 on: October 08, 2011, 10:17:47 AM »
You could argue that even if they don't change the 'lifetime update' agreement but rather go for 'lifetime' meaning for your current version then there is a moral responsibility for the company to ensure that the version you bought with a 'lifetime license' is maintained so that it keeps working even as new version are produced.

For example RoboForm had free updates for life - now it applies to the version. Whatever you think of that change SiberSystems specifically said at the time that 'lifetime users' can continue to use version 6 for life. Having tried to fob customers off with that argument they then failed to produce any further version 6 updates and now the software effectively defunct (unless you want to stick with out of date and insecure browsers on the current version of windows for the rest of your life).

There are other examples - I remember buying FruityLoops (music sequencing software) and actually purchasing as an extra lifetime upgrades. About two years later the product was relaunched as two products FruityLoops Studio and FruityLoops Producers. Even though the products are clearly upgrades to earlier products (same interface, work with the same files etc.) the developer claimed Studio and Producer are new products and FruityLoops (the original product) was no longer being developed. This was IMHO disingenuous to the point of fraudulent -especially as users specifically paid extra for the lifetime upgrade policy. Now they sell a lifetime upgrade policy for Studio and Producer.

Hardware manufacturers are now getting in on the act too - take e.g. iPods and iPhones. By not allowing user battery replacement they are ultimately dictating the practical period you have access to your device. At some point you will have to replace it even if the device functions correctly because the cost of battery replacement becomes prohibitive. Effectively you are not buying a product but purchasing the right to use a device until the manufacturer says no you need to buy a new one now.

superboyac

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #15 on: October 08, 2011, 02:25:53 PM »
So let me carefully point out the psychology behind it all, which nobody ever seems to mention.  Instead, the debates circle around the definitions of the terms, and they completely avoid the heart of the matter.

The problem is this:
The developers pretend (i.e. play dumb) that what they meant by using the term "lifetime" in whatever context is limited to some sort of restrictions. ...

I think that is a very good observation -- it is more of a psychological trick than anything else.

Using the words "lifetime license" in this way is a lot like when commercial software companies advertise "free download". They use the word "free", not because there is any chance anybody would ever charge $5 for a download, but because they can con a percentage of people into downloading and installing their software, thinking it is free.
Exactly!!  Oh wow! A free download??  No way!  Oh my gosh, I have to tell all my friends.  You can download a FREE TRIAL for free, guys!!  That's just crazy!  You better jump on this before they realize how crazy they are?  Who in their right mind would offer a free download of a free trial software?  Life is good...

Renegade

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #16 on: October 08, 2011, 11:44:22 PM »
Exactly!!  Oh wow! A free download??  No way!  Oh my gosh, I have to tell all my friends.  You can download a FREE TRIAL for free, guys!!  That's just crazy!  You better jump on this before they realize how crazy they are?  Who in their right mind would offer a free download of a free trial software?  Life is good...

While sarcastic right now, I fear that will be a very genuine reaction at some point in the future.

However, there have always been "buy before you try" software titles out there. It's not a small market. Entire niches/sectors are dominated by that model.

:(
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40hz

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #17 on: October 10, 2011, 06:25:29 AM »
"Free" has become such a subjective term when discussing software that it's pretty much a null word. For all intents and purposes, "free" means little more than "free to download" about 95% of the time.

It's right up there with "green." Or "fair and balanced news." Or "organic." The list goes on...

This is the tactic of "identity dilution." Businesses have discovered one of the best ways to counter something they don't like is to co-opt its name or identifying descriptor to prevent it gaining a unique share of mindspace. Because the last thing these companies want is for a good idea that jeopardizes 'business as usual'  to gain traction.

Chimpanzee brains. Gotta love 'em. :-\

« Last Edit: October 10, 2011, 06:33:42 AM by 40hz »

superboyac

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #18 on: October 10, 2011, 09:41:56 PM »
"Free" has become such a subjective term when discussing software that it's pretty much a null word. For all intents and purposes, "free" means little more than "free to download" about 95% of the time.

It's right up there with "green." Or "fair and balanced news." Or "organic." The list goes on...

This is the tactic of "identity dilution." Businesses have discovered one of the best ways to counter something they don't like is to co-opt its name or identifying descriptor to prevent it gaining a unique share of mindspace. Because the last thing these companies want is for a good idea that jeopardizes 'business as usual'  to gain traction.

Chimpanzee brains. Gotta love 'em. :-\
So true.  Sometimes I wonder what would happen if people stopped trying to define everything and just communicated without turning into a dictionary lesson.  Maybe that's why I'm a musician at heart: I can say something that causes a feeling/emotion without actually having to SAY something.  It's my magic, in a sense.

Txomin

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #19 on: November 02, 2011, 06:37:57 AM »
Funny.

I thought you guys were going to talk about lifetime licenses having to do with the lifespan of the developer, the user, or the product... whoever dies first.

J-Mac

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #20 on: November 03, 2011, 04:57:00 AM »
All the crappy developers aside, we should soeday honor the developers who have sold true lifetime licenses. I think the only ones I have are from Slysoft and Elaborate Bytes with AnyDVD, CloneDVD, and CloneCD. I've used these since 2003 and they have never, ever reneged on their "lifetime licenses". Oh, I also have Ad Muncher's lifetime license and so far it has survived through more than one major upgrade, so perhaps that one is "real" also.

Thanks!

Jim

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #21 on: November 03, 2011, 08:39:42 AM »
There are more and more programs that stop working after the license has expired. This is very common in the commercial world, and license management is big (and a big pain as well).

I kind of like the phrasing of: the software does not expire, you can receive upgrades within major versions for free. Upgrades between major versions cost a fee." or something along those lines.

A new twist was recently put out by Sunbelt software's VIPRE (which is a great anti-virus, by the way). They recently offered a lifetime subscription, but it turns out the lifetime is that of the PC! As long as you keep the same system, you can update in major/minor versions, but when the PC is replaced, you have to start over.  The license allowed for OS upgrade and a one-time re-install if your hard drive crashes (I guess two crashes means your PC died), and it was not transferable to other PCs. I purchased a Family Lifetime license when it first came out (before all these details were released. Since the Family license is supposed to apply to all PCs in your household, under the old license I could buy a new PC tomorrow and add VIPRE to it, covered under the family license. I'm not sure how it was supposed to work with the lifetime license.

Now that GFI bought out VIPRE, I'm not sure how well it is going to do. In fact, I just went to the website and couldn't even find any references to the lifetime license! Probably an idea that they realized wasn't going to work well...

Doug

Carol Haynes

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #22 on: November 03, 2011, 01:28:06 PM »
The license allowed for OS upgrade and a one-time re-install if your hard drive crashes (I guess two crashes means your PC died), and it was not transferable to other PCs.

Wow that is restrictive.

Are they really arguing that you can't do a spring clean every year and reinstall Windows? I expect my PC to last 4-5 years - during that time I will reinstall at least 3 or 4 times, on some computers where I play more I will reinstall more often.

With the growth of imaging backups does restoring a backup constitute a reinstall (it is effectively) or how about using system restore ?

If it isn't a silly question why pay for an AV at all - Windows Security Essentials is very good and absolutely free - even for small businesses!

J-Mac

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #23 on: November 03, 2011, 02:56:17 PM »
+1 to all Carol said.

Jim

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Re: The confusion about the term "lifetime license"
« Reply #24 on: November 03, 2011, 06:23:32 PM »
+1 more for Carol ... Although I don't reinstall all that often I'd certainly not tolerate a license that tried to say I couldn't.