W H A T I S T H E A S P ?
____|__ | (R)
--| | |-------------------
| ____|__ | Association of
| | |_| Shareware
|__| o | Professionals
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Copyright (c) 1990, 1991 by R.K. West Consulting.
All Rights Reserved.
You've probably heard the terms "public domain", "freeware",
"shareware", and others like them. Your favorite BBS or disk vendor
probably has many programs described by one or more of these words. There's
a lot of confusion about and between these terms, but they actually have
specific meanings and implications. Once you understand them, you will have
a much easier time navigating the maze of programs available to you, and
understanding what your obligations are, or aren't, with each type of
Let's start with some basic definitions.
"Public domain" has a very specific legal meaning. It means that the
creator of a work (in this case, software), who had legal ownership of that
work, has given up ownership and dedicated the work "to the public domain".
Once something is in the public domain, anyone can use it in any way they
choose, and the author has no control over the use and cannot demand
payment for it.
If you find a program which the author has explicitly put into the
public domain, you are free to use it however you see fit without paying
for the right to use it. But use care - due to the confusion over the
meaning of the words, programs are often described by authors as being
"public domain" when, in fact, they are shareware or free, copyrighted
software. To be sure a program is public domain, you should look for an
explicit statement from the author to that effect.
"Copyrighted" is the opposite of public domain. A copyrighted program is
one where the author has asserted his or her legal right to control the
program's use and distribution by placing the legally required copyright
notices in the program and documentation. The law gives copyright owners
broad rights to restrict how their work is distributed, and provides for
penalties for those who violate these restrictions. When you find a program
which is copyrighted, you must use it in accordance with the copyright
owner's restrictions regarding distribution and payment. Usually, these are
clearly stated in the program documentation.
Maintaining a copyright does not necessarily imply charging a fee, so it
is perfectly possible and legal to have copyrighted programs which are
distributed free of charge. The fact that a program is free, however, does
not mean it is in the public domain - though this is a common confusion.
"Shareware" is copyrighted software which is distributed by authors
through bulletin boards, on-line services, disk vendors, and copies passed
among friends. It is commercial software which you are allowed to use and
evaluate before paying for it. This makes shareware the ultimate in money
The Shareware Concept:
Most money back guarantees work like this: You pay for the product and
then have some period of time to try it out and see whether or not you like
it. If you don't like it or find that it doesn't do what you need, you
return it (undamaged) and at some point - which might take months - you get
your money back. Some software companies won't even let you try their
product! In order to qualify for a refund, the diskette envelope must have
an unbroken seal. With these "licensing" agreements, you only qualify for
your money back if you haven't tried the product. How absurd!
Shareware is very different. With shareware you get to use it for a
limited time, without spending a penny. You are able to use the software on
your own system(s), in your own special work environment, with no sales
people looking over your shoulder. If you decide not to continue using it,
you throw it away and forget all about it. No paperwork, phone calls, or
correspondence to waste your valuable time. If you do continue using it,
then - and only then - do you pay for it.
Shareware is a distribution method, NOT a type of software. Shareware is
produced by accomplished programmers, just like retail software. There is
good and bad shareware, just as there is good and bad retail software. The
primary difference between shareware and retail software is that with
shareware you know if it's good or bad BEFORE you pay for it.
As a software user, you benefit because you get to use the software to
determine whether it meets your needs before you pay for it, and authors
benefit because they are able to get their products into your hands without
the hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses it takes to launch a
traditional retail software product. There are many programs on the market
today which would never have become available without the shareware
The shareware system and the continued availability of quality shareware
products depend on your willingness to register and pay for the shareware
you use. It's the registration fees you pay which allow us to support and
continue to develop our products.
Please show your support for shareware by registering those programs you
actually use and by passing them on to others. Shareware is kept alive by
The Virus Problem:
We've all heard the horror stories about computer viruses.
Unfortunately, we have also heard lots of conflicting statistics and
opinions. When it comes to the virus problem there is a lot of confusion
among users and even developers.
The sad truth is that some unscrupulous publishers of anti-virus
products are using half-truths, overdramatizations, and outright
fabrication to promote sales of their products. They delight in
manipulating statistics to support their marketing efforts. While not
illegal, these snake-oil tactics are certainly not ethical.
To make matters worse, the media has frequently promoted the
misinformation promulgated by these unscrupulous individuals rather than
the straight facts. While the misinformation may be more interesting than
the actual facts, the media is not doing the computer industry any favors
by spreading inaccurate information. To be fair, many newspapers,
magazines, and news networks are beginning to realize which "virus experts"
are reliable and which "experts" say whatever is in their own best
One of the most interesting myths that has been promulgated by these
snake-oil salesmen is that BBSs (Bulletin Board Systems) and shareware
programs are a major source of virus infections. Some corporations are now
afraid of shareware and BBS activity because of this misinformation.
In the October 11, 1988 issue of PC Magazine, publisher Bill Machrone's
editorial was entitled "Shareware or Scareware?". In his article, Bill
Machrone points out "The truth is that all major viruses to date were
transmitted by commercial [retail] packages and private mail systems."
That sounds a little different than the claims being made by less
Let's consider for a moment, the distribution differences between retail
software and shareware software. Company XYZ releases a new version of its
retail software product. At the same time company XYZ ships tens of
thousands of copies to its retail distribution channels, it also ships
30,000 updates to loyal users. Most of those loyal users will receive the
update within a few days of each other. This can be a big problem if the
update happened to be infected with a virus.
"Not likely", you say? It has already happened! Several times! There
have been seventeen (17) major incidents of virus and trojan horse problems
in retail software. Some of these incidents affected tens of thousands of
What about shareware? To date there has been one case of a shareware
author shipping an infected product. The virus was detected by the disk
vendors and the problem was corrected immediately. No users were infected.
"But it makes sense that programs which are passed around have a greater
chance of virus infections, doesn't it?" Think about it. Who has the most
to lose if viruses were spread by BBSs and shareware programs? The BBS
operators, shareware disk vendors and the shareware authors, of course.
Because of this, reputable BBS operators, disk vendors and shareware
authors are very careful with the programs they handle.
Think about it. Hundreds (even thousands) of BBS operators and disk
vendors are carefully examining the programs they receive and distribute.
Their business depends on it. This means that any given shareware program
can go through hundreds (even thousands) of checkpoints where the program
is carefully examined. If a problem is found, word spreads incredibly fast.
News travels "on the wires" even faster than the proverbial small town
gossip. Programs have disappeared almost overnight as a result of this
highly efficient communication network.
If a shareware program has been around for a few months, it has been
checked for virii and trojan horses many more times than any retail
software could hope to be checked. Retail distributors don't check the
disks they sell. Even if the publisher checks their masters for virii (few
do), this is still far less than the scrutiny to which shareware programs
There's something else to consider. Most retail distributors have a
return policy. What do they do with packages that are returned? They
shrink-wrap them and resell them, of course. How can you be sure that you
are the first person to purchase the package you just bought at your
friendly neighborhood computer store? You can't. On the other hand, most
shareware authors erase, reformat, and reduplicate the disks that are
returned to them. Which do you think is safer?
Bill Machrone's article in PC Magazine goes on to say "It's time to
recognize that there's nothing to fear in shareware. As a distribution
medium, it saves you money and helps you try out new genres of software
with minimum risk."
Does this mean that we should all start buying shareware instead of
retail software? Not at all (although few shareware authors would object).
Let's face it, more data has been lost to power failures and spilled cups
of coffee than all virii, trojan horses, and worms combined! An even bigger
threat is plain old human error, a mistake, a wrong key press, turning off
the power while files are open, and so forth. Accurate information and
common sense (regular backups) are the best defenses against lost data.
Sure, the virus problem is real. Virii exist. But shunning shareware is
not the answer. Shareware and BBSs are, quite simply, NOT a major source of
virus infections. Some corporations have even banned shareware entirely
because of fear of infections. This is not only unreasonable, it is also
expensive. Think how much they could save in software costs if they would
only try software before they buy it!
Is there anything you can do to help protect yourself from virus
infections? Absolutely! Fortunately, the best preventive measures are also
the least expensive!
If you need informative, accurate and practical information, please read
the treatise on "Computer Virus Myths" written by Rob Rosenberger and Ross
M. Greenberg. This treatise is available as a text file on many BBSs and
online services. It not only gives you the facts, it also provides the best
overall strategy for protecting your computer system.
Don't let fear stop you from saving money on software. Don't let fear
prevent you from trying some of the best software available. Shareware is
an important market for software. Take advantage of it. You'll be glad you
The Association of Shareware Professionals (ASP):
In the early days of shareware there were no real standards. Independent
authors had no efficient way to learn from each other or to work together
to improve the overall image of shareware. There was no system in place to
ensure that users were treated fairly and professionally. There was no way
for users to find an address for an author who had moved. In short, the
shareware community was disorganized and each author did things the way he
or she thought was best. It was clear that if shareware was ever to become
a viable and respected marketing alternative, there had to be some
standardization. There had to be some guidelines to best serve the users.
In 1987 a handful of shareware authors founded the Association of
Shareware Professionals (ASP). In forming this industry association, these
shareware authors had several primary goals in mind, including:
o To inform users about shareware programs and about
shareware as a method of distributing and marketing
o To foster a high degree of professionalism among shareware
authors by setting programming, marketing, and support
standards for ASP members to follow.
o To encourage broader distribution of shareware through
user groups and disk dealers who agree to identify and
explain the nature of shareware.
o To assist members in marketing their software.
o To provide a forum through which ASP members may
communicate, share ideas, and learn from each other.
The newly formed Association of Shareware Professionals worked together
to draft a code of ethics for all present and future members. This code of
ethics included several requirements that soon became very popular among
users (customers), including:
o A member's program (evaluation version) could not be
limited (crippled) in any way. In the true spirit of
Try-Before-You-Buy, users must be able to evaluate all the
features in a program before paying the registration fee.
o Members must respond to every registration. At the very
least they must send a receipt for the payment.
o Members must provide technical support for their products
for at least 90 days from the date of registration.
A new system was put in place to help ensure that users were treated
fairly and professionally. If a user was unable to resolve a problem with a
member author then the user could contact the ASP Ombudsman with their
complaint. The Ombudsman would then try to help resolve the dispute. For
more complete details regarding the Ombudsman, please refer to the "ASP
Ombudsman Statement" below.
As of April, 1991, the ASP had over 300 author members and almost 200
vendor members, with new members joining every week.
Contacting ASP Members Via CompuServe:
There is an easy and convenient way to speak directly to many ASP
Members (both authors and vendors). Visit the shareware forum on
CompuServe. Simply type "GO SHAREWARE", "GO SHARE", or "GO ASPFORUM" from
any CompuServe ! prompt.
Here you will be able to talk to the authors of your favorite shareware
programs, learn about other programs, ask questions, make suggestions, and
much more. We'd love to meet you online, please come visit us today!
Author Address Changes:
People move. Forwarding orders expire. What can you do?
"I got a copy of a shareware program written by an ASP Member.
I sent in the registration fee and the post office returned my
letter saying that it was undeliverable. Now what do I do?"
If the author has moved then chances are very good that you have an old
version of the program. This is another situation that the ASP can help you
to resolve. ASP Members are required to keep the ASP informed of address
changes. If you need to obtain the current address for a member, simply
write to the following address:
ASP Executive Director
545 Grover Road
Muskegon, MI 49442-9427
or send a CompuServe message via CompuServe MAIL to ASP Executive Director
72050,1433. You may also FAX your request to the ASP Executive Director at
ASP Ombudsman Statement:
This program is produced by a member of the Association of Shareware
Professionals (ASP). ASP wants to make sure that the shareware principle
works for you. If you are unable to resolve a shareware-related problem
with an ASP member by contacting the member directly, ASP may be able to
help. The ASP Ombudsman can help you resolve a dispute or problem with an
ASP member, but does not provide technical support for members' products.
Please write to the ASP Ombudsman at:
545 Grover Road
Muskegon, MI 49442-9427
or send a CompuServe message via CompuServe MAIL to ASP Ombudsman
For More Information:
If you would like to learn more about the shareware phenomenon, there
are several excellent sources of additional information. Two of the best
books ever written about shareware are described below.
Dr. File Finder's Guide to Shareware:
By Mike Callahan and Nick Anis. Foreword by John C. Dvorak.
"[Mike's] book distills thousands of hours of his online
search for the crown jewels of Shareware into one usable
guide. As such, it may be the most valuable computer book
you'll ever buy."
--Jack Rickard, Publisher, Boardwatch Magazine
"No one combines Dr. File Finder's comprehensive knowledge of
the Shareware genre with his good taste in software. This is
sure to be the definitive place to look for insight and
--Barry Simon, Former President of the Association of
Shareware Professionals, PC Magazine Columnist, and
Coauthor of Stackey, Batutil, and Ctrlalt
"GREAT! Every PC user will find something of value within
these pages. This book will save you a bundle."
"If I were going to buy only one computer book, this would be
--Tom Scott, Publisher, Telecomputing Magazine
Nobody knows Shareware like the illustrious Dr. File Finder, known off
line as Mike Callahan. Now, in Dr. File Finder's Guide to Shareware, you
can learn about dozens of leading Shareware programs, including where and
how to get them. In the true spirit of Shareware, this book/disk package
includes a disk full of top programs that you can try out yourself before
registering. Send in the card at the back of the book and you'll get two
additional disks with more software.
Mike Callahan, AKA Dr. File Finder, is the world's leading authority on
Shareware. He regularly accesses thousands of bulletin board systems and
has been a major force in promoting many of the top Shareware packages.
Callahan has spent several years and thousands of hours helping people
around the world learn more about Shareware.
Nick Anis is the coauthor of several acclaimed best-sellers in the
Dvorak*Osborne imprint, including Dvorak's Guide to PC Telecommunications,
Dvorak's Guide to Desktop Telecommunications, and Glossbrenner's Complete
Hard Disk Handbook.
$39.95, ISBN: 0-07-881646-7, 950 pp. 7 3/8 X 9 1/4. AVAILABLE
NOW AT YOUR LOCAL BOOK OR COMPUTER STORE OR CALL TOLL-FREE
1-800-227-0900 (M-F, 8:30 - 4:30 PST)
Shareware: "Try Before You Buy" Software:
Perhaps you've read Rob Rosenberger's well known and highly acclaimed
treatise on the computer virus problem. If you liked that article then
you'll love his excellent book on Shareware. This book is a must for anyone
who is interested in Shareware, what to look for (and look out for), and
where to find it. In this book, shareware author and writer Rob Rosenberger
delves into the very heart of Shareware, telling you who developed the
concept and why.
You'll know why these programs: * undercut the price of retail software
* helped bring down the use of copy protection schemes * receive numerous
editorial and reader survey awards * generate more sales than retail
software in some cases * make retail OS/2 software developers so nervous *
are falsely accused of spreading computer "viruses".
Rob shows you where you can find good Shareware. You'll learn to beware
of companies that make money by abusing the "try before you buy" concept.
And you'll discover where Shareware is heading in the near future.
"A lot of good books devote just one or two chapters to the
concept and history of Shareware. I'm pleased to say there is
finally a reference book on the subject."
--Jim Button, cofounder of the Shareware concept
"It's filled with accurate information for anyone who wants to
learn about one of the most significant sources of high-
--Edward Mendelson, contributing editor, PC Magazine
Here's all the information you need to obtain your copy of this
Shareware: "Try Before You Buy" Software. By Rob
Third Edition. Only $6.95!
Paradise Publishing Phone: (800) 233-2451
3111 S. Valley View Blvd., Suite B-105
Las Vegas, NV 89102 U.S.A.