March 2, 2011

I Love Getting Smacked Down for a Good Cause. ~ Mark Jordahl

Photo by Nils Rinaldi.

I’m a big fan of free software. I don’t do a lot of highly technical stuff on my computer, so I don’t generally need to pay for expensive programs. The down side to this is that I sometimes download programs that I don’t even use, just because they are free and I think someday I might need them. It’s a bit like buying clothes that don’t fit because they are on sale.

Some time ago (apparently more than 30 days ago) I downloaded a computer-based dictionary and thesaurus program called WordWeb. As a writer, it seemed like it might come in handy. Of course, I never actually read the terms of the agreement, because I never do. I just clicked on “Accept.” Then I immediately forgot that I had installed it until yesterday.

I was looking for a word to use for a project I’m working on, and saw the little WordWeb icon on my desktop. Oh yeah—that ol’ thing. Let’s give it a try.

Immediately after I opened the program, a questionnaire popped up asking if I have taken more than 2 commercial flights in the last year. I figured it was some marketing agreement that brings them some income, allowing them to offer free software to schmoes like me. So hey—filling out a survey is the least I can do, right? I clicked “yes.”

Imagine my surprise when this came on the screen:

Here’s what you get if you click on “View licensing terms and explanation:”

WordWeb free version licensing

WordWeb free version may be used indefinitely only by people who take at most two commercial flights (not more than one return flight) in any 12 month period. People who fly more than this need to purchase the Pro version if they wish to continue to use it after a 30-day trial period.

Global greenhouse gas emissions are currently around 5 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person per year, and probably need to be reduced by at least 80% have a good chance of avoiding dangerous warming. Most computer users are responsible for far more emissions than is sustainable. For example two short-medium distance return flights can be equivalent to over 1 tonne of emissions1: more than an average person can safely emit over an entire year.

If you do not qualify you must uninstall the program after the 30-day trial period or purchase WordWeb Pro. The licensing model is designed to allow relatively non-wealthy people to use the program free of charge, and to provide a small incentive for other people who fly a lot to cut down.

Whenever a user no longer meets the above requirements, and they have installed the product for more than 30 days, they must uninstall the product or purchase WordWeb Pro.

There is one exception to the above: not-for-profit educational establishments may make a network installation of WordWeb for the use of their students (regardless of whether their students individually meet the licensing requirement).

Wow. Wow. How cool is that?

This is a company that is willing to turn away potential customers in order to live by their values and take an opportunity to educate people about greenhouse gas emissions at the same time. With there being so many free dictionaries and thesauruses (thesauri?) available on the web, I’m sure they have lost some people who might have one day upgraded to the premium version.

For me, even though I have proven I don’t need it (since I forgot I had it on my computer), I just sent them twenty bucks for the Pro version because these are the types of companies we need to be supporting.

WordWeb, kudos to you for building your values into your business plan.

Originally posted on my blog.

Mark Jordahl is a writer, naturalist, educator and trip leader in Uganda, living by the words “May your path go ever forward but never straight.”

[email protected]

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