Trust

It is well known fact in CAD blogging circles that an individual from Australia called R. Paul Waddington exists, for the simple reason that he leaves no opportunity to call attention to the issues he faces with Autodesk’s licensing policies and mechanisms. Paul is a frequent commenter on this blog and over the years we have had several discussions and arguments, all of them being constructive. I always say that you learn more from someone who disagrees with you as opposed to some who shares your view.

For a long time now Paul has been publicly objecting to parts of Autodesk’s End User License Agreement, such as the audit clause. He has also been alleging that Autodesk makes use of trojan software in their Customer Involvement Program (CIP) to spy on its customers.

Finally it looks like Autodesk has had enough of him and is now refusing to sell him their products. In a very very long post on his blog, he explains in excruciating detail exactly how Autodesk Australia and its resellers are refusing to accept his purchase order to renew his Inventor subscription. This time the gloves are off as he has decided to name names and has issued an open challenge to Autodesk and its resellers.

Paul tells me that he has a lot more to say. The question is whether it will have any effect other than getting him in more trouble than he already find himself in. But in his own words, he is “like a dog with a bone” not ready to let go of the issues that he has been raising for all these years.

Regarding the audit clause, I have written about this issue on this blog in a post titled “EULA Paranoia“. Basically, I believe only people with ill-conceived intentions really need to be bothered about this clause. I do not believe Paul is one of them. As regards the allegation about Autodesk using trojan software in their products, I would like to see some evidence. In the absence of evidence, I suppose the fact that Autodesk does not allow the user to review the information being transmitted through CIP only goes to fuel speculation. Moreover, the reason given by Autodesk for not allowing the user to review the data is even more intriguing. Autodesk says that the information cannot be reviewed by the user because it is packaged in a way so that it does not affect the performance of the product. Even if I bring myself to accept that explanation, I don’t see a problem in giving the user the option to review his data and let him know that it may affect performance. So people like Paul could satisfy themselves before submitting information to Autodesk that will help them improve their products. The argument from Autodesk’s side is equally interesting. Autodesk says that CIP is optional. So if a user does not trust Autodesk he can simply opt not to take part in the program. As far as I know, Autodesk does not slip the customer into the CIP on the sly. Their products specifically ask a user if he wants to take part or not. The only time taking part in the CIP is mandatory is when signing up for and using beta software, which I believe is perfect fine. If Autodesk trusts you to respect the NDA and not disclose information about beta software, it is only fair that you trust Autodesk to use the information you provide to them under CIP properly and ethically. Moreover the whole point of beta software is to get feedback from users.

In my opinion, this whole thing comes to just one word – trust. If a user does not trust his software vendor is it fair to force the software vendor to trust the user? One can argue that every manufacturer has the right not to sell his product to a someone who he does not wish to. So is it all right for a drug manufacturer to refuse to sell a drug to someone who needs it and is willing to pay for it? Granted, a CAD product may not be as critical as a life saving drug. But some businesses rely heavily on these products. Where do you draw the line? Has CAD software become a right? Can some court force Autodesk to let Paul continue using its products? Is this what this whole thing is going to come down to – another law suit?

As an aside, I also wonder how Autodesk’s rivals will see this. I am referring to the ones that Autodesk has been taking to court recently and who have been claiming that Autodesk is using monopolistic tactics. I wonder how a judge or jury will see this episode. Will they will be able to correctly put it in context. Of course, Autodesk can wash its hands off this whole thing and blame it on their reseller, which is exactly what appears to have happened in this case.

  • murda

    Under Australian commercial law, Autodesk may find themselves obliged to fulfil his purchase. Vendors don't have the power of arbitrary refusal here. Unless a purchaser has contravened a license or committed a criminal offense affecting the purchase, the competition and consumer commission (a government body with the power to make some rulings autonomously and the power of prosecution in other cases) will likely support him with the force of law if Autodesk try to blacklist him arbitrarily. Hiding behind a reseller isn't acceptable. Fairness? Trust? ROFL. I know some banks who'd love to “sell you product”, they tell me it's something called LDO? Sony Music still has music discs with root kit DRM in it's warehouses, probably selling them into markets where the people are “more trusting”. Trust! Woot! Gotta get me some of that!

  • Whatever you have said seems like perfect common sense to me. Which begs the question. Why did Autodesk and/or its reseller do what Paul claims they have done. Was all this really required?

  • chrisnorman

    Has anyone else ever seen the Tienaman Square screen image on Solidworks upon crash? It was in SW 2007?

  • yorbs

    MEGA LOL! reading from china here. If that was hidden in solidworks 2007 it certainly wouldn't have shown up here.

    funny idea tho. Autodesk and SW team up to create an amry tank in their software. then at 2011 launch roll in and run over the customers who bitch a lot; then jump straight into showing how the entire assembly and simulation of the tank was made with their software.

    can't wait for 2011!!

  • jgerth

    It's rather difficult to 'trust' a typical software vendor, when the license agreement explicitly informs the user that they are not trustworthy; that they refuse to take any liability or responsibility for errors in their software, and that any problems arising from errors in the software, failure to perform advertised features, or even negligence on the vendors part. Any problems arising from use of the software is at the user's own risk and sole liability.

    How does one trust someone who has themselves denied their trustworthiness by refusing to stand behind their product?

  • rdtaggart

    Given the sorry state of license sales for CAD vendors recently (including Autodesk), I am sure just about every other CAD vendor would happily sell their products to Paul in a microsecond, regardless of his potential for whining. Maybe you should send his info to Solidworks!! RDT