the fm soup

Defunct install code usage claims, seems fishy

We recently heard from FileMaker that they are able to ping our continued usage of an old install code (I doubt this very much) on FMS. Their claims included: They “see” we have an old install running and that they recorded 10 users accessing the server on one particular day a week ago, and 10 the prior week. They started off adamant that we were cheating them and that we owed them money for past months.

We are NOT using that install code. We recently combined two server installs into one because one had a confusing USER & CONCURRENT combined license scheme, and we explained the reason for the switch to a simplified user-only license to them last year when we made the new purchase. My company hosts six servers, all with proper installation codes for six different clients. None of them using the code as specified by FMI. FMI also claimed that the server was running v17, and all of ours are v18. For the code in question, we purchased far more seats than we need, and never have 10 simultaneous users for that solution. Never.

We asked if the 10 users were simultaneous. They don’t know. We asked for an IP address of the server. Not possible. IP address of clients? Nope. Time of connections? Sorry. Time they monitored the server? No again. WHAT?

So what we have is a company that has threatened to charge us for using their software beyond contract, and they “have proof” but cannot tell us anything other than “we see that you are using…”

Anyone run across this before? This appears to be a horrible tactic to determine if customers are gaming the system. If they accuse a client with claims of known usage, then they need to have proof. At first we thought they actually had proof, and offered to help them track it down. Their story fell apart when we insisted we find who is running this rogue server.

No I’ve never heard of FileMaker, Inc doing this, except is extreme cases.

Couple of questions for you:

  • Is this a sales rep calling you?
  • Is it your sales rep? You should have one assigned to you. Talk to them about it.
  • Which country handles your account? Is it the same division contacting you?
  • Have the install codes ever been available to more than the IT staff?

An account manager for the region, not a sales rep. Actual employed manager with the proper email and knowledge of our old install code.

Not about to talk to anyone at FMI after this. Not feeling good about this at all. They harassed an employee to the point where he thought it was a scam call, so he brought me in to get things settled.

Install codes have been available to the client’s IT to help with installs, which means that of course it could be installed on a rogue server, which is precisely why we offered to help. We said that we’d work hard this week to track down the culprit, to which they responded (paraphrasing) “That’s OK, I’m sure this has been taken care of.”

30 years of buying FM products, and I never heard of this. Nothing extreme about it except that they appear to have lied to us in attempt to see if we were using the code. I explained that we just paid them a rather large sum last week to maintain the same solution in question for another year.

They’re alienating a fairly large customer. If we had an alternative that fit as well as FM, we would be having meetings to leave them.

When you heard from FileMaker, was this via email or phone? Are you sure it is genuine?

As Josh suggests, if you are running 6 servers, you should have an account handler, who is the person you should be liaising with.

If it is genuine, then they must have an IP address sending the information to them.

Your reply to Josh just came through after I posted. OK, then they must be able to supply a FQDN our external IP address. I suspect they have other info about the server the alleged FMS is running on if this is genuine.

Phone and email. Genuine.

I handle the accounts. We are in complete compliance, and it took me all of 2 minutes to confirm proper codes on server installs.

Some of our clients are rather large companies with IT that do not allow installs from outside companies, so as I said it is possible they installed FMS with our code. Not likely, but possible, which is why we offered to help.

Agreed, they should be able to tell me more than “we see you are using…” which is why I’m asking to see if anyone has ever seen this type of behavior from FMI. If they do have an IP address, then how do they expect me to help track down the install?

Here is what FMI can now do. They asked me to uninstall this code, I said I cannot because none of our servers are running this code, they say “OK, you’re fine,” then next month come after us with “we see that you did not uninstall the server, and you owe us…”

Most likely they are using alienating tactics to feel their way around possible cheaters. Less likely they actually have info on a rogue server, and if so they need to send me an IP address or go away, otherwise they can make claims all day to every developer without proof.

I suspect this isn’t alienating tactics, just normal corporate (lack of internal communication) procedures. I assume, like us, as you are hosting the software and it is registered to you and not your clients?

Codes are registered to us. FMI was made aware of the code change and we even gave reasons for the change. Besides, we pay more for the new scenario, so they should be happy.

Nothing at all normal about a company accusing a customer with just enough details (as absurd as they are) and not giving the customer any details that would help solve the issue. If you heard the first call, you would understand why it was assumed to be a scam. Very accusatory.

Either they are lying about the ability to receive info about an online server, or they are keeping info a secret to not allow the falsely accused to solve the problem. NOTE: You do not get promoted to the position this high up (I’m protecting the guilty by being a bit vague) and NOT know procedure. This is a senior position. Yikes!

No possible way any developer would be comfortable with FMI telling them they will charge you for a server they know is online, then state they will back off as long as you solve the issue – which cannot be solved without more info!

I “signed” the online document that says we are not using the code. Next week, if they say they “see” activity on the server, then I will be forced to respond “Prove it or go away.”

On the other hand, if they never come back with this issue, then we have proven they were using heavy-handed tactics to see if people who no longer extend their software are gaming the system. Yikes again.

Note: They said the code came from a server, not a client. I can see that there may be some clients with old codes. That’s very possible.

Late here I’m afraid and time to hit the sack. This is very un FileMaker like. We have licensing issues at the moment, but they have always been prepared to listen and help where they can.

If this does continue, I’d suggest raising on the official community forum, as their team have always been good at helping out. Someone there should be able to put you in touch with someone who can help.

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Without accessible evidence, making a statement is difficult. However, the tactics you describe are from the playbook of some ERP vendors - scaring customers into paying more by stating that their use of product is beyond what is covered by the license - and not providing evidence when asked for.
In court, a principle applies: any accusation made must be founded by evidence. If no evidence is provided, it is hearsay. Hearsay is not receivable in court.

P.S. Always ask for a written and signed statement. Phone calls are Null.

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Thanks for the reply. I’m not worried about losing in court, because this would be a slam dunk if “we have word that…” is all they have. Just not interested in being harassed and/or lied to by a company that has never done this to us in all these years. Also not interested in paying lots of money to win in court, but it won’t come to that.

I think the answer to may post will be that nobody else has had this problem yet, but it serves as fair warming it may be coming to them soon. FMI (or at least one senior employee) has decided that it is worth the alienation of one of their oldest clients to see if anyone is gaming the system. We not only host from six servers, we manage a whole lot more. Some of those solutions could be moved to other platforms, some not. We’re stuck with FMI, warts and all.

Can FMI get reports on whether their servers with code are in use? Possibly. But of what value is that if they only receive notice that it is in use? So if they are not lying, they may be holding back on the server location.

Assuming FMI knows about the server location, they missed a great opportunity to work with us on solving the mystery of the rogue server, and this post would have been about that success story. Too bad.

We’ll see if others faced similar problems or not - hopefully not.

Lock-in is a serious problem for businesses who entrusted a platform provider with supplying infrastructure. Many ERP customers made that painful experience.

This seems like a hoax to me. I am extremely dubious about it. I would bypass that person and go directly to the senior representative of FileMaker in your region - or go directly to the US office and discuss it with them.

@jormond, is this credible?

I understand it could be possible if FMS is loaded with a backdoor. But, if FMS is loaded with a backdoor that they actively used to test and enforce compliance that raises so many issues around security and privacy that I can’t imagine that FMI would ever want to do that.

@Malcolm - FMS absolutely reports back to Claris. I don’t know how much information is actually transmitted. I imagine it’s only install codes and some non-identifiable usage statistics. None of which is uncommon for any proprietary server product.

@scooter - my questions were about understanding the scenario with the Claris employee that made contact. I have seen similar scenarios with rogue server installs. At the time, FileMaker, Inc. graciously handled it. This behavior you are describing is out of character for the company. I would not attribute this the company but instead possibly a single employee. And Claris isn’t prone to legal action for reasonable use, which you are clearly describing with your client’s usage.

If I have your permission, and if you can private message me your contact email, I would like to forward this info on to Claris to investigate. In the private message, you don’t need to provide me with any details unless you want to. They will likely contact you in the next week or two ( I am assuming some people are still on vacation after DevCon ).

I’d take a deep breath and try to relax. There is too much that is fishy about this situation. As @Torsten has said, words are cheap. If it is serious it would be put in writing.

I suggest that you record all the details of what has happened while it is fresh in your mind. I’d take backups of emails, and if possible, telephone call records, text messages, etc.

Having a good record of events can be very useful to you.

@jormond, I’m surprised that that much information is sent.

Of course, the licence agreement should describe whether information is transmitted or not.

I believe it does, it’s been a while since I had the enthusiasm to read that much legalese. We have a wide and deep tech stack, roughly 35-45 servers running in our internal cluster, and they send way more data than FMS does.

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The EULA does state that the server ‘phones’ home from time to time. Evidence is that FMS reverts to trial mode after 4 weeks or so without Internet connection.
It does not state in detail what information is transmitted.

we got a couple of customers with site licenses. We had calling us once, FMI was checking the website of a customer and found 2 externals (a hospital had a sports-teacher and an artist for some treatments…)
But all very nice, no problem. FileMaker sales was very courteous

One of the reasons that I normally do not sell licenses (although I’m FBA) - I do the sales via the FileMaker-Magazin, Hamburg. They are perfect in licensing and they also develop with FileMaker

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