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Are FM solutions software?

Perry Degner

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I'm new to the forums, but I've been stumped by a legal issue, so I thought I might try to find a concensus here.

We are all familiar with the term "Filemaker Solution" and we all know what that is. The problem is that the word "solution" is not definitive. When we create a solution and distribute it, is it OK to call it "software"?

I have found many instances that it is referred to as software, including many of Brian Dunnings solutions. There are other instances that it is referred to as simply "Solutions" or "Product".

Filemaker is the real software and we are building beefed-up templates on top of that, so is a better term "Template"? I think that can be argued that they are not templates, so then what are they?


My brain hurts. What does everyone think? "Software", "Templates", "Solutions", or something else?

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When we create a solution and distribute it, is it OK to call it "software"?

Yes, absolutely. If you created it, you can call it whatever you want.

Now if you're dealing with some specific requirement from a particular statute or location, you should consult an attorney familiar with the laws of that area. But if you're thinking in terms of general things like license agreements, contracts, copyright, etc, you don't anything to worry about.

There is no single definition of software; even the US Code has inconsistent definitions. But the gist of most definitions is that software is the stuff that a computer runs.

Here's the IEEE Definition:

"Computer programs, procedures, and associated documentation and data pertaining to the operation of a computer system."

Here are a couple of other definitions from lawyers.

"...the term

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If you combine the two quotes you found from the two lawyers you found it would be a good encompasing definition. In my undergraduate and graduate education in computers I was taught that software is a standalone program written in a programing language. A standard filemaker file is just that a file. But once you have bound that file to a runtime from developer then it is software. You need to think of filemaker in this case as a programing language and not as software. The test for this is it being standalone.


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Awcase3rd, it's all about the context. I think you're looking at it from a single perspective, that of a compiled executable program. But compiling is just a matter of efficiency. There's no fundamental difference between a compiled and interpreted program. The results are the same, compiling just makes it go faster.

Stand-alone is an arbitrary term that varies depending on context. A stand-alone executable FileMaker Solution still has lots of dependencies. Not only the OS itself, but ancillary software such as device drivers, fonts, system BIOS, etc, are all required to use the "stand-alone" program. That doesn't impact its status as software.

In fact, software is really about potential, not actual, execution. The fact that a program is not actually running right this second doesn't mean it isn't software. If you break into a programmer's office and steal hard-copy printouts of his source code, you're not going to be charged with stealing the paper, you're going to be charged with stealing the software, even though it's only potentially, not actually executable in its current form.

A FileMaker file is software when viewed from the context of a computer that has the FileMaker application installed. A FileMaker database is executed by the FileMaker application, just as FileMaker itself is executed by the OS. From the perspective of a user who doesn't have FM, my file may be useless junk, but since there is the POTENTIAL that he could install FM later on, it's still software. From the context of a Linux workstation, a Windows executable is useless junk. From the context of an Alpha processor, anything for the X86 processor is junk. None of this affects the status of the item as software.

OK, after some cogitating, here's the official Barbecue

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... operate in a useful manner.

I know quite a few alleged "software" products that would fail this test.

Seriously, though - why is this important? The poster mentioned a legal issue. I can't imagine how it could matter legally if I call my creation "software" or anything else (as long as I don't call it "Miracle Cure" or "CocaCola").

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FWIW, we have been distributing a runtime package of electronic forms via CD and the web that we have been calling a 'software' package for years. Our license agreement [http://wsdot.wa.gov/forms/license.htm] issued with our package was approved by the Washington State Attorney General's Office.

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