Even though software users may be under the impression that they own the software they buy, what they actually have is a license to use it. With real user control and ownership out of the way, unpleasant surprises are more than possible.
These licenses can be more or less restrictive, and many companies don't think twice about changing or enforcing their rules, and springing these changes on their users out of the blue.
Take Malwarebytes, a cross-platform anti-malware software, that has now upset many of its users by enforcing a new licensing system.
From now on, customers will be able to use the software only on one computer, restricting the use to one PC per lifetime rule, which means that a license that used to work on multiple devices is now useless on all but one.
Customers are coming across the unpleasant surprise limiting their use of the software as they are upgrading to Malwarebytes' new version, 3.8.
The company, for its part, says the license was always for the software to be used on one computer only – and that they just now got around to enforcing their own rule.
As a means to allow their customers to pick which of their computers to use Malwarebytes on, they provide an account profile where the license can be deactivated on other machines.
Malwarebytes is also advising users to buy more licenses if they wish to use the software on multiple devices.
It's yet to be seen if the outcry by the affected users will end up changing the company's mind on this issue.
The evolution of Malwarebytes' licensing policy went from offering the product for free without real-time protection, along a paid lifetime premium version. Then, the company went to yearly subscription, with a limited time offer to buy more licenses for $24.95.
Although this was meant to be a license to be used only on a single computer, the company did nothing to enforce its own policy, leading subscribers to use the license on more than one PC, and mistakenly believe this was allowed.