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Legal question...

P: n/a
I realize that this maybe the wrong forum, but maybe someone has run
into this situation before. I sell an app and I want to offer my
customers a migration path from a competing product. However, my
competitor stores all data in an Microsoft Access database, which is
password protected. Now, I can easily break the password and export all
the data necessary into my app. In fact, I did break the password by
downloading a $10 app from the net and running it against the MS Access
database. My question is whether it is legal for me to do so. After,
the data in the database belongs to the customer, not to my competitor.

Thanks.
Nov 21 '05 #1
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14 Replies


P: n/a
that depends on the agreement(s) that your customer "signed" when they
installed their software

--
--- Nick Malik [Microsoft]
MCSD, CFPS, Certified Scrummaster
http://blogs.msdn.com/nickmalik

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this forum are my own, and not
representative of my employer.
I do not answer questions on behalf of my employer. I'm just a
programmer helping programmers.
--
"Frank Rizzo" <no****@nospam.com> wrote in message
news:%2****************@TK2MSFTNGP12.phx.gbl...
I realize that this maybe the wrong forum, but maybe someone has run
into this situation before. I sell an app and I want to offer my
customers a migration path from a competing product. However, my
competitor stores all data in an Microsoft Access database, which is
password protected. Now, I can easily break the password and export all
the data necessary into my app. In fact, I did break the password by
downloading a $10 app from the net and running it against the MS Access
database. My question is whether it is legal for me to do so. After,
the data in the database belongs to the customer, not to my competitor.

Thanks.

Nov 21 '05 #2

P: n/a
Hi Frank,

Not a legal expert, but if your customer set the pwd and no longer knows it
and your customer owns the data and your customer asked you to break the pwd
to get at the data, I can't imagine that you are in any way exposed. As
Nick Malik said, it may depend somewhat on what your customer signed when
they purchased MS Access, but 1) that is between your customer and MS, not
you and 2) almost everyone with MS Access simply installs the software and
uses it and has rights to the data it contains.

HTH,

Bernie Yaeger

"Frank Rizzo" <no****@nospam.com> wrote in message
news:%2****************@TK2MSFTNGP12.phx.gbl...
I realize that this maybe the wrong forum, but maybe someone has run into
this situation before. I sell an app and I want to offer my customers a
migration path from a competing product. However, my competitor stores all
data in an Microsoft Access database, which is password protected. Now, I
can easily break the password and export all the data necessary into my
app. In fact, I did break the password by downloading a $10 app from the
net and running it against the MS Access database. My question is whether
it is legal for me to do so. After, the data in the database belongs to
the customer, not to my competitor.

Thanks.

Nov 21 '05 #3

P: n/a
Frank...

"Frank Rizzo" <no****@nospam.com> wrote in message
news:%2****************@TK2MSFTNGP12.phx.gbl...
I realize that this maybe the wrong forum, but maybe someone has run
into this situation before. I sell an app and I want to offer my
customers a migration path from a competing product. However, my
competitor stores all data in an Microsoft Access database, which is
password protected. Now, I can easily break the password and export all
the data necessary into my app. In fact, I did break the password by
downloading a $10 app from the net and running it against the MS Access
database. My question is whether it is legal for me to do so. After,
the data in the database belongs to the customer, not to my competitor.

Thanks.


This is a slippery slope. I am no lawyer, but have some experience in this
area.
You are correct in that "generally" speaking, a customer owns any data they
enter in an application. However, the application developer also has some
rights, as they should. While the customer owns "their" data, there may be
other data in the database proprietary to the other developer. Additionally,
the other developer can claim rights to the structure of the database, how
it is accessed, and how data is inter-related. For example how one record
may key and relate to another can be considered intellectual property and
proprietary, to mention just one.

Whether you can freely access the stored data also depends upon the level of
accessability provided by the other developer. In this case, someone
password protected the database. If it was the customer, then you have no
real issues. If it was the competitor, then it is their intention that
no-one should get into the database. While it might be pretty easy to crack
the password, doing so is an attempt to circumvent protection and in
violation of their rights.

To keep yourself out of trouble, the best course of action would be to work
out an agreement with the competitor. While this is unlikely to happen, it
sometimes does and is generally to everyone's best interest.

Failing that, your next best choice, well besides getting true legal advice
from a qualified source, would be the following:
Have your customer work out the data ownership details with the competitor.
Since they "should" have legal claim to their data, the competitor should
provide them a method of getting to their data. It might be by providing the
password to the database. It might be by providing some sort of export
utility, or other means.
If they are provided with an export, then unless other restrictions are
agreed to by the customer, you should be free to take the exported data and
do whatever you like with it.
If they are provided with a password, then you should be able to legally
access the data in the database by having the customer key in the password
in your app. Note, this only applies to data for which the customer has been
allowed to access, and only if "they" key in the password. Do not compile it
into your application! Unless you have been granted access by the
competitor, you should not do this. It is the customer's data, not yours.

Good luck,
Gerald
Nov 21 '05 #4

P: n/a
Frank,

I had already written something however it was not that different from what
Nick wrote, however now I see the message from Bernie I get another idea.

Everything is of course dependable from local laws in every country where
your program is sold.

However I first thought the data in the database was from your competitor,
now I get the idea that it is from his clients.

I did not investigate it, however is he doing in every country a legal act
to set that data than after a password that that client does not know.

As I said I did not investigate it, however I have my doubts.

Even more when I think now about the EU laws about interoperartibility than
I become even in bigger doubt.

So when you are in the EU, than try to check the laws about
interoperartibility and what that means for you. (Now I think about it, I
would do that when I was you in any case). Maybe it is other countries the
same by the way.

Cor
Nov 21 '05 #5

P: n/a
"Frank Rizzo" <no****@nospam.com> schrieb:
I realize that this maybe the wrong forum, but maybe someone has run into
this situation before. I sell an app and I want to offer my customers a
migration path from a competing product. However, my competitor stores all
data in an Microsoft Access database, which is password protected. Now, I
can easily break the password and export all the data necessary into my
app. In fact, I did break the password by downloading a $10 app from the
net and running it against the MS Access database. My question is whether
it is legal for me to do so. After, the data in the database belongs to
the customer, not to my competitor.


Ask the competitor if he grants you the rights to do that...

--
M S Herfried K. Wagner
M V P <URL:http://dotnet.mvps.org/>
V B <URL:http://dotnet.mvps.org/dotnet/faqs/>
Nov 21 '05 #6

P: n/a
Bernie Yaeger wrote:
Hi Frank,

Not a legal expert, but if your customer set the pwd and no longer knows it
and your customer owns the data and your customer asked you to break the pwd
to get at the data, I can't imagine that you are in any way exposed. As
Nick Malik said, it may depend somewhat on what your customer signed when
they purchased MS Access, but 1) that is between your customer and MS, not
you and 2) almost everyone with MS Access simply installs the software and
uses it and has rights to the data it contains.

This password is not something that the user types in. The
userid/password is hardwired into the application that the customer is
using.
HTH,

Bernie Yaeger

"Frank Rizzo" <no****@nospam.com> wrote in message
news:%2****************@TK2MSFTNGP12.phx.gbl...

I realize that this maybe the wrong forum, but maybe someone has run into
this situation before. I sell an app and I want to offer my customers a
migration path from a competing product. However, my competitor stores all
data in an Microsoft Access database, which is password protected. Now, I
can easily break the password and export all the data necessary into my
app. In fact, I did break the password by downloading a $10 app from the
net and running it against the MS Access database. My question is whether
it is legal for me to do so. After, the data in the database belongs to
the customer, not to my competitor.

Thanks.


Nov 21 '05 #7

P: n/a
Thank you for your answer. Just to clarify a couple of things, the
agreement to exchange data with the competitor is unlikely to happen
since he is the goliath and I am david (in our business). Secondly, as
far as trying to locate a lawyer, I am unable to find one specializing
in these matters. All the generic lawyers I talked to all say "don't do
it".

Gerald Hernandez wrote:
Frank...

"Frank Rizzo" <no****@nospam.com> wrote in message
news:%2****************@TK2MSFTNGP12.phx.gbl...

I realize that this maybe the wrong forum, but maybe someone has run
into this situation before. I sell an app and I want to offer my
customers a migration path from a competing product. However, my
competitor stores all data in an Microsoft Access database, which is
password protected. Now, I can easily break the password and export all
the data necessary into my app. In fact, I did break the password by
downloading a $10 app from the net and running it against the MS Access
database. My question is whether it is legal for me to do so. After,
the data in the database belongs to the customer, not to my competitor.

Thanks.


This is a slippery slope. I am no lawyer, but have some experience in this
area.
You are correct in that "generally" speaking, a customer owns any data they
enter in an application. However, the application developer also has some
rights, as they should. While the customer owns "their" data, there may be
other data in the database proprietary to the other developer. Additionally,
the other developer can claim rights to the structure of the database, how
it is accessed, and how data is inter-related. For example how one record
may key and relate to another can be considered intellectual property and
proprietary, to mention just one.

Whether you can freely access the stored data also depends upon the level of
accessability provided by the other developer. In this case, someone
password protected the database. If it was the customer, then you have no
real issues. If it was the competitor, then it is their intention that
no-one should get into the database. While it might be pretty easy to crack
the password, doing so is an attempt to circumvent protection and in
violation of their rights.

To keep yourself out of trouble, the best course of action would be to work
out an agreement with the competitor. While this is unlikely to happen, it
sometimes does and is generally to everyone's best interest.

Failing that, your next best choice, well besides getting true legal advice
from a qualified source, would be the following:
Have your customer work out the data ownership details with the competitor.
Since they "should" have legal claim to their data, the competitor should
provide them a method of getting to their data. It might be by providing the
password to the database. It might be by providing some sort of export
utility, or other means.
If they are provided with an export, then unless other restrictions are
agreed to by the customer, you should be free to take the exported data and
do whatever you like with it.
If they are provided with a password, then you should be able to legally
access the data in the database by having the customer key in the password
in your app. Note, this only applies to data for which the customer has been
allowed to access, and only if "they" key in the password. Do not compile it
into your application! Unless you have been granted access by the
competitor, you should not do this. It is the customer's data, not yours.

Good luck,
Gerald

Nov 21 '05 #8

P: n/a
Frank...
I understand that trying to get an agreement with a competitor is difficult
if not impossible. But it is usually worth trying. It does happen more times
than you would think. But sadly, not as often as you might like. If nothing
else, it might give you an idea of just how aggressively they intend to
protect the data you wish to get to.

Yes, finding a lawyer who has experience in a specific area can be quite
difficult and is usually expensive. However, if you do feel you have a
marketable product that can justify the expense, I highly recommend you do
find one. On a couple of occasions, I found it beneficial to hire a lawyer
for the purpose of finding a lawyer with the required specialty. Seems
silly, and can be expensive, but the results were good.

If nothing else, you really need to determine the true nature of the
agreement between the other vendor and your potential customer(s).

Gerald

"Frank Rizzo" <no**@none.com> wrote in message
news:OE**************@TK2MSFTNGP10.phx.gbl...
Thank you for your answer. Just to clarify a couple of things, the
agreement to exchange data with the competitor is unlikely to happen
since he is the goliath and I am david (in our business). Secondly, as
far as trying to locate a lawyer, I am unable to find one specializing
in these matters. All the generic lawyers I talked to all say "don't do
it".

Gerald Hernandez wrote:
Frank...

"Frank Rizzo" <no****@nospam.com> wrote in message
news:%2****************@TK2MSFTNGP12.phx.gbl...

I realize that this maybe the wrong forum, but maybe someone has run
into this situation before. I sell an app and I want to offer my
customers a migration path from a competing product. However, my
competitor stores all data in an Microsoft Access database, which is
password protected. Now, I can easily break the password and export all
the data necessary into my app. In fact, I did break the password by
downloading a $10 app from the net and running it against the MS Access
database. My question is whether it is legal for me to do so. After,
the data in the database belongs to the customer, not to my competitor.

Thanks.


This is a slippery slope. I am no lawyer, but have some experience in thisarea.
You are correct in that "generally" speaking, a customer owns any data theyenter in an application. However, the application developer also has some
rights, as they should. While the customer owns "their" data, there may beother data in the database proprietary to the other developer. Additionally,the other developer can claim rights to the structure of the database, howit is accessed, and how data is inter-related. For example how one record
may key and relate to another can be considered intellectual property and
proprietary, to mention just one.

Whether you can freely access the stored data also depends upon the level ofaccessability provided by the other developer. In this case, someone
password protected the database. If it was the customer, then you have no
real issues. If it was the competitor, then it is their intention that
no-one should get into the database. While it might be pretty easy to crackthe password, doing so is an attempt to circumvent protection and in
violation of their rights.

To keep yourself out of trouble, the best course of action would be to workout an agreement with the competitor. While this is unlikely to happen, itsometimes does and is generally to everyone's best interest.

Failing that, your next best choice, well besides getting true legal advicefrom a qualified source, would be the following:
Have your customer work out the data ownership details with the competitor.Since they "should" have legal claim to their data, the competitor should
provide them a method of getting to their data. It might be by providing thepassword to the database. It might be by providing some sort of export
utility, or other means.
If they are provided with an export, then unless other restrictions are
agreed to by the customer, you should be free to take the exported data anddo whatever you like with it.
If they are provided with a password, then you should be able to legally
access the data in the database by having the customer key in the passwordin your app. Note, this only applies to data for which the customer has beenallowed to access, and only if "they" key in the password. Do not compile itinto your application! Unless you have been granted access by the
competitor, you should not do this. It is the customer's data, not yours.

Good luck,
Gerald

Nov 21 '05 #9

P: n/a
Perhaps an agreement between you and the "goliath" won't happen.

However, if it is an Access app, the "goliath" may listen when his customer
(your client) calls and asks for a way to export the data.
(and, as Gerald pointed out, this gives you access to import it).

Note: I have witnessed a situation where a database from under an
application was simply zipped up and sent to a competitor, where the
competitor opened the data and migrated it to their competing structure, as
part of their standard services. This is more common than you can imagine.

A password in Access is used to secure both the data and the code. It is
possible that the license agreement that was signed, by the customer, upon
installation of the competiting package, dictated that they did not have the
right to view the code. However, it is also possible that it said nothing
about the developer retaining ownership of the data. In that case, your
client is within his rights to demand access to his data, and get it.

(My original message was not about the license between MS and your client,
as Bernie implied. I was referring the license between your competitor and
your client. A totally different thing. Note: if there was no license
agreement, then your competitor may have limited recourse... talk to an
attorney.)

--
--- Nick Malik [Microsoft]
MCSD, CFPS, Certified Scrummaster
http://blogs.msdn.com/nickmalik

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this forum are my own, and not
representative of my employer.
I do not answer questions on behalf of my employer. I'm just a
programmer helping programmers.
--
"Frank Rizzo" <no**@none.com> wrote in message
news:OE**************@TK2MSFTNGP10.phx.gbl...
Thank you for your answer. Just to clarify a couple of things, the
agreement to exchange data with the competitor is unlikely to happen
since he is the goliath and I am david (in our business). Secondly, as
far as trying to locate a lawyer, I am unable to find one specializing
in these matters. All the generic lawyers I talked to all say "don't do
it".

Gerald Hernandez wrote:
Frank...

"Frank Rizzo" <no****@nospam.com> wrote in message
news:%2****************@TK2MSFTNGP12.phx.gbl...

I realize that this maybe the wrong forum, but maybe someone has run
into this situation before. I sell an app and I want to offer my
customers a migration path from a competing product. However, my
competitor stores all data in an Microsoft Access database, which is
password protected. Now, I can easily break the password and export all
the data necessary into my app. In fact, I did break the password by
downloading a $10 app from the net and running it against the MS Access
database. My question is whether it is legal for me to do so. After,
the data in the database belongs to the customer, not to my competitor.

Thanks.


This is a slippery slope. I am no lawyer, but have some experience in thisarea.
You are correct in that "generally" speaking, a customer owns any data theyenter in an application. However, the application developer also has some
rights, as they should. While the customer owns "their" data, there may beother data in the database proprietary to the other developer. Additionally,the other developer can claim rights to the structure of the database, howit is accessed, and how data is inter-related. For example how one record
may key and relate to another can be considered intellectual property and
proprietary, to mention just one.

Whether you can freely access the stored data also depends upon the level ofaccessability provided by the other developer. In this case, someone
password protected the database. If it was the customer, then you have no
real issues. If it was the competitor, then it is their intention that
no-one should get into the database. While it might be pretty easy to crackthe password, doing so is an attempt to circumvent protection and in
violation of their rights.

To keep yourself out of trouble, the best course of action would be to workout an agreement with the competitor. While this is unlikely to happen, itsometimes does and is generally to everyone's best interest.

Failing that, your next best choice, well besides getting true legal advicefrom a qualified source, would be the following:
Have your customer work out the data ownership details with the competitor.Since they "should" have legal claim to their data, the competitor should
provide them a method of getting to their data. It might be by providing thepassword to the database. It might be by providing some sort of export
utility, or other means.
If they are provided with an export, then unless other restrictions are
agreed to by the customer, you should be free to take the exported data anddo whatever you like with it.
If they are provided with a password, then you should be able to legally
access the data in the database by having the customer key in the passwordin your app. Note, this only applies to data for which the customer has beenallowed to access, and only if "they" key in the password. Do not compile itinto your application! Unless you have been granted access by the
competitor, you should not do this. It is the customer's data, not yours.

Good luck,
Gerald

Nov 21 '05 #10

P: n/a
A couple of points not otherwise mentioned.

First, contact the FSF for some authorative help. They can point you to
legal experts who will have answers.

Second, IMHO, so long as you are only extracting data that the customer
owns and are not making use of the internal structures of the DB as
provided by Goliath, your exposure should be minimal.

Last, when all else fails, provide a means to import data in a format
that has been manually exported using Goliath's tools. It is the
customer's absolute right to have access to their data, regardless of
any license scheme imposed by a third party. Imagine the world we would
live in if such were not the case.

Bo

Frank Rizzo wrote:
Thank you for your answer. Just to clarify a couple of things, the
agreement to exchange data with the competitor is unlikely to happen
since he is the goliath and I am david (in our business). Secondly, as
far as trying to locate a lawyer, I am unable to find one specializing
in these matters. All the generic lawyers I talked to all say "don't do
it".

Nov 21 '05 #11

P: n/a
The Goliath's software does provide a way to export data, but it is so
complicated for an average user and so wrought with error messages and
meaningless message boxes , that I think they put it in there as a red
herring, just to prevent people from exporting data. I think it is safe
to say that they don't want the data exported. So, I could provide
instructions to my customers for exporting data, but the process would
be too difficult. Good idea about FSF - given that it is what they deal
with day in, day out.

Bo Gusman wrote:
A couple of points not otherwise mentioned.

First, contact the FSF for some authorative help. They can point you
to legal experts who will have answers.

Second, IMHO, so long as you are only extracting data that the
customer owns and are not making use of the internal structures of the
DB as provided by Goliath, your exposure should be minimal.

Last, when all else fails, provide a means to import data in a format
that has been manually exported using Goliath's tools. It is the
customer's absolute right to have access to their data, regardless of
any license scheme imposed by a third party. Imagine the world we
would live in if such were not the case.

Bo

Frank Rizzo wrote:
Thank you for your answer. Just to clarify a couple of things, the
agreement to exchange data with the competitor is unlikely to happen
since he is the goliath and I am david (in our business). Secondly,
as far as trying to locate a lawyer, I am unable to find one
specializing in these matters. All the generic lawyers I talked to
all say "don't do it".

Nov 21 '05 #12

P: n/a
On Sun, 02 Jan 2005 19:58:16 -0800, Frank Rizzo <no****@nospam.com> wrote:

I realize that this maybe the wrong forum, but maybe someone has run
into this situation before. I sell an app and I want to offer my
customers a migration path from a competing product. However, my
competitor stores all data in an Microsoft Access database, which is
password protected. Now, I can easily break the password and export all
the data necessary into my app. In fact, I did break the password by
downloading a $10 app from the net and running it against the MS Access
database. My question is whether it is legal for me to do so. After,
the data in the database belongs to the customer, not to my competitor.

Thanks.

I doubt that it would be considered illegal given the circumstances you describe. However, keep in
mind that whether it's legal or illegal, it doesn't preclude your competitor from suing you if they
feel there is a licensing or intellectual property violation. This may be the reason why an attorney
might recommend that you don't crack the password to extract the data.
Paul ~~~ pc******@ameritech.net
Microsoft MVP (Visual Basic)
Nov 21 '05 #13

P: n/a
How about something like WinBatch, write a script to automate the
process, compile the script and distribute it to your customers. Take
away as much of the pain for your customers as you can and they'll love
you for it!

Bo

Frank Rizzo wrote:
The Goliath's software does provide a way to export data, but it is so
complicated for an average user and so wrought with error messages and
meaningless message boxes , that I think they put it in there as a red
herring, just to prevent people from exporting data. I think it is safe
to say that they don't want the data exported. So, I could provide
instructions to my customers for exporting data, but the process would
be too difficult. Good idea about FSF - given that it is what they deal
with day in, day out.

Bo Gusman wrote:
A couple of points not otherwise mentioned.

First, contact the FSF for some authorative help. They can point you
to legal experts who will have answers.

Second, IMHO, so long as you are only extracting data that the
customer owns and are not making use of the internal structures of the
DB as provided by Goliath, your exposure should be minimal.

Last, when all else fails, provide a means to import data in a format
that has been manually exported using Goliath's tools. It is the
customer's absolute right to have access to their data, regardless of
any license scheme imposed by a third party. Imagine the world we
would live in if such were not the case.

Bo

Frank Rizzo wrote:
Thank you for your answer. Just to clarify a couple of things, the
agreement to exchange data with the competitor is unlikely to happen
since he is the goliath and I am david (in our business). Secondly,
as far as trying to locate a lawyer, I am unable to find one
specializing in these matters. All the generic lawyers I talked to
all say "don't do it".

Nov 21 '05 #14

P: n/a
Thanks, I'll give it a shot.

Bo Gusman wrote:
How about something like WinBatch, write a script to automate the
process, compile the script and distribute it to your customers. Take
away as much of the pain for your customers as you can and they'll love
you for it!

Bo

Frank Rizzo wrote:
The Goliath's software does provide a way to export data, but it is so
complicated for an average user and so wrought with error messages and
meaningless message boxes , that I think they put it in there as a red
herring, just to prevent people from exporting data. I think it is
safe to say that they don't want the data exported. So, I could
provide instructions to my customers for exporting data, but the
process would be too difficult. Good idea about FSF - given that it
is what they deal with day in, day out.

Bo Gusman wrote:
A couple of points not otherwise mentioned.

First, contact the FSF for some authorative help. They can point you
to legal experts who will have answers.

Second, IMHO, so long as you are only extracting data that the
customer owns and are not making use of the internal structures of
the DB as provided by Goliath, your exposure should be minimal.

Last, when all else fails, provide a means to import data in a format
that has been manually exported using Goliath's tools. It is the
customer's absolute right to have access to their data, regardless of
any license scheme imposed by a third party. Imagine the world we
would live in if such were not the case.

Bo

Frank Rizzo wrote:

Thank you for your answer. Just to clarify a couple of things, the
agreement to exchange data with the competitor is unlikely to happen
since he is the goliath and I am david (in our business). Secondly,
as far as trying to locate a lawyer, I am unable to find one
specializing in these matters. All the generic lawyers I talked to
all say "don't do it".

Nov 21 '05 #15

This discussion thread is closed

Replies have been disabled for this discussion.