Judge Issues Permanent Injunction Against Rimini Practices
Judge Larry Hicks, in the US District Court in Nevada, issued on 8/16/18 a permanent injunction banning Rimini Street, based on Rimini's Copyright infringement against Oracle. This article from The Register yesterday does an excellent job of describing the both this latest ruling and background of the case history. Links to the injunction and ruling are in the article as well.
Rimini Street is expected to appeal.
Most long-term software cases are about software patent infringement. This case is about copyright infringement, a very different thing. If you want to sell a T-shirt with a picture of Mickey Mouse, you need to get permission from Disney.
A person or organization who creates new material "owns" his or her creation; that's why it's called copyright. With a few exceptions, generally involving "fair use," no one can just copy and use the work of someone else.
Software is (created and) copyrighted, just like a book or a movie. Oracle's code, the documentation, the fixes, and any derivative works are owned by Oracle. Oracle and other software providers, in turn, may license the use of this material, which is why customers sign license agreements (or subscriptions). Just as with Disney, a license defines what is permitted.
Rimini Street does not have a license from Oracle. Instead, they have claimed they have the right to use the permission of the customer. This is true; a contractor or third-party may come into a company and work on or maintain Oracle software. Rimini Street and its predecessor TomorrowNow have asserted this "use" gives them the right to offer third-party support.
Throughout this case, Rimini Street has asserted that they have the right to use customer materials, and work under the customer license. What the judge has ruled is that while Rimini and other third-party providers may offer services, they can only serve a specific customer under a particular license. They cannot use one license to perform work for, or shared with, other customers. In fact, each customer license (or most of them) prohibit customers from distributing derivative works themselves.
TomorrowNow, in early days, used a single demo instance for all the customers and updated with new code and fixes whenever they signed a new customer. TomorrowNow was sold to SAP shortly after Oracle acquired PeopleSoft, who paid a big fine for the sins of the bought and shut the company down.
Initially, Rimini Street set up a separate demo instance for each customer and swore that they knew nothing about any sharing of materials. Initial rulings banned them from hosting any customer instances (which was great news for Rimini - no more data centers). This latest injunction is an extension of prohibited acts under the copyright law.
PeopleSoft was always very hawkish about the use of their source code or PeopleTools. Customers could develop apps or bolt-ons for their internal use but were not able to sell these derivative works to others.
Oracle, unlike PeopleSoft pre-acquisition, allows the sale and distribution of copyrighted code under its Validated Integration program (OVI ). Third parties can submit and demonstrate to Oracle a tool, and when validated receive a license amendment from Oracle permitting distribution of these works to customers.
Pay maintenance to Oracle; it's okay to grumble. Or don't pay support fees. Rimini Street may "Save you 50%" on your Oracle maintenance, but you may still be wasting most of the other 50%.