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Is a buying a licence buying a 'copy'?


On the support contract page of the website, it says:

"Every copy of FogBugz sold comes with a free 90-day support contract." 

Does "every copy" apply to additional licences?  If so, do the licences all have their own support contracts which run with their own start and end times?

We are considering buying more licences for FB - if we go ahead with this, it will almost certainly be before FB4 is released.  As there's apparently going to be no upgrade deal from FB3, we're keen to make sure that we have the most cost-effective route to FB4.

If the additional licences do come with the 90days support, and FB4 is released within that period, would we be entitled to free upgrades on them, but not on our existing FB3 licences?

I can't help thinking that the whole business of the support contracts is a bit weird - the business about only being able to take-up support by paying back-dated to when it ran out  seems to just be a way of punishing long-time users.  And the longer-time they've been users, the less incentive they'll have to *ever* take-out support contracts.  I cannot imagine any way in which you're going to make it sound reasonable to me to buy support for 2003, when what I want is support in 2005. 

I do understand why you might want to reward the continuous renewal of support contracts (most subscriptions work this way), but to punish lapses to this extent seems crazy.

Will Dean
Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Hi Will,

Thank you for your inquiry about FogBugz 4.0! Although FogBugz 4.0 is not shipping yet, here's our planned pricing/licensing policy. First, no prices will change. FogBugz 4.0 will remain $99 per user, $849 for ten packs and $7999 for the 100 pack. Support contracts will still be $18.30/year/person. On the day we release FogBugz 4.0, if you own 3.0 and have an active support contract you will be entitled to upgrade from 3.0 to 4.0 for free. There will not be special upgrade pricing from FogBugz 3.0 to 4.0. Instead we will simply ask you to bring your support contract up to date. If you wish to resume a support contract after it has lapsed, you may do so by paying for the period from the time it has lapsed. 

(To keep our prices fair, and also be able to give support contract holders free upgrades, we must ask people to both pay for support for all licenses they own, and pay for any lapses in their contract.  Otherwise users could buy one license, or wait until the day after we released a new version and purchase support then.  You can think of it like an insurance policy, coupled with the free upgrades and being entitled to customer support whenever you need it.) 

If you purchase a new license for FogBugz 3.0 now, you will receive 90 days of free support. We have not yet announced a release date for FogBugz 4.0, so we can't commit that the free 90 days of support would last long enough to upgrade to FogBugz 4.0 when it comes out. We can, however, guarantee that if you purchase FogBugz 3.0 now with a year of support you will definitely get the FogBugz 4.0 upgrade for free.

If it makes more sense for you, you can always simply purchase new 4.0 licenses, except in this case there are not any customers where that makes sense. (Since support contracts are basically 1/5 the cost of new licenses, your contract would have to be lapsed for 5 years in order for it to make sense to do that.)

Michael H. Pryor
Fog Creek Software
Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Support contracts are applied to all licenses owned by your company evenly, so if you own 10 licenses with expired support, adding one new 3.0 license will basically give you 90 "user-days" of support which will then be spread out over your (now) 11 licenses, meaning it would add approximately nine days to your contract.

Michael H. Pryor
Fog Creek Software
Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Michael, thanks for your reply.

I think I almost understand!

Ignoring FB4 for a minute, can you confirm that if I buy another FB licence today, I won't get *any* free support on it, because its 90 days of support will actually be 'used-up' back-filling the missing 2 year's worth of non-support on our other licences.

Will Dean
Wednesday, November 24, 2004

That is correct.  The 90 user days of free support will spread out evenly over all of your other licenses.

Michael H. Pryor
Fog Creek Software
Wednesday, November 24, 2004


I can see that's an inevitable outcome of your current approach, but was it really the intention that the longer somone has been a customer, the lower the 'total value' of a new licence would become?

I'm mystified as to why you should want to sell me *less* because I've been a customer for two years than if I'd been one for one year (or no years).

You're requiring me to declare how many licences I already own in order to *decrease* the value of the next one I buy!

It's the kind of thing Joel writes essays about.  I wonder if this one's going to include the phrase 'Team System ate their lunch'  ;-)

I've no doubt that your next answer will be 'if you don't like it, shove off', which is fair enough, but I imagine you'd want to know what it looks like from the outside, anyway...

Will Dean
Wednesday, November 24, 2004

We sell the support contract (which may be better described as a maintenance contract that also provides support) in the fairest way we could possibly imagine.  I welcome and encourage your feedback, so please don't think our response would ever be what you suggest.  As an optional component to the license, it does not affect the value of the license in any way.  Each license purchased comes with 90 free "user" days which are applied to your company's licenses.  We require that you cover all your licenses in order for your maint. contract to be valid, exactly like other companies who base their support contract prices on the number of licenses you own, because otherwise giving away upgrades to users with contracts for free would not be fair.  Unlike other companies with the same type of maintenance contracts, we allow you to optionally purchase the contract and even optionally renew it into the past!  Most companies require you to purchase the maintenance and if you do not, you cannot go back in time to purchase it again... for upgrades you would be required to purchase the new version at full price.  Thanks for your feedback again and we'll definitely consider your thoughts and suggestions as we evaluate our policy.

Michael H. Pryor
Fog Creek Software
Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Here's an example that may help you realize that this is the fairest thing possible:

In giving you free upgrades with the maintenance contract, we are providing a type of 'insurance' to you, insurance both that if you have problems we are there to help, and insurance that if we come out with a new version, you get it for free.

You are welcome to decline the insurance.

Like any insurance policy, the longer you own it, the more it costs.  The more people it covers, the more it costs.

But unlike traditional insurance policies, where if your house burns down you can't take one out the next day... we let you wait until we release a new version and then give you a policy backdated in the past.  Or if that doesn't suit you, you are welcome to pay for the full version for all of your users instead.

Michael H. Pryor
Fog Creek Software
Wednesday, November 24, 2004

OK, I understand the desire for fairness, but I still argue that there's a perverse incentive, which is this:  (it *is* FB4-related)

Scenario A - I don't tell you that I'm an existing customer, and I buy a licence today.  This costs $99 and includes 90 days' support.  You release FB4 within those 90 days, so I can buy a licence today, with *some measure of* confidence that it will turn into a FB4 licence.

Scenario B - I tell you that I'm an existing customer, and I buy a licence today.  The 90 days support just disappears into a 2002/3 timewarp.  You release FB4 in the next month or two, but I now can't use it, even for one licence.

Once FB4 ships, will I be able to buy FB4 licenses for a completely new copy, and not upgrade my FB3 licence?

Will Dean
Wednesday, November 24, 2004

We're going to run two parallel conversations if we're not careful, but I'm afraid I think the insurance analogy is hopeless!

If I don't insure my house for a year, it doesn't make the slightest difference to what it will cost to insure the following year.  Of course, I haven't had any insurance, but neither have I had a fire (or a new version of FogBugz)

If I let an MSDN subscription lapse, it *does* cost more to restart it, but not an ever increasing amount based on how long ago I let the last subscription lapse.

When you went from FB2 to FB3, you offered a free upgrade to people who had purchased FB2 recently.  Of course it's entirely up to you whether you do this or not again, but some of us might have used this to inform our decision about whether or not to purchase 'insurance'.  (I am fed-up with paying for software support/maint contracts for years in which a) The company releases no software and b) the only 'support' which happens is that I send bug reports to the vendor.

This is exactly what's happened with FB for me - there have been almost no revisions since I've bought it, and I've had to provide bug reports to you on it.  (And I wrote the Subversion integration script, which I notice you now distribute as though it's yours.  Without ever even having said 'thanks' - completely legal, though perhaps somewhat of a discourtesy.  It's not the motivator for this conversation...)

Will Dean
Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The most cost-effective route to 4.0 is almost always going to be to bring your support contract up to date, because updating a support contract costs $18.30 per user per year while buying all-new FogBugz 4.0 costs $99 per user.

E.g. if your support contract expired two years ago you need to bring it up to date and purchase a year into the future which will cost you 18.30 x 3 = $54.90 per user, which is a lot less than buying new users at $99.00 each.

So, yes, once FogBugz 4.0 ships, you could buy all-new 4.0 licenses and abandon the 3.0 licenses, but that would be more expensive.

In Scenario A you could do that but you would only have 1 user license for 4.0; everybody else would be stuck on 3.0 and since the database upgrade is one-way, the 3.0 legacy users would have to be on a separate FogBugz installation.

So it's not really a perverse incentive... if you "pretend" you're a new customer you'll end up spending a lot more money getting all your users on 4.0.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Anyway, aren't you in England? Wait till you see how cheap the dollar is these days. Another week or two and we'll have to pay YOU to buy FogBugz.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Funny enough, I was actually going to make a similar remark about the dollar!  It's certainly not the absolute amounts of money involved - I've probably wasted that in fee-time holding this discussion...

It does feel to me that even if I'd have had *nothing* from FCS in the time that my contract has been lapsed, I'm now expected to pay for it anyway, if I want it in the future.

But I think that Joel's appearance in the thread represents some variant of Godwin's Law, and I should be glad that I've been sufficiently irritating and concede the loss of the argument...

Anyway, I'd rather you guys were busy removing the stupid picture of the day from FB4 than arguing with me...  ;-)

Will Dean
Wednesday, November 24, 2004

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