Defending Creative

Some people are hypocrites, and some should not be listened to. The prepubescent male Internet mob has lost it once again, this time the victim is Creative. Few seem to actually look at the situation and see why Creative asked Daniel_K to stop distributing modified versions of their drivers. They also fail to realize had the same thing been done to their beloved µTorrent they would defend the makers of µTorrent, not the person distributing the modified version of µTorrent.

What Happened

In case this weekend was spent off line and/or under the influence of substances and have not read about it yet. On Friday March 28, 2008 at 10:02 AM, a forum moderator on the Creative forums passed along a message from his boss, intended for a user who goes by Daniel_K. In this message the management of Creative let Daniel_K know that they would like him to stop releasing modified versions of their Vista drivers for various SoundBlaster series products.

What Creative Said

The entire message seems to have stricken a chord with the Digg mob. However, these two sentences seem to cause the most discussion.

…By enabling our technology and IP to run on sound cards for which it was not originally offered or intended, you are in effect, stealing our goods. When you solicit donations for providing packages like this, you are profiting from something that you do not own. If we choose to develop and provide host-based processing features with certain sound cards and not others, that is a business decision that only we have the right to make…

Phil O’Shaughnessy (Creative VP of Communications)

Creative makes it pretty clear what they do not want Daniel_K to be doing, they do not want him to distribute materials of theirs that he as modified. Despite claims made by some ignorant Digg users, Creative is well within their rights as the owner of the copyright to the material Daniel_K was modifying and distributing. Additionally, the DMCA reaffirms Creative’s right to disallow Daniel_K’s activities.

What Daniel_K did Wrong

Daniel_K could have avoided this entire thing had he not asked for donations to help him continue his work. That was the single largest mistake he made. Sure, this was not the only thing that was not on the good side of the law, but it is the easiest for someone to go after. Look at the RIAA, they shutdown numerous peer to peer clients and in each-and-every case, they argued that the software developer profited from the ‘piracy’ of their content. Since he actively participated in the distribution of copyrighted materials for which he was not authorized to distribute and then requested donations had Creative wanted they could have just sent him a DMCA notice or filed a lawsuit.

Had Daniel_K distributed only a patch to the Creative drivers, which only contained IP that he had distribution rights to, he would be in the clear. Asking Creative for permission to distribute, or providing them with patches for them to distribute are equally valid options as well. However, Creative may be reluctant to distribute some of the patches he made. Finally, Daniel_K could have written his own driver, from the ground up, thus having distribution rights for it.

What Creative did Wrong

Even though the message was not a threat, despite claims made by Diggers, Creative did not have to post it in public. Creative could have sent Daniel_K a private message regarding the situation. Daniel_K is a member of their forums, it is not as if they were making a plead to or calling out an anonymous figure. They could have also waited until Monday to release this message. By releasing it on Friday, Creative gave the everyone on the Internet a full weekend to ignore the actual message and spread FUD before Creative could respond. Now there are boycotts, destruction of audio cards, and who knows what else. The next few weeks will be fun for Creative’s PR department.

Besides the poor choice of release date, Creative has failed their customers with their drivers. Specifically, cards did not maintain the same advertised feature set in Vista as they did in XP. Supposedly, “Vista Ready”/”Made for Vista” cards do not have driver support in Vista for all the advertised features. Sure, the hardware supports it, but the drivers do not. This, depending on location, is illegal. State accurate advertising laws apply here, and so do “Lemon Laws” in states for which they cover all consumer purchases. In the end, had Creative not mislead consumers there would be much less fuss going on over this.

Honestly, Creative is not the only one to blame for the poor state of their Vista drivers, and the disparity of features between XP and Vista drivers. Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom, completely changed the sound API in Vista, which put Creative in a quagmire. Frankly, with the poor reception of Vista by the masses, one would think they would not care about Creative having poor Vista drivers. Hypocrisy in the ranks of the infinitely wise groupthink mob of Digg? Every second the crowd on Digg becomes more hypocritical as the average IQ continues to plummet on that Internet wasteland.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Creative, unlike other companies, is in a position where they can not afford to aggravate a large portion of their market. They have already backpedaled, telling Daniel_K that he may resume his activities for non X-Fi series cards. Specs for the X-Fi for Open Source Linux driver development were released, and non-beta support should make it into ALSA sometime this year. Should this continue, Creative may actually emerge a better, more consumer friendly company.

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]

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