This is something that completely fell beneath our radar as it isn’t exactly fresh news. In fact, this is something that happened around 3 years ago and many (including ourselves) never caught it. This is why it is just now making its way to a story. But, mIRC Co. Ltd, a software developer behind a certain software solution called “mIRC”, had quietly ended its lifetime license agreement with all who had purchased it “more than 10 years ago.
A bold move that kind of goes against the terms of a lifetime license. Unless specified that this could happen within said terms, or a company changes ownership (which, typically, also has to be written in the terms).
However, one of my colleagues purchased the software back in 2009 and recently came across the expiration of his license and shared his findings with me. This got me thinking. I took a look at the Internet Archive (Wayback Machine) for the end of 2009 to see what the website read. You could see that the website said “this is a one time, life-time registration which will work with current and future versions of mIRC“. Nothing else was mentioned to the contrary.
However, looking at the website now, you can see this language has changed. Claiming that the license is only good for three years. Looking at the FAQ section, you can find the following explanation of why this has changed:
“Question: I have an old registration that is not working, can you help?
Answer: When I originally offered a lifetime license in 1995, it seemed like a kind and fair thing to do. However, I did not expect that I would still be working on mIRC twenty-five years later. The lifetime license means that I am still supporting and providing updates to every user that has ever registered. This has become gradually more difficult and has reached the point where, sadly, it is just no longer possible. If your registration is over ten years old, if you can, please consider registering again. Your continued support for mIRC would be really appreciated. If you register again, you will receive an updated registration automatically. If you cannot afford to register again, or would rather not, that’s okay, just email me. However, please be aware that it will take time for me to reply.”
Again, this a bold move that doesn’t quite walk the line of honesty. Keep in mind, I’m trying to see it from both sides as I myself have developed a few things and completely understand the amount of time that goes into writing all of that code. However, I also understand the thin line of user agreements and how they are executed on either side.
So you have a lifetime license with no terms stating that the developer reserves the right to change them at any time, which is suddenly revoked with a simple “never mind, I changed my mind” statement from the developer. They do, thankfully, leave an exclusion that you can reach out if you just can’t afford it. However, this is risky business nonetheless.
If a lifetime license with no other terms other than “it’s for life! Including all future versions” can be pulled at any time, what does this say about the risk of buying into any lifetime license with any other company? This turns into a high-risk investment as all rules would be thrown out the window.
I find this to be an extremely fascinating and concerning topic, which is what led me to discuss it here. I would be interested to hear what your own input on the topic would be. Do you think this is fair? Do you think it is not? Do you think it creates a legal situation? Are you a licensed customer that ran into this or didn’t know about it until now? Please do share your thoughts below in the comment section.