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Piriform Asks BleachBit To Remove Winapp2.ini Importer 305

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the you-always-need-a-lawyer dept.
ahziem writes "As author of the BleachBit system cleaner, I received a polite but firm request from Piriform, makers of the similar application CCleaner, to remove a two-year-old feature from BleachBit that allows individual BleachBit users to import winapp2.ini data files created by the community that define which files to delete for applications. Does Piriform's request have merit? Do I need a lawyer? What is a good response to avoid any ugly situation?"
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Piriform Asks BleachBit To Remove Winapp2.ini Importer

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  • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @01:03AM (#42793671)

    Do I need a lawyer? What is a good response to avoid any ugly situation?

    And once again for the 1,000,000 time, yes, and this isn't the place to get legal advice...

    On the other hand, a "firm request" doesn't quite sound like a legal threat. Anyone can send a "firm request".

    Maybe check it with a REAL lawyer, but not worry too much until the people you've collided with send you a letter with more solid threats?

    Who knows, I'm not a lawyer...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss (770223) *

      By the way, nice "Slashvert". I'm sold...

    • by Art Challenor (2621733) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @01:11AM (#42793721)

      And once again for the 1,000,000 time, yes, and this isn't the place to get legal advice...

      True, but there's really any advice that you should ask for from ./er's? How to meet members of the opposite sex? Which Linux distro to use? Whether Metro is better than Unity?

      Once you get it in perspective, the question makes as much sense as any other.

    • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @01:18AM (#42793773) Journal

      And once again for the 1,000,000 time, yes, and this isn't the place to get legal advice...

      Lemme quote that guy had stated:

      Does Piriform's request have merit?

      Do I need a lawyer?

      What is a good response to avoid any ugly situation?

      Of the three quoted questions above, "Do I need a lawyer?" comes closest in resembling a "legal advice", but it ain't.

      The gist of what poster "ahziem" was looking for is "What is a good response to avoid any ugly situation?" - that is, how should one go about under that situation.
       

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @01:35AM (#42793869)

      It's not a legal request and the company has simply asked him to remove the feature. He simply declines, he is under no such obligation.

      Here, I'll even craft the letter for him:

      Dear Louise,
      We are under no legal obligation to remove that feature and we therefore decline. If you believe there is a legal basis then please get your lawyer to outline your claim in more concrete terms.

      Yours,...

      Don't waste your money. There's nothing here.

      • by dcollins (135727) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @03:44AM (#42794397) Homepage

        Why bother responding? Why bother letting them know that you're listening to and giving consideration to their threats? Why bother making a paper trail of any kind?

        If I had a lawyer on staff twiddling his thumbs, then I'd have him one-up the situation and write a "shut up and don't bother us" letter; but otherwise, I'd just dodge that shit entirely and remain silent.

        • by jimshatt (1002452)
          Because ignoring such a request, instead of just declining, doesn't look well in the eyes of a judge, should it come to that. IANAL, but I strongly feel that politely declining this request is a better resort than ignoring it.
          • by hawkinspeter (831501) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @04:57AM (#42794637)
            It was just an email - just dismiss it as spam and wait for a more formal request.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              That approach might have been more effective if he hadn't already plastered the email onto Slashdot.

            • It was just an email - just dismiss it as spam and wait for a more formal request.

              Now that he's posted it on slashdot, it is a little too late for that.

              • Can't he just point at all the responses calling for him to ignore it as justification for ignoring it? An email by itself does not warrant a response, but you're right that he won't be able to claim complete ignorance.

                To be honest, I can't see how this would get taken further when it's obvious that the terms of service aren't applicable as he's not using their software.
        • by sg_oneill (159032) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @05:16AM (#42794729)

          I think its obvious that he's considered it due to the slashdot thread!

          But yeah, he really isn't obliged to comply. Unless they can point to a specific patent or something that infringes on something then he really hasn't got any obligation to thake them seriously at all AFAIK.

          The files are created by other people, and no judge on the planet is going to accept that the agressors EULA which is an agreement between them and THEIR customers in anyway entraps third parties without the third parties consent. Just importing a datafile isn't consent otherwise the entire edifice of IT interoprerability would be under siege.

        • Among other reasons, he's already posted on slashdot. One geek or another who happens to be in favor of the other guys will carry the tale of this entire discussion back to the other company's forum. At which time everyone in the world with even the slightest interest will log in or read anonymously to offer their opinions. Any potential claim of ignorance is gone with the wind.

      • by nospam007 (722110) *

        Direct them to the site of your lawyer.

        http://www.bettercallsaul.com/ [bettercallsaul.com]

    • I'm certainly not a lawyer, your lawyer, or his lawyer; but I'm pretty sure that 'having a feature that might facilitate some third party breaking the terms of use that they may or may not have agreed to' isn't actually a crime(unless you are being sued by the MPAA/RIAA, in which case basically anything that transmits or stores information that might conceivably be copyrighted is a conspiracy with the worst of pirates and pedo-terrorists).

      Nothing that says they can't bury you in procedure until you suffocat

    • The request was just an email. It's not worth paying a lawyer when you can just ignore the email. Wait until they send a letter before lawyering up.

      I can't see how ToS are relevant if he's not using their software.
  • IANAL (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @01:07AM (#42793691)

    I am not a lawyer nor your lawyer, but I would just ignore the e-mail. Don't answer, just ignore it. Importing a text file has nothing to do with their ToS. This is not a legal advice.

    • Re:IANAL (Score:5, Informative)

      by Garridan (597129) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @01:56AM (#42793993)
      Yeah -- unless you're using their software, you can't violate their TOS.
      • Re:IANAL (Score:5, Funny)

        by ganjadude (952775) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @02:46AM (#42794235) Homepage
        I put out a CD ripping program years ago (not gonna link it because its dated and useless by todays standards) but in the ToS, I wrote that I was given the right to each users first born child as well as hand jobs from any male users girlfriend... I dont think that would hold up in court if i pushed it, but it WAS in my programs ToS
        • Re:IANAL (Score:4, Funny)

          by Farmer Pete (1350093) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @10:24AM (#42796193)
          I used that software. After the birth of my first son, I tried to contact you, but I was unable to. Now that I've found you, you can take delivery of my son. I'm also going to have to charge you for 5 years of back child support. I mean, he was your property that I took care of after all. I am due compensation. I'm sure the court will side with me after reading the TOS that you published.
    • IAAL (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @03:25AM (#42794343)

      I am not a lawyer nor your lawyer, but I would just ignore the e-mail. Don't answer, just ignore it.

      IAAL (not practising) and a developer and this comes closest to what I know I ought to do in this situation. Don't communicate until such time as a formal legal request is made and then communicate only as per legal advice.

      Personally I would be fighting with myself really hard to stop replying (aka giving them evidence)... however I wouldn't dream of representing myself (not even if I were practising).

      At this stage I would save myself the $$$ and just wait to see if they escalate the matter. I'm in no position to assess the legal liabilities in your particular situation. Nor should you accept the analysis or assurances of anyone commenting here. It may be they have no case, in which case their lawyer should tell them to wear it. At least in my jurisdiction a lawyer can face disciplinary proceedings for initiating action without "reasonable chance of success," and threatening legal action where no legal basis exists is a huge no-no (for lawyers that is). That may be different where you or Piriform are.

      If a formal legal letter threatening action (a lawyer is of course free to ask you to stop doing something on behalf of a client ... "pretty please ...") were received I would take legal advice in quick order.

      This is not a legal advice.

      Nor, it should go without saying, is this. It's just what I would do. If it makes you sleep better at night and you have cash to splash about you may want to get your legal team to take these jokers apart starting tomorrow.

      • by AK Marc (707885)

        At least in my jurisdiction a lawyer can face disciplinary proceedings for initiating action without "reasonable chance of success," and threatening legal action where no legal basis exists is a huge no-no (for lawyers that is). That may be different where you or Piriform are.

        That's why they never threaten leagel basis, they just state that they are a lawyer and they are requesting you do something or they'll be forced to take it to the next level. Little do they know that the next level is an even more impotent letter, strongly worded and pointless.

    • Re:IANAL (Score:5, Funny)

      by hawkinspeter (831501) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @04:24AM (#42794513)
      I am a lawyer and I'm your lawyer. Just ignore the e-mail. This is legal advice.
  • Backfire (Score:5, Interesting)

    by J'raxis (248192) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @01:09AM (#42793709) Homepage

    I've been using CCleaner on the few Windows boxes I maintain for a while now. I'd never heard of BleachBit. It looks like it does a lot more than CCleaner, and especially in light of Piriform's obnoxious legal theats, I think I'll switch to BleachBit.

    Thanks, Piriform!

    • To be fair, while Piriform's request might be considered obnoxious, there's really not a threat involved. As far as letters go, it was pretty mild.

      That's not to say that threats (legal or otherwise!) won't be forthcoming, but they're not here yet. I hope slashdot follows up; will be interesting to see what happens next.

    • BleachBit can run in CLI mode. We've scripted it to run on PCs over the network. Part of a monthly maintenance. Generally stuff that slows down the system. One thing that really bugged me about CCleaner is that it never provided an option to clean multiple local profiles on one machine even when logged in as a local admin. WTF?! Why not?. This would have been a God-send for cleaning up old and crusty Windows Terminal Servers.

  • by whoever57 (658626) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @01:10AM (#42793711) Journal

    This is probably just an example of a clueless PHB who doesn't realize the souce of the winapp2.ini files.

    Perhaps a polite letter asking how you are violating their TOS, pointing out the source of the winapp2.ini files? Also, you probably never accepted their TOS did you?

    • Re:Hanlon's razor (Score:4, Informative)

      by Skapare (16644) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @01:15AM (#42793753) Homepage

      They said "terms of use". Use of what? If HE downloaded CCleaner files and included them with his app, then I do see problems galore. But if he did not download CCleaner files himself I do not see how he is obligated contractually to their terms. Contract Law 101.

      • Re:Hanlon's razor (Score:4, Insightful)

        by tlhIngan (30335) <(ten.frow) (ta) (todhsals)> on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @02:06AM (#42794041)

        They said "terms of use". Use of what? If HE downloaded CCleaner files and included them with his app, then I do see problems galore. But if he did not download CCleaner files himself I do not see how he is obligated contractually to their terms. Contract Law 101.

        Depends how he wrote his winapp2.ini importer. Did he use Pinform's documentation/SDK? If so, something may apply if that documentation was provided for the purpose of having users write winapp2.ini files and not for the purposes of developing a competing app.

        If he wrote it by examining how users wrote their winapp2.ini files and made guesses, then he's in the clear (reverse-engineering).

        If he asked for help from the community, things get trickier because now the licenses and all that are horribly tangled.

        I would get a lawyer and compose a polite reply asking why they think it's a TOS violation - perhaps they thought you accessed their documentation and used it against the license?

        Right now things are at the "polite" level. Asking for more information on what they think is wrong doesn't hurt, maybe even politely explaining and showing documentation you didn't violate the ToS. It could be a huge misunderstanding and they thought you took their file and used it directly, without realizing there are other sources? (And that's not secure - since that community source could involve someone uploading CCleaner's version).

  • by Skapare (16644) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @01:10AM (#42793715) Homepage

    This will depend on the CCleaner files. If they are public visible files anyone can make for themselves, you might well have a valid case. If they are files Piriform makes, maybe not. You need an ATTORNEY to help you determine your position, and especially if they sue you. If the formatting of the CCleaner files involves a patented technology, they could have a valid basis to sue you (even though I would personally disagree with it). If the CCleaner files are encrypted, they may have a case based on cracking them. If they are in the clear, then it's no different than you having written a music player to play UNencrypted music files.

  • by Excelcia (906188) <kfitzner@excelcia.ca> on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @01:13AM (#42793737) Homepage Journal

    This would be like Microsoft asking OpenOffice not to import Word format. Or, for a closer analogy, for them to ask Mozilla not to have Firefox import IE bookmarks when you install it. This type of thing is done all the time. Unless they claim to have a patent on the format in the .ini file, it's totally fair game.

    • This would be like Microsoft asking OpenOffice not to import Word format.

      Actually - it's more like Microsoft asking OpenOffice not to import txt format - Piriform/CCleaner had nothing to do with the design of the winapp2.ini format, they just happen to use it in their application - same as BleachBit does.

  • If they have a problem with their TOS being violated, then they should take it up with the people that are actually violating it. (Class action lawsuit anyone? Piriform vs All PC users: importing ini files stored in the clear. Yeah that will work.) It looks like this has nothing to do with you.

    This feature annoyed them and they figured, what the heck, if you were weak kneed about it then sending you a pansy email would be the easiest solution.

  • Why in the world would you have any obligation to honor their TOS? It doesn't legally bind you in any way.

    IANAL, but as far as I know it's perfectly legal to build an app to read data from Excel, or Word, or QuickBooks, or whatever... unless it's incrypted (in the U.S.), the makers of those programs have pretty much no say in the matter. And even if encrypted, I would not consider it a moral obligation because the laws against un-encrypting are pretty darned questionable anyway. They are just a form of c
  • Ins response, offer them code (or just a document) to read your custom definition file so they can do the reverse.

  • Pretty clueless (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SilenceBE (1439827) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @01:26AM (#42793819)
    It sometimes baffles me how clueless some people are working in IT as "manager". Since when aren't you allowed to write an importer for an ini file that is publicly availabe. That ini file wasn't even written by piriform.

    I think this is a case of a manger that wants to get good points from the upperhand, not knowing how ridiculous her/his requests are.
  • What's the problem? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @01:29AM (#42793831)

    It seems that piriform is all worked up about an article that implies that BleachBit is importing CCleaner's data, this article [ghacks.net] in fact. However, the article does not say anywhere that the data is coming from CCleaner, it says the data is coming from Winapp2. Note that Winapp2 specifically states that they are not affiliated with Piriform!

    In other words, it looks like Piriform is saying "You can read the same file format that we can read and we demand that you stop reading it", despite the fact that Piriform has no claim to the files in question.

  • gist (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shentino (1139071) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @01:29AM (#42793833)

    Basically their message is as follows:

    "You're pissing us off by having a feature that competes with us, and we have an army of lawyers to throw at you if you don't back down."

    This is blatant intimidation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      we have an army of lawyers to throw at you

      Perkins: "But, couldn't we just sue him?"

      Louise: "Shut up and get in the catapult!"

  • Ignore them. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by macraig (621737) <mark.a.craigNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @01:29AM (#42793837)

    Why should you be frightened of a violation of their TOS? Have you or your software agreed to be bound by those terms at any point? No? Well then, why the fuck are they threatening you? Answer: because it's easier than threatening their own customers who might actually be violating those TOS, since threatening them will create a Streisand Effect and have them leaving in droves for good.

    You might have another TheOatmeal-versus-FunnyJunk moment here.

    • Well then, why the fuck are they threatening you?

      In fact, no one has "threatened" anyone.

      They made ridiculous request that can be safely ignored, but it was hardly a "threat".

      Way too much is being made of this by the Bleach people, but I'm sure that after this Slashdot "story", their downloads are up...

      • by macraig (621737)

        You should know an opening legal salvo when you see one by now. I'd wager that it is a threat and ultimatum, however polite and passive-aggressive it may be. I think the people who drafted the text are trying not to appear like the bully, but I think that is exactly what they will prove to be with the next letter... if they don't have the common sense to sense a battle that isn't worth winning even if it can be won and just as politely back off.

  • Get a lawyer (Score:5, Informative)

    by steelfood (895457) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @01:30AM (#42793843)

    Sounds like winapp2 is an independently-developed "application" that Piriform does not own. If you wrote your own libraries to parse the file, then they'll have trouble successfully suing you. But that doesn't mean they won't sue. If you're using their libraries, then best ditch it and rewrite that piece yourself.

    In either case, you need a lawyer. Let the lawyer respond.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...or ingenious 13th degree black belt master of the Streisand Effect.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @01:52AM (#42793975) Homepage

    Does Piriform's request have merit? Do I need a lawyer? What is a good response to avoid any ugly situation?

    No, maybe, no sure-fire answer. The first option would be to plainly ignore it, which is probably what I would have picked until I got any more formal but since you've already publicly acknowledged receiving it that's out the window. I'd probably reply:

    "Your terms of service is an agreement between your company and your users, as BleachBit is not a party to this agreement we see no legal basis for your request and have not evaluated your claims further."

    Most likely, you'll hear nothing and it'll go away but they can always send a lawyer after you, in which case you might want one too. But I think this answer should be fairly safe since the only thing you're saying is that you never agreed to any terms of service.

    • Why is replying preferable to just ignoring them? I'd just ignore them -- it's easy to get into a discussion.

  • Don't back down (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tbird81 (946205)

    Don't remove this feature. Politely tell Piriformis to go fuck themselves. If you hear from them again, get a lawyer.

    But never back down to these bullying assholes. (Unless they're willing to buy you out for $10 million or something, then I think we'd all sell out.)

  • by hack slash (1064002) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @02:14AM (#42794079)
    Ridiculous.

    They're trying to intimidate without using lawyers because they don't have any legal power to stop you using winapp2 - ignore them.
  • by 3count (1039602) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @02:17AM (#42794105)

    > Does Piriform's request have merit?
    Did you read the article they are complaining about? It reads like a how-to to rip off Pirform's data. The subtlety of winapp vs. winapp2 may have gotten lost somewhere. But statements like "The Open Source disk cleaner Bleachbit takes advantage of this as it can import all of CCleaner’s cleaning locations." sounds like a real problem.

    Is this a poorly worded article or is the author suggesting taking Pirform’s proprietary data? Does your organization support/encourage people to take Pirform’s proprietary data for use in BleachBit?

    The winapp2.com site seems to list a data file from Pirform, not the community. This may not be your responsibility, but it certainly puts the whole community into question. How closely aligned are you with that community?

    > What is a good response to avoid any ugly situation?"
    I would expect you to be an expert in these tools, this market, and the winapp2 community. The fact that you are asking us these questions suggests you are not. Do you support the article? Do you support the use of anything proprietary to be used by BleachBit? Does the winapp2 community support anything inappropriate with Pirform's data? You should take a position on all of these items. Even if what you are doing is technically legal, how you present yourself can attract unnecessary trouble.

    > Do I need a lawyer?
    Who knows. So the only safe answer is "Yes". But, this is as much of an image issue as it is a legal issue. You might need a marketing person to explain this as much as a lawyer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Todd Knarr (15451)

      winapp.ini is the internal file CCleaner uses to store it's cleaning rules. It follows the basic standard Windows INI file syntax. The entries in each section are specific to CCleaner, but appear to be fairly obvious just looking at the file without any further documentation.

      winapp2.ini is an external file read by CCleaner to import additional (non-Piriform) cleaning rules. It's intended use is to let people other than Piriform add rules to CCleaner. The full documentation on it's syntax is available (witho

      • by BobTheLawyer (692026) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @07:08AM (#42795115)

        I am a lawyer. The previous post is wrong - the usual rules of copyright apply whether or not you've accepted terms of service.

        Piriform's objection is not very clearly stated, but there is a problem if the Bleachbit developer is encouraging people to import winapp.ini - the information in it is copyrighted and this is likely an unlicensed use. It would be prudent for Bleachbit to tell people not to use its import functionality to import Piriform's original winapp.ini, and better still if the software rejects attempts to do this.

        Whether importing third party (non-Piriform) rules is acceptable depends upon the terms on which those rules are made available. If they're posted in a forum whose rules provide the files can be used only in Piriform products then Piriform has an arguable case (that Bleachbit is procuring a breach of contract/copyright) but that's a more difficult argument for Piriform to make, as they have to show the terms of the contract/copyright license are effective.

        Bob

  • by sjames (1099)

    IANL, but I don't see how you could be violating their TOS if you're not a licensee.

  • Why is Piriform reaching out when WinApp2's own site says: "This website and its files are not endorsed or supported in any way by Piriform."

    Click reply, type "No, thank you."
    Send.

  • By posting to Slashdot, you've guaranteed that either they will put up, or slink away in shame. Well done, really. I'm pleased to see all that shame-on-you-lawyers posts on Slashdot lately.
  • On Slashdot?

    Yer not from around heah, are yew?

  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @03:44AM (#42794399) Homepage

    This has been established over and over and over again in case law. Phone books, statistics and lists are not eligible for the type of legal protection being sought.

    Information is being made available by the public to the public. Part of that public includes a commercial entity. There is no case here as far as I can see.

  • You're loading a third-party text file in a not-totally-arbitrary format into your app. Are you using any CCLeaner libraries?

    What the hell has it got to do with CCleaner, other than it just so happens that it can read the same sort of file?

  • by Nexion (1064) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @08:16AM (#42795359)

    Andrew,

    First off, thank you for your efforts on this project. While I buy a healthy amount of commercial software (OS, video editor and games for the most part) I prefer to only run software from a trusted source. Yes this includes Microsoft and Steam, and while we all have colorful things we might say about them the fact is I pay them, they are huge and issues I do face with them are known to me. Everything else I simply prefer source access. Your project includes source so it is much easier to trust your software then an alternative that, judging by the look of the website, is likely to want to opt me in to Chrome or something else I would have installed already if interested. What really makes them seem a bit dodgy is that you know it is commercial yet the site offers no blockers to downloading. These guys wanna get their meat hooks into my workstation!

    Well enough of the "your app is awesome and they blow" speech. One issue I see is that you automatically download it, from their forum, given their complaint. I suggest that you instead utilize the following link below as the winapp2.com domain does not appear to be theirs. I would first contact either Robert Ward or Shane Gowland to be polite. Perhaps even sharing a percentage of your donations with them to help pay hosting costs, Being community oriented they might just tell you to keep it and use their INI all the same. Abuse of community projects by for profit companies never sits well with those of a community mindset, but I think this was not Piriform's true intent. Typically a corporate bully sends the thugs (lawyers) in the opening round with a cease and desist letter, but their request could have been a bit more clear about their intentions.

    You should contact them and make the required arrangements. Alter your code to use their site or if you are refused by them rewrite for manual download and import. Once you have released, if you had been using the piriform.com forum, write them a thank you for informing you of their desire to not use their server resources and let them know that your current release has halted such behavior from your application.

    http://www.winapp2.com/Winapp2.ini

     

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