Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 8 / JANUARY 1981 / PAGE 4

The Editor's Notes

Robert Lock, Editor/Publisher


This second annual dealer/vendor show was well attended, and pleasantly well-organized. Most interesting was being "New Kids On The Block". I suppose in part because of recent acquisitions (Hayden buying Programma International and Personal Computing Magazine), and recent stock market moves (Apple going public and Commodore stock soaring), there was a great deal of interest in the "microcomputer" people there. Dealer interest was normal to slow, but "big company" interest was strong. Everybody seems to be noticing this "new" market these days, and it was nice to meet those nice people from far-away places like Digital Equipment and Hewlett-Packard. You readers don't have any mis-impressions about such markets… Sol Libes, in his December BYTE column, cities an annual DATAMATION survey of the top 100 Computer Companies in US volume of sales. Tandy, Apple and Commodore were there (for the second year in a row), and guess which computer companies (no "micro" here) were the three fastest growing from the year before? Ah, what a wonderful "discovery" we're all "sharing in".

Atari: No Show

I was surprised that Atari didn't appear as an exhibitor at COMDEX. After all, corporate exhibitors included Apple and Commodore, as well as OSI. With market competition heating-up, we missed them! And numerous dealers commented about their absence. Sales, however, are moving along, we hear, and that's what translates into increased support and sustinance for you Atari owners.

The last day of the show was marred by the tragic MGM Grand fire. As far as we know, all exhibitors who were staying there got out safely. Among them were Bob Crowell and the crew from NEECO, and Bob Pierce from Quality Software. I have never experienced a more tragic incident, and strongly advise (after the fact) that you be cautious in your selection of, and placement in hotels while travelling. Most fire department equipment cannot reach beyond the eighth or ninth floor.

OSI Sells, But Not Out

Ohio Scientific has been sold to a company called M/A COM, Inc. Judging from recent OSI sales figures (according to the Boston Globe, $14.8 million in the ten months ending October 30), I'm sure the sale commanded a hefty price. No word yet on major implications of the change, but we have heard that key marketing personnel will remain with the company. I'll try to keep you posted on any developments as they relate to various portions of the current product line.

Computer Programs and Your Ethics

The ATARI Software Scam...

Almost one year ago, I sat here writing an editorial defending Ron Jeffries and his PET programs on tape magazine, CURSOR. I wrote in response to an editorial Ron had written regarding the number of his cassette magazines that were apparently being ripped off. Schools were high on that list, and after the editorials by the two of us, several dealers, educators, and others wrote about the problem. At that time, COMPUTE! was a brand new fledgling magazine. The editorial was written to appear in our second issue. We've grown a lot since then, and now find ourselves in the same boat. A company in Iowa is selling an article, with program, literally lifted from the pages of our Issue Number 5. The package marketed under the name "Add A Voice", has been sold to dealers around the country as original work. If you were an Issue 5 COMPUTE! reader, you'd notice a strange similarity between the documentation for that package and our published article:

"Adding A Voice Track To Atari Programs" by John Victor, President of Program Design, Inc. If you delved further into such mysteries, you'd realize that the documentation, sans our masthead and lead paragraph, were word for word indentical. And if you were especially prudent, you'd notice that the words were not even retyped, merely a pasted-up and copied reproduction of COMPUTE!.

Now I must admit, there's some personal gratification in seeing a magazine's articles making in onto Atari dealer shelves all across the country. I mean, after all, that's what we've been working on ourselves. But to sell a single COMPUTE! article, in lifted form (with cassette tape), for $19.95? A subscription for a whole year is only $16.00! Our notion of growth never included someone else doing our growing for us.

One Small Favor

If you're a dealer, or user, who's seen such software, and articles, copied from COMPUTE!, please let us know. Drop me a card, a letter, or call me. We want to know what's going on and in part rely on you for the information. I'm not going on about someone "stealing" our software; I'm talking about basic violations of copyright laws. And even if you're not clear on the laws of software, it's quite clear that magazines are different. COMPUTE! does not sell software! We sell information for a living, and that's a whole different problem. Especially when we sell a whole year of it for less than the copied article. I think the thing that really makes me furious is just that point. Some Atari owners around the country have paid $19.95 to get a single article from COMPUTE!

The Other Side Of The Scam

At the same time we discovered that our article was being sold, we discovered that Atari programs from software vendors were also being sold. Among these was an apparent version of Atari's own mailing list program and a version of Quality Software's Atari disassembler. In both cases, the programs were being sold for much more than the original vendor's asking price. Am I making it clear? We're not talking about someone "sharing" programs; we're looking at basic selling of copied material without permission. Quality Software, for example, sells their Atari disassembler for $11.95. The pirated version was selling for $29.95.

The Final Note

In this case, contrary to the initial appearance, it looks as if the company in Iowa may have been a victim of fraud as well. A late breaking article in Infoworld indicates that some other parties had sold the material from COMPUTE! and Quality Software, as original material, to the Iowa company...who in turn sold it not realizing it was copied.

I can't say more now, but vendors are going after software pirates, and hard. Our industry is old enough now and mature enough to protect the legitimate businesses from the not-so-legitimate ones. And our industry is becoming large enough so that the not-so-legitimate ones will be surfacing more frequently. Happy anniversary to "Computer Programs and Your Ethics"; I'm glad COMPUTE! has grown enough to help.

Post-Script: During all of this we've recently learned that other programs from COMPUTE! are being sold as part of "collections" of programs. One defense raised to me in a recent example was that $10.00, with a user-provided diskette, is a "reasonable" copying fee. When members of a local users group take turns keying in the longer programs from COMPUTE!, and providing them to other club members, who are also COMPUTE! subscribers, at meetings, no charge... that's a reasonable copying fee. When individuals take the same programs and sell copies for a charge, that's clearly different. And we expect to treat it differently from here. If you've been covered in the above discussion, please take a moment to read our current copyright notice. We have chosen not to sell software. We take the best of the software we see and print it on these pages. Given this choice, we don't expect others to sell it either.