Internet Brands v. Xenforo: A Lawyer’s Opinion

If you’re a webmaster running any type of social networking or community website, there is no doubt that you’ve already heard the news. Internet Brands, the owner and developer of the highly popular vBulletin forum software, has commenced a lawsuit in the UK against several former employees who are about to release a highly touted competitive product – Xenforo. As of the moment, the best information available comes direct from the vBulletin customer support forum. In short, Internet Brands alleges that employment agreements have been breached and copyright infringement and unfair competition has ensued. Legitimate claim or underhanded attempt to stifle a competitor’s big day out of the gate? [Read more…]

Internet Brands, vBulletin: The Annual Maintenance Crap

My apologies – the title of this post is “Annual Maintenance Pack.” As many of you may know, I run the legal advice forum at TheLaw.com which, since 2001, has used vBulletin software. Last year I wrote a column here in my blog, not being thrilled with a forced vBulletin version 4 upgrade fee after the option to buy updates to my version 3 software was suddenly “discontinued.” Just when I thought the situation at Internet Brands couldn’t become more preposterous, the marketing comedy returns.

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vBulletin 4 Forum – The Controversial Upgrade Offer

For almost a decade, Jelsoft’s vBulletin software dominated the software market for online discussion forums. It was the quintessential example of how an enthusiastic customer base can extend a product and grow the base business exponentially. In 2007, Jelsoft and its potential was sold to Internet Brands, a public company, for an undisclosed sum and moved forward with few changes and little fanfare. In October 2009, everything changed in just two short weeks. The recent customer revolt against the new management team (the founders and most of the original team are gone) – ostensibly renamed as vBulletin Solutions (“vBS”) – is an interesting, ongoing case study that companies changing their software licensing models may want to follow. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a current owner of vBulletin software, managing a long running legal advice & assistance forum since the earliest versions appeared in 2001. My comments below represent my good faith understanding of the confusing events of the past two weeks and subject to correction. [Read more…]