Businesses dodge DRM to keep using MYOB

An MYOB user group has found a way to dodge DRM and allow UK businesses to keep using the accounting software.

Australian firm MYOB no longer operates in the UK, after passing its business to rival firm Mamut in 2008. That firm has warned MYOB users in the UK that the product will be effectively switched off at the end of the year using a DRM system – meaning users must change to different software, such as Mamut’s.

To get around this, a MYBO user group has been set up, and a software developer has found a way to generate the necessary code to placate the DRM system and keep the software from moving into read-only mode.

The user group’s spokesman Mark Hill said MYOB users were approached by a software developer who had found a way to generate the codes.

Rather than see the method hit the web more widely – and be used to crack pirated versions of MYOB – Hill helped set up the user group, which requires companies to register, pay a fee, and prove they have a valid license for the software. “There’s quite a lot of control about how this is going to be used,” he told PC Pro. “We’re only going to issue people the numbers, not the raw software.”

In our view the license is being breached by the software house, MYOB of Australia, not the users

“I don’t know if we’re allowed to do it or not, it’s certainly a difficult one,” he added. “We’re certainly not sanctioned by Mamut or MYOB.”

However, Hill believes users have a right to keep using the software they paid for. “We have a licensed text from the time that we each installed the program that allows us indefinite use of the program,” he said. “In our view the licence is being breached by the software house, MYOB of Australia, not the users.”

“The users are basically being forced to buy software they neither want nor need,” he added. “And they’re certainly not required to by their legal agreement – we did not rent the software, everyone bought the software.”

A year-long standard membership costs £35 while a pro one is £50; so far, the group has 57 members and eight professional ones.

No updates

The DRM workaround won’t allow users to upgrade to more modern versions of the software. “At the moment, the offer is simply to allow people to use the license they’ve currently got,” said Hill.

However, he claims many users are on much older versions because the software doesn’t actually need to be updated that frequently – he knows one user who is on version four when the latest edition is number 20.

“Accountancy doesn’t change that often, and there is ample provision within the software to adapt for the most obvious things that might change, for example VAT rates or the treatments of individual items for tax,” he noted.

Hill noted a similar situation happened in Canada, with MYOB leaving in 2002 before returning several years later. “For seven or eight years, the Canadian MYOB users simply refused to move on to any successive product and continued to use the program’s facilities to update it as tax rates change.”

And that’s one reason why so many users don’t want to switch to Mamut’s own software or any other product. “It [MYOB] is very powerful software,” Hill said. “If it wasn’t for the fact it was good, well-written, elegant software, we wouldn’t be bothering. But we are, because people do love the software.”

Other alternatives

Hill said there is an alternative for UK businesses looking to get MYOB software. A US firm called Acclivity, which wrote the Mac version that Mamut sells, still offers the PC version.

However, while it will sell its Mac version to UK users – Hill claimed Mamut has advised people to move to Macs if they insist on sticking with MYOB – Acclivity blocks UK PC customers from buying the product via its website, redirecting them to Mamut thanks to a agreement not to compete.

“There’s a lot of sinister aspects to this – we can’t even buy the equivalent software from the US even though it would work very elegantly in the UK,” said Hill, noting it is possible to buy the US version of MYOB by getting around Acclivity’s redirect.

Mamut had yet to reply to request for comment at the time of publishing.

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