Creative Sparks Customer Revolt When It Tries To Silence Third-Party Programmer

Creative’s executive team will be coming in to quite a mess Monday morning, thanks to its VP of Screw Ups, Phil O’Shaughnessy. Friday morning, he posted a warning on the Creative customer forums that told programmer Daniel_K to stop writing his own drivers for their X-Fi sound cards. The cards still won’t work on Vista over a year after the OS was released, because Creative hasn’t released drivers for them—but by Mr. O’Shaughnessy’s account, Daniel_K is “stealing” from Creative by making the cards work. Then the weekend happened.

Over the weekend, Creative’s forums have exploded with posts from angry customers who have sworn to stop buying their products. There’s already a boycott site up at boycottcreative.com.

A Creative Forum poster named “youAREkidding” summed up Creative’s stupidity quite nicely:

Imagine what would happen if 10%, just 10% of the people who will read about this, be in a store somewhere, see someone about to buy a Creative Labs product, and say to that potential customer. “If you have Vista, Creative has non-functioning drivers for it, there was a guy who created a Modified driver, but Creative made him stop distributing it, and there are still no workable drivers for Vista.” Some people might laugh at him, but the majority of computer perhiperal buyers don’t know squat, and if they hear it from someone who presents themselves in a knowledgeable manner, they may actually think twice about it. Creative loses another sale.
 
So, yes, Daniel may very well have stepped on some copyright rules, and Creative had the lawful option of doing what they did. Score 100 on the law, score minus several millions for not doing the job themselves in the first place, and putting someone like Daniel in a position where he had to do what he did, just to get the customers of this company happy.

By way of comparison, another forum poster, Igor_Levicki, points out that Nvidia supports its old cards much more reliably:

Let me just remind you that for example NVIDIA still supports GeForce generations 5, 6, 7, and 8 in their latest video drivers for XP, XP64, Vista, Linux and Mac OSX. All those old cards still get performance improvements instead of being crippled.

Even more entertaining is a mysterious post that appeared on the Daniel_K thread on Sunday, supposedly from Newegg. It’s quite possibly fake, but the email address registered with the account is webmaster@newegg.com, and that address has to be verified before it can be displayed. We’ll have to wait until Newegg opens for business Monday morning (7am PST) to verify. [Update 7:42 am PST: Newegg is still selling X-Fi cards this morning, and their chat-based CSR had no information regarding the supposed embargo.]
 
[Update 8:54pm PST: It turns out that Creative’s protocol for verifying your identity is easy to get around–you can simply change the address after you publish a post, and the new, unverified address will be displayed on previous posts.]
 
In the meantime, here’s the post:The “Newegg” post is no longer relevant, but for posterity’s sake we’ll leave it below:

Newbie
Posts: 1
Registered: 03-30-2008
newegg
Message 1179 of 1,436
Viewed 2,595 times
 
To Whom it May Concern:
 
While it is not our place to condemn the decisions of Creative regarding this issue, our customers come first. That being said, it has come to our attention that many of our customers are not happy with the products Creative has released nor the support for those products. To wit, we have processed nearly 5,000 return orders within the past 48 hours. While it is not normally in our best interest to publically comment in a manufacturer’s forum, the overwhelming concensus has left us little choice. As such, effective tommorow morning newegg.com will suspend sales of the sound cards in question, particularly those indicated as “Vista compatible”, pending an investigation into the matter. Those of you whom recently ordered such a card will still recieve your product as indicated in any relevant conversations. While we regret this abrupt decision, it has been deemed neccessary to protect the interest of our consumers. We welcome contact from Creative as soon as is possible so that we may resolve this issue.
 
Thank you,
 
Newegg.com
http://www.newegg.com

Finally, here’s the infamous post that started it all, and that is going to lead to a very bad week for Creative, regardless of whether or not Newegg has gotten involved:

Daniel_K:
 
We are aware that you have been assisting owners of our Creative sound cards for some time now, by providing unofficial driver packages for Vista that deliver more of the original functionality that was found in the equivalent XP packages for those sound cards. In principle we don’t have a problem with you helping users in this way, so long as they understand that any driver packages you supply are not supported by Creative. Where we do have a problem is when technology and IP owned by Creative or other companies that Creative has licensed from, are made to run on other products for which they are not intended. We took action to remove your thread because, like you, Creative and its technology partners think it is only fair to be compensated for goods and services. The difference in this case is that we own the rights to the materials that you are distributing. 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.
 
Although you say you have discontinued your practice of distributing unauthorized software packages for Creative sound cards we have seen evidence of them elsewhere along with donation requests from you. We also note in a recent post of yours on these forums, that you appear to be contemplating the release of further packages. To be clear, we are asking you to respect our legal rights in this matter and cease all further unauthorized distribution of our technology and IP. In addition we request that you observe our forum rules and respect our right to enforce those rules. If you are in any doubt as to what we would consider unacceptable then please request clarification through one of our forum moderators before posting.
 
Phil O’Shaughnessy
VP Corporate Communications
Creative Labs Inc.

Rule of thumb for bad news in the mainstream media: release it Friday so it’s buried over the weekend. Rule of thumb for the web: don’t infuriate thousands of your customers right before you decide to tune out for 48 hours.
 
“Message to Daniel_K” [Creative Forums] (Thanks to everyone who sent this in!)
 
RELATED
Possibly fake Newegg response [Creative Forums]
BoycottCreative.com
(Photo: Young Frankenstein)