Creative is having a big problem.
Their drivers are Vista-challenged. Somebody started futzing around with their drivers and got them to work better than Creative, even apparently with sound cards with no official Vista support. them
(He also did some more dubious things, like ask for donations while broadly hinting that further work depended on further donations, and also provided some software (with copy protection removed) that Creative charges for.)
Creative definitely did not like this:
We are aware that you have been assisting owners of our Creative sound cards for some time now, by providing unofficial driver packages for Vista that deliver more of the original functionality that was found in the equivalent XP packages for those sound cards. In principle we don’t have a problem with you helping users in this way, so long as they understand that any driver packages you supply are not supported by Creative. Where we do have a problem is when technology and IP owned by Creative or other companies that Creative has licensed from, are made to run on other products for which they are not intended. We took action to remove your thread because, like you, Creative and its technology partners think it is only fair to be compensated for goods and services. The difference in this case is that we own the rights to the materials that you are distributing. By enabling our technology and IP to run on sound cards for which it was not originally offered or intended, you are in effect, stealing our goods. When you solicit donations for providing packages like this, you are profiting from something that you do not own. If we choose to develop and provide host-based processing features with certain sound cards and not others, that is a business decision that only we have the right to make.
. . . .To be clear, we are asking you to respect our legal rights in this matter and cease all further unauthorized distribution of our technology and IP.
Let’s look at this piece by piece:
In principle we don’t have a problem with you helping users in this way, so long as they understand that any driver packages you supply are not supported by Creative. Where we do have a problem is when technology and IP owned by Creative or other companies that Creative has licensed from, are made to run on other products for which they are not intended.
The two sentences don’t mesh. The first tries to imply that Creative isn’t against the idea of enhanced drivers, but the second sentence (and the rest of the piece) says, “You can’t use any of our code to do that.”
In other words, unless you’re going to write a driver using a clean room design, Creative is saying, “We’re in favor of you doing this until you actually do it.”
Moving on . . . .
If we choose to develop and provide host-based processing features with certain sound cards and not others, that is a business decision that only we have the right to make.
In plain English, this means, “If we want to screw our customers this way, you can’t unscrew them.” And mind you, this really is a screwing. This is not a matter of Creative not enabling every possible feature, but rather reducing the features that were standard in the XP drivers.
This is bad. This is very, very bad, but it’s important to explain why this is bad.
Put aside the donation issue; it’s really irrelevant because Creative doesn’t want this fellow to do this, money or no money.
You also need to put aside the fellow providing “freed” unlocked software; he’s clearly wrong there.
The core issue is “Can Creative say, “We can do anything we want with your property, cripple it, obsolete it, make you buy a new one, and you can’t do anything about it. NYAAH?”
Under the law, can they? With a few possible exceptions (the UK implied warranty being one), they probably can: the court of public opinion is likely the only recourse for this, and for those who want to take a 2X4 to Creative, I say go for it.
But let’s be fair, the only difference between Creative and most other hardware providers is that they’re saying publicly what most of the others have done privately. They’re in the spotlight simply because somebody did what they refused to do.
If everybody does it, what do you do, boycott everyone?
Or do you make everyone follow the same set of rules?
We’ve said in the past that hardware manufacturers need to be regulated and made accountable for a reasonable degree of support for a reasonable period of time. This is yet another example of why this is necessary.
I think even the person who put together the drivers would have preferred that Creative had been required to do the right thing and written real Vista drivers, and I think that’s the better way to go.
However, if you wanted to put a bandaid on the situation, it would not require an overhaul to copyright laws to provide an “orphan” exception to copyright/patent law to allow people to do what this fellow did when a company will no longer provide adequate support.
I think that would wake a lot of people up.