New license restrictions for Crystal Reports

Monday 9 March 2009 @ 2:00 pm

Here we go again. Every two years I have to fire up the press because someone starts abusing the Crystal Reports End User License Agreement (EULA). This change is tied to Crystal Reports 2008 Release 2 (due in May). I don’t know anything about the fixes or new features of the release, but I have read the new EULA and I am disappointed.  There is a new key restrictions (A) that affect every user who takes a Crystal Reports class. I was asked not to publish the actual license but here is my paraphrase of restriction (A):

“When you take a class anywhere, on any of our products, you agree to pay us an additional fee – in whatever amount we choose”

Now they don’t use that exact wording, but that is what it means to you. They expect every copy of courseware, sold by anyone, to generate revenue to SAP. The last I heard they wanted between $35 and $50 per book, but that will go up more once they control all of the courseware vendors. I was told two years ago that the authorized training vendors pay between $150 and $200 per book for ‘authorized’ courseware, so you know what they consider a ‘fair’ price.

Since 2005 SAP has been trying to convince independent courseware vendors that the use of screenshots is illegal without SAP’s permission. Two courseware vendors went along in 2005 and simply raised the price of their books. But Mark Myers of Vision Harvest in Colorado has simply ignored the threats. I have previously discussed one nasty letter he received in December. But, since these threats haven’t worked, SAP has now added restrictions to the EULA. Restriction “A” forbids a licensed user of the software from using screenshots in “commercial training material”. This puts all courseware under their control and allows them to charge whatever fee they want to the vendors. The cost will get passed on to the users. Do you think SAP is entitled to add this ‘tax’ onto users, after the users have already paid for Crystal Reports?

I see it this way:
1) SAP creates a valuable product and SAP is paid for the product.
2) SAP adds value to their ‘authorized’ courseware by certifying it and promoting it.  SAP can charge a fair price for that added value.  The books will sell at a premium that reflects the added value.

But SAP wants the premium to be invisible. That way they can set the premium as high as they want, without regard to its value. And if this works for courseware do you really think SAP will stop there? I predict they will go after independent reference books next, like my “Expert” series.  Then independent training and finally independent consulting.  The last two have already been restricted in the licenses for BO Enterprise and Xcelsius, so I think the only reason SAP hasn’t added them to the CR license is the response from users.

So, if you are concerned by SAP’s approach then I recommend that you at least ask some questions. You don’t even need to complain.

1) First send an Email to Beth Christopher (first name , period, last name and request a copy of the new license to review. Beth is the person that notified Mark Myers of the new license restrictions. Just say you are concerned and want to know more. You might even suggest that they post the new license publicly. You will be amazed at the impact a group of users can have just by saying that you are paying attention.

2) When you get a copy of the license, review it. If you want, skip to section 4 (the new part). Then share whatever concerns you have with Beth about the direction SAP is taking with their license.

3) If you are part of a user group or a large organization, see if you can get a representative to send a message for that group.  If you have contact with any publications or journalists who cover the “BI” market, forward this info on to them.

4) And, if you don’t mind, please keep me in the loop. You could CC/BCC me on the message or just drop me a line. If you have additional concerns, let me know. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

I have gone down this road several times now and I have found that user input has a huge impact.

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