DONATION Licensing, Renewals and Upgrades

Hello DONATION advisors. I recently got into a bit of a dispute with a user who had not chosen to pay the annual renewal fee, and needed to install the program on a new computer. He wanted me to make his prior version that he had paid for available for donwload, but I do not do that.

Rather, my policy has always been that the only way to install the program on a new computer is to download the current version of the program from the website, and since that is an upgrade, payment would be required in the case where a user had not paid in the last 12 months. This issue has come up in the past with other users, and they have seemed to understand (perhaps grudgingly) and have paid.

The user read the License Agreement (which you can see at http://www.software4nonprofits.com/license.htm) and felt that it granted him a permanent license for the program. I reviewed it, and I do not feel that it says that (the word “permanent” certainly never occurs). It does have a paragraph about updates, which says that ” Your eligibility to download and install Updates may be subject to an annual fee.”

However, I also see that the license agreement does not make clear that if you have not kept your payments up to date, and just want to re-install your current version, there will be no way to do that (unless you have chosen to keep a copy of the installation program from when you were licensed). So I can understand why the user was upset, and I did cut a deal with him about it.

So first of all, I’m wondering what your thoughts are about this policy overall.

Second, I’m thinking that I need to add some clarity about this to various places, including the License Agreement, some web pages, and the emails I send out inviting paid users to pay their Annual Renewal fees. As a start on that I have drafted the following paragraph to add into those annual renewal emails:

If you do not choose to renew, you can continue using the program, but you will not be eligible for support or upgrades. HOWEVER, if you ever need to re-install the program on your computer, or install it on a different computer, the only way that can usually be done is by downloading the currently available version from the program’s website. Since that would be an upgrade at that time, an appropriate payment would be required. If you wish to avoid that, your only option is to download a current copy of the installation program from the website now, and make sure you have a secure permanent copy of it. We do not retain older versions of the program, and they will never be made available for download.

Any thoughts or suggestions for improvement on that paragraph? Changes in other places would be based on similar language.

Thank you in advance for any contributions you have to these questions.

12 thoughts on “DONATION Licensing, Renewals and Upgrades

  1. I can’t believe this person! What part of “common sense” are they missing?

    Anyway, your paragraph is very good, except I would omit the 2nd last sentence entirely. It is the one that starts: “if you want to avoid that . . .” I don’t think you need to give them that option, and if you do, let them figure it out for themselves.

    • Actually, Laird, I’m thinking that in the interest of full disclosure I should add that. Of course people won’t do it, or they will keep it on their hard drive and then it will die and they will still have nothing. But at least I did give them the option, and I have no problem with them using that option. (It may also cut down people asking me to send them CDs, which even though I charge for it, I hate wasting time on.)

  2. Dan,

    I think your addendum should clear up any ambiguity. I must say though that I don’t see how your original agreement could be interpreted to mean
    ‘having a license in perpetuity with a right to all subsequent upgrades’.

    John.

    • To be fair, John, the user wasn’t asking for the right to the current version or subsequent upgrades. He just wanted his old version that he had paid for back.

  3. Dan:
    I am not aware of any software developer who maintains a file of old versions of the software for the purpose of users re-installing on new hardware. This is just not done in the industry. I feel that you are right in maintaining your rights to not have older versions.
    If someone is using the program it is only reasonable that they maintain it as a current copy or recognize there is no support.
    I would not use the word “usually” in the sentence “…the only way this can be done is by downloading a current version…” and paying for it.
    I would hesitate suggesting that someone should download the program and keep a copy of the download for using on new or diffeerent hardware. The next thing you know is that you will be challenged because the software doesn’t install properly on the newer OS.
    Your last sentence is very important and needs to be highlighted some how.

  4. Dan,
    That paragraph looks good to me. I can’t believe the user is that upset over paying for the software.

  5. Dan,

    I like your paragraph and I WOULD leave the next to last sentence as it shows the user how he can continue his current arrangement if he so chooses. We can deem him cheap, but he does seem to have that right.

    When you buy commercial software it is normal for the purchaser to have to maintain the installation program if he wants the ability to re-install later. (I still have my Office 2003 CDs and will keep them until I quit using the program) We all understand that re-installing older software on newer versions of Windows may or may not work. (e.g Office 2003 is not going to work on Win 8 if I upgrade) I would add some sort of statement to that effect along with a statement that you are not responsible if older versions of DONATION do not work properly if installed on computers at a later point in time (after upgrades)..

    Also.. I can see a point of possible confusion in that the agreement says the software can be installed on one or MORE computers.. may need to reword to avoid that possible confusion…

  6. How about a suggestion that he could always install and use the free version without having to pay anything.

    As stated above, I think he is awfully cheap.

    • Yes, I did mention the free version, Robert. He may have over 100 donors with donations though (I don’t know).

      I don’t think we need to judge him. His organization may have very little money, and he may not feel it appropriate to pay for the program out of his own pocket. I have no idea about any of that, but I’m just saying that we don’t know his reasons.

      He may also just feel that it’s a matter of principle, which I have some sympathy with. I tend to stand on matters of principle too about some things that not everyone agrees with!

  7. Dan
    Like a few others I’m of the opinion that you should not be offering choices in the manner you have. I haven’t read the whole EULA recently but if you insist on giving people a choice I would think it appropriate to offer either a fully supported license to use the current version of the software or to charge an hourly support fee, minimum $250, to support a previous version of a non-current license. The choice then becomes how much to pay for support, not whether payment is an option!
    You have invested literally tens of thousands of hours on developing your intellectual property and in the process saving users hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours of work in processing and receipting donations. For the fundraiser or stewardship person, the database of information is worth a hundredfold more than the license fee in terms of identifying and solidifying future donations. The VALUE proposition makes your software a win-win for both developer and user.
    Stick to your guns Dan.

  8. The software is not expensive, so I really think he was just trying to get a freebee on what he thought was a technicality. Your paragraph covers it all. At least I think it does.

  9. Thanks for all of your thoughts about this. I have made relevant changes, consistent with that proposed paragraph, in the Pricing and Payment pages on both programs’ websites, the Help files (for the next releases) and the license agreements for both programs. Part of that is changing the wording “Full License” to “Initial Payment” to get away from the concept of it being a permanent license, because effectively it is really only a permanent license for the same computer, and only if you don’t need to reinstall for any reason, unless you carefully keep your own backup of the installation program.

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