Taking a Tour of IT History
Economy presses 3000 vets out of work

Jazz freeware emerges with restraints

LegalForest HP's only authorized reseller for HP 3000 products, Client Systems, unveiled the first public re-hosting of the Jazz software utilities today, but the programs are penned up behind a thicket of legal language from an HP materials agreement. While initial response from the community complained about the Materials Use Agreement, the terms gauntlet was tossed down by the HP Development Company, not Client Systems. (The screen shot above illustrates the standard display of the terms at the Client Systems Web site. Click to enlarge it, though it will not help.)

The dense legal restrictions might have been already in place in HP's mind before Jazz left Hewlett-Packard's 3000 division. But the agreement was finalized only about two months ago, and the vendor insisted that any re-hosting licensee accept the terms — and that re-hosting organizations demand that community users accept terms before using the freeware. Unless the users click to agree, they cannot access the Jazz materials. (Well, there is a way to access the software download page directly, although the path sidesteps the legal agreement.)

Computer users blast through such End User Licensing Agreements every day, from installation of updated software to downloads of freeware. But the Jazz software targets a more advanced user, the IT manager, director or administrator of business systems. Early responses to the document that restrains Jazz use were not kind.

"Give me a month to read through all that fine print, and pass it off to the legal department," said Craig Lalley, owner of consulting firm EchoTech. "Then I will be happy to comment on the content." While the agreement might make HPDC and its attorneys happy, the presentation to the user community could be some of the sorriest Web display I've ever seen for a critical piece of information. At the least, could it be in black type on the white background?

Client Systems is not the only outlet for Jazz and the Gordian knot of the agreement. Speedware also contracted with HP to host the software and documentation, resources that HP once distributed without this forced-click agreement.

That was a different HP era and a different segment of HP doing the distribution, however. Standard practices today include a 5,000-word, 39-page agreement which references four other HP licensing documents and lays out a $5 compensation fee for any damage caused by the Jazz freeware.

On the other hand, since the Web page collects no information by name of its visitors, it's hard to see how HP might be able to enforce or pursue any tresspass through its forest of controls. Client Systems admits the re-hosting is a work in progress. Dan Cossey invited the community to comment on the Client Systems presentation and hosting at his e-mail, [email protected]. For those who don't read these things anyway, the wealth of HP's programming is just a click-to-accept away.