HP rejoins 3000 vendors with RTUs
Everything told is retold again

What protection does the RTU offer HP?

HP has been careful not to link its new Right to Use license with the Generic Replacement Boxes (GREBs) program at Advant/Ideal. But one crucial message of the new RTU applies: using an HP 3000 without an authorized upgrade license, after you've moved from one level of MPE/iX to a higher tier, is prohibited. Or so HP says.

What's more, taking another PA-RISC server (like a cheap L-Class system off eBay) and using an MPE/iX license from an HP 3000 is also prohibited, under the terms of the new RTU. HP's policy means to protect the vendor's right to license MPE/iX, as well as keep the operating environment on original HP 3000 hardware.

OpenMPE's director Paul Edwards, a legendary veteran of training, consulting and a former vendor at Bradmark — one who runs his own company and has negotiated a deal to license and use HP's MPE/iX educational materials — has his doubts about how much protection the RTU and the policy around it provides HP.

HP's new license policy is up on the company Web site; you can download it (a PDF file) from a link here.

Edwards said he hasn't heard of HP prosecuting vendors who install a copy of MPE/iX on a 3000, "because the original system disc drives are not on that [new] system." If he's right, a lawyer could argue that amounts to failure to copy protect MPE OS code. How that case would prevail — it would likely be sparked by an HP lawsuit against an unauthorized third party — well, that remains to be seen.

Edwards wrote us about the potential for MPE to be considered in public domain. He's never stolen or installed unauthorized MPE/iX. This one of the good customers in the market, the kind that HP's R&D leader Ross McDonald said in an interview "we'd like to keep." But dissent, based on an open HP loophole, comes to Edwards' mind.

The standard FOS and SLT tapes that HP sends out with each MPE OS release are generic and are mass produced. The PowerPatch tapes are the same, also. The SUBSYS tapes contain only specific purchased products; they are custom-made by HP for each customer based on the customer's software license agreement with HP.

None of these tapes are linked to the HPSUSAN or HPCPUNAME fields in stable storage of an HP 3000 system. This means that an individual could install these tapes on many HP 3000 systems — but that is illegal based on the HP license agreement terms. I discussed this problem with HP many years ago, but apparently no effort was made by HP to close this loophole.

Most of the third party software companies have an installation code requirement that is tied to specific values in those stable storage fields. These values on each registered system prevent the software from operating on any other system. Some have some code to make the software operate in a short time demo mode for disaster recovery cases, or the customer has to call for a new set of codes in that case. This process ensures that the piracy of their software that I witnessed, at times, was ended.

Now for the legal speculation:

A lawyer could possibly make a case that since HP never took steps to copy protect their released MPE OS code for over 30 years, it may be essentially in the public domain and not subject to license protection. Many third party hardware brokers over the years have installed a copy of MPE that they have in inventory on systems that they sell because the original system disc drives are not on that system. I haven't heard of any prosecutions of this practice. I believe this lack of attempt by HP to protect their licensed software would further prove the lawyer's case. I assume that any attempt by HP now to prosecute the lack of license compliance by any company would prove to be very difficult.