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Tricked Into Buying OpenOffice.org? 543

Posted by timothy
from the sucker-born-jede-Minute dept.
mldkfa writes "Recently I told a friend about OpenOffice and how it was a great alternative to the big name pay office suites. She went home and searched on Google for it and thought she found the website, filled typical registration information, and downloaded OpenOffice.org 3.0. The next time she opened her e-mail she found a request for 98 [Euro] for her 1-year subscription to OpenOffice.org 3.0 from the company that she downloaded it from. Apparently the EULA stated this cost and here in Germany she is required to pay up. So I thought I would ask Slashdot, should she pay? On the OpenOffice.org German website there is a warning of these schemes being legal. Shouldn't Sun change the license of OpenOffice.org to protect their fans or are they doing this to protect someone else? It has really made me think about recommending it to any more friends." Below, read Google's translation of the warning; it wouldn't be the first time that open source software has been lightly repackaged and sold in ways that should raise eyebrows among anyone familiar with the wide, free availability of the same apps.
Google translates the warning message thus: "WARNING before downloading from any third party: The download of OpenOffice.org is free from this page possible. These are not personal data. In recent times, however, we can reach more complaints about companies that the program for a fee for downloading. Among other leading search engines to search for OpenOffice.org to pay "download subscriptions. We want to emphasize that we have these offers are not affiliated and is not responsible. Due to the open-source philosophy allowed our license, but also the sale. When you download OpenOffice.org under no circumstances disclose your personal information!"
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Tricked Into Buying OpenOffice.org?

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  • by beef curtains (792692) * on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:04PM (#26473317)

    Personally (assuming the scammers didn't have any information that could result in them pursuing payment beyond e-mails, i.e. dinging my credit rating), I would remove that particular OpenOffice.org installation from my system and delete the install files. I would then disregard that and all subsequent communication from those scammers, and would go seek out the official, free installation.

    Assuming she didn't give them any bank account, credit card or PayPal info (or any other type of payment info along those lines), what could they possibly do if she didn't pay? Keep sending her e-mails? Configuring e-mail filters to send them straight to the trash would quickly take care of that problem.

    The fact that they allowed her to download & install the software before attempting to collect payment sounds like one could conceivably consider it to be "trialware", which would mean that deleting it in lieu of paying would be a totally legit response to being billed.

    IMO, IANAL, etc.

    • by eln (21727) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:09PM (#26473423) Homepage

      That depends on what the submitter means by "typical registration information". To me, typical registration information means a name and an email address, but there are plenty of sites, particularly download sites that specialize in "free trial" type software, that will take a lot more information such as name, address and phone number. If they got that information, they could easily get enough information on her to ding her credit. At the very least, they could harass her until she gives up and pays them.

      This is why you always give a fake address when asked unless it's a (reputable!) company where you're actually paying for something at the time or if it's a (reputable!) company which is actually going to send you some physical object.

      • by RichardJenkins (1362463) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:46PM (#26474237)

        In the UK, even if you agree to buy something online you have a seven day 'cooling off' period in which to cancel. If she agreed to purchase OpenOffice from these (cretinous) people in the UK and didn't cancel within that time, she'd be liable to the charge.

        Obviously, if they're going to lengths to make it appear as though it is a free download but in reality you have to pay it would be fraud.

        Remember, the GPL allows you to resell the software. I doubt many people would like to see the GPL changed to mandate free (as in beer) sale of all software distributed under that license.

        Apologies for the rambling nature of this comment, I'm quite drunk.

        • by mabhatter654 (561290) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @06:23PM (#26474959)

          There's no problem with selling Open source software... I've even run into boxes of repackaged OpenOffice at the grocery and office supply stores in the US. But that's the point, you get to buy a box and you know what you're paying up front unlike this story.

          This story is really about German law allowing all sorts of scammers. They are one of the countries that allows all sorts of junk in EULAs as "binding contracts" over and above even the US. And don't they also have those "identity" laws that make using fake names/info for online registration and actual crime? As well as the forbidding of anonymous email addresses and such. Combine the two and you have the perfect storm where people can "purchase" things just by going to sites... even though their consumer retail laws are quite the opposite.

          • by Niedi (1335165) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @08:22PM (#26476595)

            Not quite. It is a crime to use your fake name and such, but unless the cost is stated very clearly on the page (and not just in line XYZ of the EULA or something like that) it counts as an attempt to mislead the customer, or as the heading said, tricking him into buying.

            There have been a lot of sites like this (IQ test, friendship test blabla) and in pretty much all cases the court told them to shove it... The point is, those who run the sites know it and will most certainly never go to court.
            If you want to get rid of them real quick have a lawyer answer the mail for you. Or go to the "Verbraucherzentrale", they will tell you what to write.

            So it ain't THAT bad.

          • by turbidostato (878842) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @09:15PM (#26477067)

            "This story is really about German law allowing all sorts of scammers [...] all sorts of junk in EULAs as "binding contracts""

            Well, it's usually said that devil is in the details. On one hand, to the best of my knowledge, German law is about "contracts", not "EULAs"; that makes an interesting point because a "contract" is not whatever one side of the deal says so but quite a complex thingie where both parties must be in a position of good faith information. I wouldn't say that a 6p letter page not linked from anything but the "show me all pages" index and a payment that is not explicitly stated till the good is already on posesion of the buying side has all conditions for a deal to be considered "a contract" (Legal TM).

            On the other hand, "OpenOffice.org" is not a generic name last I saw but a protected trade mark. Since these kinds of scams can damage the image of the product I'd say Sun and/or the OpenOffice.org foundation can and probably should approach the scammer company privately asking it for 1000x retaliation if not cease and desist. That should do it with no need of somebody being hurt.

        • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @07:54PM (#26476273) Journal

          Ya know, there's a difference between what the law states and what is enforceable. Technically she may be required to pay-up, but that doesn't mean she has to. It's very likely she could ignore the email, never pay, and the scammers would drop the bill because it's too expensive to file court cases to claim $96.

          Worst case: If they somehow managed to charge her credit card, she could simply send an empty envelope to the scammers and tell the VISA card, "I have returned the item; here's the tracking number which proves it. Please reverse the charge," and it will disappear.

          When dealing with deceitful scam artists, sometimes you need to be smart and reverse-scam them to recover your stolen money. Use the law to your own advantage. I've bought a lot of false-advertised junk off Ebay and Amazon, but so far haven't lost a single penny thanks to using the technique I just described.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by xaxa (988988)

          In the UK, even if you agree to buy something online you have a seven day 'cooling off' period in which to cancel.

          This is the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) law. It now seems to have been adopted in Europe too, so maybe the German woman can use it.
          It applies to any purchase at a distance, it was originally meant to protect against telephone salesmen talking people into signing up to stuff.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumer_Protection_(Distance_Selling)_Regulations_2000 [wikipedia.org]

          Apologies for the rambling nature of this comment, I'm quite drunk.

          That's OK, you're British ;-)

        • by Anonymous Cowpat (788193) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @08:21PM (#26476583) Journal

          well let's see if they're violating the GPL by, say, not offering the source code, sue them for every penny they've ever made (I suppose that's Sun will have to do that, or any other person who has contributed to OO.o) and start handing the money back out to people who stumped up.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by grumbel (592662)

          In Germany you have 14 days in which you can return anything you bought online. In addition to that any offering that didn't make it obvious that you have to pay for it is void to begin with, having a 'please pay us 98 EUR' somewhere hidden deep in the fine print isn't a valid contract.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ubertopf (693957)
          There is something called the "Teleabsatzgesetz" in germany (literally: law for things sold via remote medium) passed somewhen around 2002: 312 BGB ff. IANAL. It applies to contracts you agreed to via phone, internet or on your doorstep. It grants the buyer a 14 day period to cancel the contract without providing any reason for doing so. The exception are custom made objects, explicitly crafted to the buyers specification. If the buyer is not explicitly made aware of that fact, the 14 days may even be ext
      • I'll need the EuroDotters among us to confirm if it's more common over there to ask for a full name. Most quasi-savvy Americans are used to Bogusizing such things and only registering for real if it's a kickin' program.

        Like we see with the patent trolls, these kinds of operators also have access to lawyers to provide nuisance suits along the theme that they "provided additional packaging services". So if they stuck their own splash screen on it, it *is* work performed, and so makes the case too murky to sim

      • by bmcage (785177) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @06:15PM (#26474859)
        This is Germany, Europe, you cannot be forced to buy something, you have the right to return goods, ...

        I'm in Belgium, if somebody sends you something, then asks you to or send money or send it back, you can instead keep it and not send money. Equal laws exist for internet shopping.

        On a sidenote, you can get azureus in Italy with some commercial shops in it luring you to buy download stuff there, and it was the top hit in google. I use linux and OSS since last century and was fooled in installing it for a friend (on windows of course, no apt-get). These things can look really legitimate. Let's hope the 'vote it down' possibility added to google makes these sites less prominent.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Yvanhoe (564877)
          Completely off-topic but "I use linux since the last century" becomes to be sigable...
    • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:11PM (#26473469)
      IMO, IANAL, etc.

      It's your opinion that you are not a lawyer?!? : p

      Otherwise, agreed with your post. Unless she gave them some way for them to try to collect from her (other than by sending emails), she should be in the clear. However, I'd check out the site she actually downloaded from to see what their claims supposedly are.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by CarpetShark (865376)

        IMO, IANAL, etc.

        It's your opinion that you are not a lawyer?!? : p

        Yeah, you can tell someone's a real lawyer when they prefix IANAL with IMO ;)

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      It sounds like in Germany she has to pay. She 'bought' it from the website in question. In the US YMMV but i bet here too, if you agreed to pay, you pay or get sued. Doesn't matter that you can get it free elsewhere. THERE it was pay only.

      Really, its not any different then agreeing to buy any other item online: "click here to buy"

      She should have read the agreement first. If its struck down, then technically all internet sales of long term support contracts ( or all sales? ) are subject to being ignored.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Fallingcow (213461)

        Any way to 'return' the 'product'?

        I know that Europe has much better consumer protection than the U.S., generally speaking, so she may be able to get a refund or somehow officially reject the product and not pay.

        • by nurb432 (527695)

          Here in the US you cant return retail software in a box for the most part. Once its opened, its normally yours. So donno..

          • by Angus McNitt (542101) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:46PM (#26474239)
            Actually, you can return boxed software, mostly. During my stint as a a one man software business, I retained a lawyer to write my EULA and they stated that under Federal Law, you have to offer the ability to return the product as you are not disclosing all the requirements of ownership until the EULA is displayed. Otherwise it was an illegal contract and unenforceable. The Feds got involved due to it most likely being interstate commerce. Here's the caviat, the local store doesn't have to take it back, as that's controlled by local laws and consumer rights. I only would HAVE to accept it from the store, unless you bought from me directly. However most states have laws concernign this, and they are fairly pro-consumer, from what I've seen. It actually spelled this out in a M$ software sale partner agreement I got to see later when the store I worked from became a partner. "Guidelines for the Acceptance of Declined Software and Requirements of Funds Distribution." After reading it, basically if you wanna be a partner and sell our stuff, you have to accept EULA declined returns.
        • by sabt-pestnu (967671) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @06:03PM (#26474625)

          The problem is that the 'product' purchased is 'ability to download from our site'.

          Openoffice being GPL, they aren't selling the *software*, they're selling the *download*. Uninstalling the software doesn't negate the download service 'purchased'. ... in the same way that you can't return a package to the sender for a refund of the UPS fees.

    • by Phoenix (2762)

      Indeed. If no information was given out to state any way in which payment could be rendered, then there is nothing the Germans or the German government can do to require payment.

      Just uninstall the program, delete the installer and have done with it.

      However...

      If the site needs a form of payment to cover it's costs for bandwidth, that's legal and technically not a charge for the software. If that's the case and the "I agree..." button was checked before the download started, then the person needed to do a bet

    • by thelexx (237096) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:21PM (#26473725)

      This particular scam is popular in Germany in different guises. I can't remember the details of how the person I read about handled it, but I do know that ignoring it is NOT the correct answer. Which is one reason why the scam is popular. If someone is truly motivated, check out the expat forum toytowngermany.com, I'm sure the thread is still there.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:29PM (#26473895)
        Ha, yes, I remember that thread. Here it is [toytowngermany.com].

        Germany can be pretty screwed up in some respects, especially if you're used to living in a fairly "loose" system like the US. Still, Berlin's great. Low rents, cheap food, good beer, and incredible nightlife. And plenty of cute girls in Kreuzberg. It's not quite New York or Paris or London, but for 1/4 the price, I'm sure as hell not complaining.
        • by neuromanc3r (1119631) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @07:09PM (#26475753)

          Germany can be pretty screwed up in some respects, especially if you're used to living in a fairly "loose" system like the US.

          Not that I disagree with your assessment about Germany being screwed up, but I think calling the US loose (especially compared to Berlin) is a bit of a stretch. Having lived both in the US and in Berlin, I consider most of the places in America much less relaxed in every respect I can think of (drugs [especially weed], prostitution, homosexuality, sex in general, abortion etc). Well, everything except gun control and nazi insignia.

      • by drolli (522659) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @06:36PM (#26475197) Journal

        Well, I am German. In Germany there is an well defined process on how you collect your money.

        1) Rechnung (Invoice)

        2) Mahnung (Informs you that you are late paying)

        3) Goin to court and getting the permission to get a court order, which will be executed by the state

        Just doing nothing can easily end up in 3). I would suggest, if the situation in unclear, to go to a lawyer. My experience pretty much says that in Germany most scammers back off. Usually when people trying to fuck around with you get a nice letter from a lawyer they stop statistically is does not pay off for them.

        But m,ore could only de said if somebody would post a link to the specific company in question, so that we can read their AGB (Something terms of service)

    • by skeeto (1138903)

      I think the real question is why she filled out a "registration form" with any sort of real information. Automatically filling out forms on the Internet with real information is a bad habit. Unless they are billing you, they don't need to know anything about you.

      That's what disposable e-mail addresses [mailinator.com] are for.

    • I would remove that particular OpenOffice.org installation from my system and delete the install files. I would then disregard that and all subsequent communication from those scammers, and would go seek out the official, free installation.

      Sounds like a normal sort of thing to do, but the question that pops into my mind is, what did this person actually agree to on the scam site? It sounds like she agreed to some subscription, so the next question is, what are the terms of this subscription? Third question: what does German law have to say about it?

      I know in the US there are at least some consumer-protection laws (though sometimes not enough). For example, with most products you buy, the seller is required to allow you to return it within

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by julesh (229690)

      She shouldn't forget about it, definitely not. She lives in the EU, so the Distance Selling Regulations apply. Under the terms of these regulations, she has 14 days after the purchase during which she may inform the vendor that she wishes to cancel the contract at no cost to her. She should take advantage of this.

      IANAL, so talk to one before doing anything.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:05PM (#26473337) Journal

    Shouldn't Sun change the license of OpenOffice.org to protect their fans or are they doing this to protect someone else?

    First of all, it's the general public that doesn't understand open source that need protection--highly unlikely a 'fan' would buy OpenOffice.org or even download it from a third party.

    Second, your friend is boned [gnu.org].

    Does the GPL allow me to sell copies of the program for money?

    Yes, the GPL allows everyone to do this. The right to sell copies is part of the definition of free software. Except in one special situation, there is no limit on what price you can charge. (The one exception is the required written offer to provide source code that must accompany binary-only release.)

    Unless she downloaded it without being notified upfront of the cost, she ain't going to win this one. If they even host a binary distribution from their site they can claim the bandwidth you used was worth whatever you have to pay. If they aren't also offering you the source code [openoffice.org] or haven't given it to you of that distribution, you could maybe send the EFF after them and try to escape via that route ... although I've seen lawyers work their magic & you could still end up paying.

    Third, they aren't going to limit or restrict selling their software because this could turn into a scary thing for companies. I write proprietary software for my job. I use code licensed as open source. I make available the source to my customer and they pay my company quite well so that we can adopt and add to that code to specifically suite their needs. It's fairly close to 'software as a service.' Now, assuming I used some library (I can't think of anything off of OO.o that I would use) but my company's law-talkin' guys would be scared as hell if it said I couldn't charge money for it ... because maybe it's an integral part of our product?

    Do your friend a favor: sit down with her and talk with her. Explain to her that not every piece of software requires you pay out your ass to use it. In the United States, I would call the Better Business Bureau and let them know about this company you speak of. I don't know a lot about your rights or organizations that will help you in Germany but I wish you the best of luck.

    Bottom line: For the sake of and proliferation of open source, please don't argue for a fork of the GPL or even for stipulations on charging to be worked into it.

    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:18PM (#26473631) Homepage Journal

      Unless she downloaded it without being notified upfront of the cost, she ain't going to win this one.

      Are you an expert in German law? How can you possibly make such a statement?

      In the United States, she could simply refuse to pay. They'd have to sue her to get the money, which they'd never do because they're a scam.

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      Unless she downloaded it without being notified upfront of the cost, she ain't going to win this one.

      You can bet it was there somewhere, in the fine print.

      I agree its morally wrong to take advantage of people like that, but it legal. Buyer Beware..

      Of course then again, are they going to provide some support or something for her $? If so, then its not even immoral and just annoying.

    • Just don't pay them, don't answer the e-mails, and hopefully she didn't provide a phone number. If she did, perhaps the phone company can put a block on that number.

      They'll go away. If they don't they'll have to take her to a small claims type court, and that will cost them money. She won't lose this case. She can say that she never downloaded it and it was someone else that did (I sort of doubt this company would get a subpoena for the ISP to get her IP address information..) or she could say the sof
    • by Asic Eng (193332) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @07:03PM (#26475675)
      Here is a video showing what likely happened in this case: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQ3Ygaemm5c [youtube.com]

      Just because it's legal for someone to demand money (selling free software is certainly allowed in Germany), doesn't mean you have to pay what they demand. A payment demand hidden in a EULA or AGB (Allgemeine Geschäftsbedingungen) does not mean you've entered a legally binding contract when you clicked on "download". That doesn't mean the scammer is violating the law, unfortunately - but neither do you have to pay.

      In general the way to deal with these sites is this: do not react on them contacting you - an IP number and data entered into a web form is not enough for them to get their claim accepted by the court. However if you do respond and admit you downloaded from their site, then they have some more ammunition - not enough, but don't give it to them, anyway. For the IP number to be correlated to your address, they need a German judge to issue an order to your IP provider. Of course the judge won't don't that - these scammers have tried to get orders like that many times, and they've always been unsuccessful. Scammers are not very popular, judges usually don't go out of their way to help them.

      So don't communicate with the scammers - wait for the court order (gerichtlicher Mahnbescheid), if they bother to go that far. Once you get the order, tell the court you object. That's it, it doesn't go further than that.

      On youtube check out katzenjens, he made a few videos on the matter: http://www.katzenjens.de/abzockinfos.html [katzenjens.de] (German language, only). Here is a good one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbZzRJm-3_4&feature=channel [youtube.com]

  • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:06PM (#26473353) Homepage Journal
    Submitter: your friend should just stick it to the man and pirate it from Bittorrent. That'll teach those money-grubbing bastards!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Do they take flooz?

  • If it's legal... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PCM2 (4486) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:08PM (#26473395) Homepage

    Well, if as you say it's legal in your jurisdiction, then it sounds like yes, she should pay, unless she wants to risk damage to her credit.

    Maybe for this reason everybody should get into the habit of calling it OpenOffice.org. That's the name of the software. Not OpenOffice. OpenOffice.org. So where do you get it? OpenOffice.org. What's the cost? Find out at OpenOffice.org. What's the latest version? OpenOffice.org will tell you. Et cetera.

    • by cbreaker (561297)
      How would this be a credit thing? There was no credit check, no credit agreement, no credit what-so-ever. There's no way it could be a negative mark on her credit because there was no credit involved.

      The worst that can happen here is she gets taken to small claims court.

      NO credit damage! Do you not understand what credit is?
  • by Threni (635302)

    It was someone else; she was drunk; she clicked no and her computer malfuctioned; she can't afford it; she can simply refuse to pay and to respond to requests to pay ... I'm sure there are other things she can attempt to get out of it, or to make it not worth the companies time to try and collect the money.

  • The website (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:11PM (#26473473)

    Man.. if only there was an easy way to remember what the website is to download OpenOffice.org...

  • by zzyzyx (1382375) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:11PM (#26473475)

    Selling (L)GPLed software is authorized by the license (and even encouraged apparently). See http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/selling.html [gnu.org]

    However in your case the price was probably not apparent at the time of sale (or else you would'nt complain now I assume), and thus the sale is illegal under European law. So don't pay.

    • Sublicensing? (Score:5, Informative)

      by FilterMapReduce (1296509) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @06:25PM (#26475025)
      From the summary, it seems like the software wasn't really sold though. They're trying to extract the money due to the user's agreement to a EULA, which (if that means in this context what it usually does) binds the user to some terms on the condition of using the copyrighted software. But, according to LGPL 2.1 [gnu.org] (which is OOo's license):

      8. You may not copy, modify, sublicense, link with, or distribute the Library except as expressly provided under this License. Any attempt otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense, link with, or distribute the Library is void, and will automatically terminate your rights under this License. However, parties who have received copies, or rights, from you under this License will not have their licenses terminated so long as such parties remain in full compliance. [emphasis added]

      Selling a copy of the software—with an up-front price, like you said—would be one thing, but it appears that they are trying to impose a secondary license agreement (the EULA) on top of the LGPL that contractually binds the user to some payment after the fact. The license, and all other versions of the GPL and LGPL, forbid that outright. In fact, that company may now be forbidden from distributing OpenOffice.org to anyone at all, since they voided the entire license for themselves. (Not a lawyer.)

      • Re:Sublicensing? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @07:36PM (#26476079) Journal
        Emphasis mine:

        They're trying to extract the money due to the user's agreement to a EULA, which (if that means in this context what it usually does) binds the user to some terms on the condition of using the copyrighted software.

        The way almost all of these scams work is that the EULA is not on the copyrighted software, but on the download mechanism. They are charging her for use of their download service, not for use of OpenOffice.

        It's nitpicky, but it's an important distinction, since the donwload service EULA does not modify or sublicense the OpenOffice LGPL.

  • Cost in the EULA? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by faloi (738831) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:12PM (#26473501)
    Is it a typical EULA that was scene during the install of the product? Can't your friend state that she read the EULA, disagreed with the terms and is, in effect, returning the software (deleting it). Delete it, get a fresh copy (just in case the company in question modified some of it before passing it along), and use that instead.
  • by nategoose (1004564) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:15PM (#26473553)
    Most likely there's some way to cancel the order on the basis of faulty or incompatible produce -- "Y'all's version of Open Office don't work on my computer! I want my money back!" type deal.
    Look into that, remove their version of it, and get the official one or even different software.
    • I'd imagine if it went to court that it would be easy enough to verify if it did or didn't work on your hardware. Telling porkies like that isn't going to help your cause too much, when (it sounds like) there are enough fully legal approaches to take.
  • by orzetto (545509) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:18PM (#26473633)

    I think there are laws in Germany (and all of the EU) that state that when you buy something over the Internet, you can return the product within a few weeks (at least 2) if you are not satisfied. Google for Widerrufrecht.

    If they did not tell her of this possibility, they are hosed. Not sure what are the penalties for not telling the customers about it, but they must be pretty stiff since every time I order something (yes I live in Germany) I get lots of information about it.

  • by getuid() (1305889) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:19PM (#26473663) Homepage
    1) Go see a good lawyer.

    2) After having consulted with the lawyer, "return" the software. Delete it or similar...


    The point is that german law requires everybody who sells anything on-line to take back the merchandise on the request of the customer within 2 weeks. It's a kind of a safety net against exactly this kind of scams.

    Now I don't exactly know how "returning" would translate for software, but that's exactly she needs to talk to a lawyer about, and she needs to do that *fast*, in order to be able to answer before the two-weeks-deadline passes.

    However, I wouldn't respond to the e-mail of the scamers directly. Someone here on /. already suggested that without having an address/card ID from her, they don't have any means to prove that it was actually her who downloaded and installed the copy. And without proof, they can pretty much kiss your/her ass...

    If they try to scare her off, in Germany she even has the possibility to file a negative clearifying charge (it's called "negative Feststellungsklage", I don't know the exact english legal construct for this). The charge is aimed at clearifying in front of the law whether she is or is not guilty of whatever they will try to accuse her. The nice thing about this charge is that it's her call, not theirs. So they *need* to prove that they have a valid case, or else they loose. If they loose, they pay (up to several thounsands of euros). It's another protection gimmick of the german law system against scamers :-)
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      excuse me, but see a lawyer over a E98 charge? Can you even talk to a lawyer for E98, let along talk long enough to get advice about the particular situation?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:20PM (#26473689)

    This is a scam that you should ignore or better, contact your local "verbraucherzentrale". Here are some info http://www.verbraucherzentrale-bayern.de/UNIQ123205386511451/link462241A.html
    For my case I just ignored them and they gave up. If they did not, my next step would have been to send them a scary (aka lawyer talk) letter written by the verbraucherzentrale ;)
    P.S.: the consultation with the verbraucherzentrale costed me 10 euro.

  • by dwarfking (95773) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:22PM (#26473741) Homepage

    When my son got a laptop for college, he went to download OpenOffice instead of paying for Office and called me asking for a credit card to pay for it with. Reading the fine print I saw that the site was charging for the download of the software from their servers, but for any problems you were supposed to contact OpenOffice.org.

    There are a number of legally gray sites doing similar things. I know of one that has a page that previously came up high in Google rankings because of adwords for you to order particular documents. The site charged you to "explain how to order" then when you went to get the documents, you were routed to a legitimate site that sold the documents and then you were charged for the docs. Many people called the legit site asking why they were being charged twice.

    This is apparently legal, so long as there is a disclaimer on the page. Turns out in this case the disclaimer was very small print, but still there. The legit site started monitoring the referral header so they could let the visitor know they had not yet actually purchased anything, but it still caused calls to the legit company's help desk and complaint lines.

  • Ya know... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by smooth wombat (796938) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:22PM (#26473747) Homepage Journal

    this whole thing could have been avoided had you told her WHERE to get the software and that it was free.

    I know most /.ers are tired of helping their friends/family/whatever installing software, uninstalling spyware, etc, but when you're trying to promote what you consider to be a better product, sometimes more information and bit of elbow grease is better than simply, "Go get X".

  • Well, so in Germany it is legal to sell OO for any amount of money I feel like charging for it.

    So what if this company wrote up EULA saying by downloading OO from them I am agreeing to buy it for 10 million dollars. Would you still recommend to pay?

    But is it ANY different than asking for 100 dollars?

    What would German law say if company was asking for 1 billion dollar per sale? After all, that number is just as arbitrary as any other number they are charging.

    • Yes, it's legal (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Fred Ferrigno (122319)

      It's legal anywhere the GPL is recognized, including the US. The GPL explicitly [gnu.org] allows you to charge a fee for distributing copies to users:

      You may charge any price or no price for each copy that you convey, and you may offer support or warranty protection for a fee.

      Distribution is never completely free and in some rare cases can be quite expensive, so the GPL allows you to recoup your costs without attempting to dictate a fixed price. The idea is that since anyone can be a distributor, commodity pricing will be the norm even when distribution is expensive.

      The problem comes when individuals have incomplete information about the goi

  • People sell CDs of Linux, people sell CDs of SHAREWARE (trial versions!). People can, according to someone who quoted the GPL, sell GPL software.

    If the site said it was free and then charged for it, that's one thing. If it did not say it was free, it probably said something about buying it or something like that.

    What I find interesting is that the summary says she "googled" it. What in the WORLD did she google? have yo uever tried putting "openoffice" or "open office" or any other variant of it in goo

    • shameless reply: "why is this awful" is in response to charging for free software. Scamming or tricking people into buying otherwise free software IS awful, albeit NOT illegal and not necessarily a scam. RedHat and Novell and many other software companies try to get people to buy it, though in more honest ways.

      Summary: tricking someone into buying openoffice.org is awful. I still haven't seen the page though...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Yet another reply...

      Here [www.chip.de] is a link to the first unknown site to me ("unknown" means not wikipedia and not openoffice.org) from google.de search for "openoffice." here [google.de] is the search. Still having a hard time finding a scam.

      This guy [ztw3.com] apparently did find one: openoffice-suite.com [openoffice-suite.com] and also www-openoffice.com [www-openoffice.com]

  • Surely there must be a "send it back within X days for a full refund".

    Not sure how you send back a download, but whatever the consumer rights group is will know...

  • Standard (Score:5, Informative)

    by mseeger (40923) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:39PM (#26474099)

    Hi,
    happens quite often, but usually you can refuse payment and would win any lawsuite. I've done a lot of consulting to victims of such traps. None of them payed anything and none was ever forced to pay. There was a lot of "shock and awe" legal letters but it turned out all to be smoke&mirrors and never any court was involved. If any one wants to know what to do in such a case (in germany) or needs any letter examples to respond to invoices, contact me.
    Regards, Martin

  • by mlwmohawk (801821) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @05:44PM (#26474205)

    I always get modded flamebait for what I am about to say, but I'll say it again.....

    You can't "sell" GPL software, because it it not yours to sell. You *can* *only* sell the service of providing it. For instance:

    I own a store, in the back room, I burn copies of open office on to a disk, I print a small "quick start" doc, and put it in a CD case and sell it for what ever I choose, and I choose $99 bucks.

    In the above scenario, the physical CD. CD case, and "quick start" doc are physical merchandise which would be a criminal act to steal from my store. We all agree on that.

    If you "buy" my open office product:

    The physical copy of the "quick start" doc belongs to you and you may do with it as you will, but the "content" printed on the paper belongs to me and may not be copied without my permission without violating my copyright.

    The physical CD that contains open office belongs to you. Since I did not create open office, it does not belong to me and I am only allowed to put it on the CD because of the GPL. Also, because of the GPL you are allowed to make copies of the contents of the CD.

    In that transaction, I did not actually sell you "openoffice" I charged you for the service of providing you open office. I know it is splitting hairs, but it is a very important set of distinctions.

    • (IANAL, blah, blah...)

      If you're not the copyright-holder of a piece of GPLed software, you have the right to sell copies of the software, but you do not have the right to sell the legal, controlling rights to that software.

      Here's the relevant bit from the FSF's GPL Licensing FAQ [fsf.org]:

      Does the GPL allow me to sell copies of the program for money?

      Yes, the GPL allows everyone to do this. The right to sell copies is part of the definition of free software. Except in one special situation, there is no limit on what price you can charge. (The one exception is the required written offer to provide source code that must accompany binary-only release.)

      It's interesting that the FSF talks about selling copies rather than just about licensing a copy. I believe their point is that in order to distribute the software (for free or for money) it's necessary for you to transmit a copy to

  • by tmk (712144) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @06:19PM (#26474919)
    Of course it is legal to sell OpenOffice - why shouldn't it be? You can bundle it with Templates, you can add a better manual, you can compile an version for a new OS... But it is illegal to trick users to "buy". It's not an license issue, it's one of consumer protection or criminal prosecution.
  • Sittenwidrig (Score:3, Interesting)

    by soccerisgod (585710) on Friday January 16, 2009 @03:21AM (#26479251)
    The way the story is told I'd suggest that the practices of this company are at the very least deceptive, and there's ways to deal with this. I'd recommend waiting for legal papers (Mahnbescheid*) and then have a lawyer tell them to shove it. They won't go to court because they know that their business practices are "Sittenwidrig" (including laesio enormis - the service (that's what was sold) is in no way proportional to the costs) which essentially means that their practices are amoral/against proper business practices and thus not legal. *) A Gerichtlicher Mahnbescheid is a kind of legal paper anyone can get from a local court without any real checks by paying a few bucks to the court. This paper is then used for forclosure. However, this claim can be challenged, which would lead to a proper civil trial - if the claiming party will go that far, which in this case, they most likely won't.

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