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Ruby In Steel License, A Change (For The Better)

Treat this software ’like a book’
by Huw Collingbourne
Tuesday 11 December 2007.

A long, long time ago, back in those far off days when I was new to the arts of programming, a company named Borland blew onto the software scene like a breath of fresh air. Their two big products in those days were the Turbo Pascal compiler and a ‘desktop organizer’ called Sidekick.

One of the unusual features of both those products was the license that accompanied them. Borland used to call it their ‘No Nonsense’ license. The essential features were that a) the license was short and simple (by the standards of software licenses, that is!) and b) it was pretty permissive: there were some restrictions, they were not onerous. Borland used to say that the software could be used “like a book” - by which they meant that only one copy could be in use at any one time.

This, it seems to us, is a sound principle. The license of Ruby In Steel is based on that premise: the software is licensed to a single individual; however, that individual may install as many copies of the software on as many computers as he or she wishes - as long as not more than one copy is in use at any time. So, let’s assume you are a registered user who has two desktop PCs - one in the office, one at home, both running Visual Studio 2008 - plus a laptop PC running Visual Studio 2005. By the terms of our license, you can download both our VS2005 and VS2008 products and install them onto all three computers - as long as all the copies are all for your personal use. If a colleague decides that he or she would also like a copy, however, then they need to buy their own license.

Recently we realised that there was a clause in our license which was unduly restrictive. This is what it said...

- The Old Version...

The Licensee may not: sell, redistribute encumber, give, lend, rent, lease, sublicense, or otherwise transfer the Software, or any portions of the Software, to anyone without the prior written consent of RML.

This, or something similar, is found in many modern software licenses. Even so, we decided that it is contrary to the spirit of “use this software like a book”. If you buy a book you expect to be able to sell it at a later date, if you so wish, without having to seek the publisher’s explicit permission. We have therefore replaced the relevant paragraph with this one...

- The New Version

The Licensee of the Software may transfer it, and this Agreement, directly to a third party. Before the transfer, that party must agree that this Agreement applies to the transfer and use of the Software. The Licensee must uninstall the software before transferring it to the third party. The original Licensee may not retain any copies.

In effect, what this says is: you’ve bought the license, so you may also transfer or sell that license as long as you do not continue to use the software yourself after so doing. I think that’s simpler, clearer and more in the spirit of the licenses I remember from my programming youth...

The License in Detail

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  • Ruby In Steel License, A Change (For The Better)
    11 December 2007

    Huw.

    Great job on the license. Thou most licenses are not written like the old borland license, I still treat each and every license as if it was. :) I aslo remember the way that my turbo pascal license was written and thou other software company may have written their similar, I have always believe that this was the easy one to read.

    Thanks again

    James

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