Borland in the 1980s: “Treat Software Just Like a Book”

Let’s do a little trip down memory lane. We’re talking the ’80s, early ’90s, and we’re looking at a company called Borland, which produced several well-known and popular products related to software development. Back in those days, Borland had an end user license agreement. However, contrary to the EULAs we know and despise today, Borland’s ‘No-Nonsense License Statement’ was a whole lot simpler, and in fact, is a perfect example of how software should be treated.

Borland produced a number of very popular software packages, and as is the case today, the use of these software packages were covered by a license agreement. However, contrary to today’s ridiculous restrictive incomprehensible EULAs, this one was to the point, and in fact, did not try to restrict the use of software at all – it just reiterated the rights users have under copyright.

Many proponents of the EULA – especially when it comes to Apple’s software license agreement – often state that any comparison between software and something like a book is flawed because the two are entirely different, and as such, cannot be treated in the same way. Well, Borland disagreed heavily with that notion. The central premise of their No-Nonsense License Statement? “Treat this software just like a book”.

This is the license statement in its entirety:

No-Nonsense License Statement

This software is protected by both United States copyright law and international copyright treaty provisions. Therefore, you must treat this software just like a book, except that you may copy it onto a computer to be used and you may make archival copies of the software for the sole purpose of backing-up our software and protecting your investment from loss.

By saying “just like a book,” Borland means, for example, that this software may be used by any number of people, and may be freely moved from one computer location to another, so long as there is no possibility of it being used at one location while it’s being used at another or on a computer network by more than one user at one
location. Just like a book can’t be read by two different people in two different places at the same time, neither can the software be used by two different people in two different places at the same time. (Unless, of course, Borland’s copyright has been violated or the use is on a computer network by up to the number of users authorized by additional Borland licenses as explained below.)

LAN Pack Multiple-Use Network License

If this is a LAN Pack package, it allows you to increase the number of authorized users of your copy of the software on a single computer network by up to the number of users specified in the LAN Pack package (per LAN Pack — see LAN Pack serial number).

Use on a Network

A “computer network” is any electronically linked configuration in which two or more users have common access to software or data. If more than one user wishes to use the software on a computer network at the same time, then you may add authorized users either by (a) paying for a separate software package for each additional user you wish to add or (b) if a LAN Pack is available for this product, paying for the multiple-use license available in the LAN Pack. You may use any combination of regular software packages or LAN Packs to increase the number of authorized users on a computer network. (In no event may the total number of concurrent users on a network exceed one for each software package plus the number of authorized users installed from the LAN Pack(s) that you have purchased. Otherwise, you are not using the software “just like a book.”) The multiple-use network license for the LAN Pack may only be used to increase the number of concurrent permitted users of the software logged onto the network, and not to download copies of the software for local workstation use without being logged onto the network. You must purchase an individual copy of the software for each workstation at which you wish to use the software without being logged onto the network.

Further Explanation of Copyright Law Provisions and the Scope of This
License Statement

You may not download or transmit the software electronically (either by direct connection or telecommunication transmission) from one computer to another, except as may be specifically allowed in using the software on a computer network. You may transfer all of your rights to use the software to another person, provided that you
transfer to that person (or destroy) all of the software, diskettes and documentation provided in this package, together with all copies, tangible or intangible, including copies in RAM or installed on a disk, as well as all back-up copies. Remember, once you transfer the software, it may only be used at the single location to which it is
transferred and, of course, only in accordance with copyright law and international treaty provisions. Except as stated in this paragraph, you may not otherwise transfer, rent, lease, sub-license, time-share, or lend the software, diskettes, or documentation. Your use of the software is limited to acts that are essential steps in the use of the software on your computer or computer network as described in the
documentation. You may not otherwise modify, alter, adapt, merge, decompile or reverse-engineer the software, and you may not remove or obscure Borland copyright or trademark notices.

Isn’t it beautiful? Isn’t it straightforward? Isn’t it logical? This is how software should be treated, and you heard it straight from the mouth of a popular software company. As you can see, the times have changed, and software vendors have slowly but surely eroded the rights given to users by copyright law.

This is the way I treat software: like a book. Unless we get to a point where EULAs are presented as part of the sale, with a proper signature both from myself as well as the vendor, only then will I – as contract law suggests – abide by its clauses.

As it stands today, however, I treat software according to the No-Nonsense License Statement from Borland.


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