MiserWare MicroMiser: Miserable Licensing

Edit dd. 25 May: Miserware are offering the software under a more permissive license now. In short: they ask that you run your benchmarking procedures by them before publishing results. This seems a reasonable compromise, that protects them from poorly conducted testing taking the limelight. I will be playing with it…

Through the Ubuntu Weblogs feed I read a post at The Open Sourcerer about a piece of software by a company called MiserWare (yeah, the name inspired the pun even before I concluded as much…). They’ve released a private beta of MicroMiser, a closed-source package that promises a substantial power-consumption reduction on x86 Linux systems. Quoting from their website:

MicroMiser typically lowers total system energy use by 10-35% even when a system is 100% utilized.

That’s interesting. Even better, Alan wrote a follow-up post at The Open Sourcerer which shows that on his Ubuntu Server system the software estimates its own power savings to be close to 65% (!). Now, assuming for the moment that it’s not a bug in the calculations in the beta (hey, I’m in a mild mood tonight), I’d say those 65% would be really worthwile.

Alan was also kind enough to send me an invitation for the beta, and so – always the curious type – I was starting to make a plan on how to test this thing: use a dummy installation (we don’t trust closed-source betas, do we?), current-monitoring at the wall-socket, that sort of thing.Then, I figured I’d download the package first to see what was in it. A kernel module? Lots of ugly scripts? Who knows…

I don’t, anyway. I never got to the download step. In the step before that I was presented with a rather restrictive license. I quote verbatim (only the change to bold-type is mine, all text is original):

5.    Confidentiality

The Software and Documentation, all related Intellectual Property, and any information learned or discovered by You about the performance of the Software in the course of use under this License constitutes proprietary trade secret information owned solely by Licensor (collectively, “Confidential Information”).  You agree that You will not, without the express prior written consent of Licensor, (1) use the Confidential Information other than to use the Software as authorized by this License Agreement; (2) disclose any Confidential Information to any third party; or (3) fail to use best efforts to safeguard the Confidential Information from unauthorized use, copying, or disclosure. You acknowledge that a breach of this Section 5 may cause the Licensor irreparable harm and damages that are difficult to ascertain.  Therefore, the Licensor, upon a disclosure or threatened disclosure of any Confidential Information, will be entitled to injunctive relief (without the requirement of posting bond), without limiting its other remedies under this License Agreement, in equity or at law.  The obligations of this Section shall survive this License Agreement without limitation in duration.  By clicking the “I Agree” button below, You consent to having any information that You provide to the Licensor processed and stored in the United States.

Well, I’m still not a lawyer, nor am I a native speaker, but I think that this basically means I would not be allowed to tell you what I would read on my current monitor. What the….

I also think that this means that the post reporting the 65% savings is violating the license.

After a long half second of thinking about it, I did not agree, so I can’t tell you anything about the software – by the way, even if I had agreed, I still wouldn’t be able to tell you anything! My advice? Don’t waste your time with bloody legalese and read some real information instead: Intel has a very informative website on the topic at LessWatts.org.


3 Responses to “MiserWare MicroMiser: Miserable Licensing”

  1. 1 Michael R. Head 14 May 2009 at 6:39

    IANAL, but I think they’re using “performance” to refer to the operation of the software (think reverse engineering). In other words, if you figure out how the software works by using it, then that’s protected. I don’t think they’re meaning to say that you can’t post performance data. I drew that conclusion from the context of the statement because they’re talking about the software and related IP.

    • 2 Maxim 14 May 2009 at 7:32

      Mmh, I don’t know. Had they meant to refer to the operation, I figure they would have used that exact word. Lawyers can be a tad annoying in the way they phrase things, but I’m inclined to expect that had they meant the ‘operation’, they would have explicitly said so. Legalspeak can benefit from ambiguity, but when phrasing a EULA, I’d say being exact and to the point matters.

      Apart from that, I’m not a native speaker either, but to use the word ‘performance’ to refer to the operation, brings an artistical performance to mind. Even for a basement-dwelling programmer, that sounds a bit megalomanic.

      I don’t think I would have downloaded the software either, even though I would be very interested in the results it could supposedly bring.

      • 3 yungchin 14 May 2009 at 8:09

        Well, there was another section already mentioning reverse engineering: “You shall not: […] (7) decode, decompile, disassemble or otherwise reverse engineer the Software”, so I assume this means something else.

        This other section I can understand – there’s not much point releasing closed-source software if you don’t prohibit reverse engineering. But subjecting invited beta users to NDAs is just silly. It kills all word-of-mouth marketing for the product!

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