Frequently Asked Questions

What is shareware?

Shareware is a marketing method, not a type of software or even strictly just a distribution method. When software is marketed through normal retail channels, you are forced to pay for the product before you've even seen it. The shareware marketing method lets you try a program before you buy it. Since you've tried the program, you know whether it will meet your needs before you pay for it. A shareware program is just like a program you find in major stores, catalogs, and other places where software is purchased; except you get to use it, on your own computer, before paying for it.

Why pay for software I already have?

Basically, for the same reason you should pay for any program: because it is the honest thing to do. Shareware is commercial software, fully protected by copyright laws. Like other business owners, shareware authors expect to earn money for making their software available. In addition, by paying you may then be entitled to additional functions, removal of time limiting or limits on use, removal of so-called "nag" screens, and other things as defined in the documentation provided by the program's author.

I bought a CD, a book, or a magazine that contained the program--didn't I already pay for the program?

No. Shareware vendors and other publishers distribute shareware evaluation versions of programs. They charge a small fee for the costs of disk duplication and advertising, plus a small profit, or they include the costs in the price of the book or magazine. The money paid to these companies does not go to authors. [BACK TO TOP]

What if I don't like the evaluation version?

That's simple: just stop using it and remove it from your computer system. Many shareware authors even provide a simple "uninstall" feature that makes this easy. You've lost nothing but the small cost of obtaining the evaluation version and the time involved in the evaluation.

What about viruses in software?

The shareware industry has an excellent track record providing products that have been checked thoroughly for viruses. Shareware authors, webmasters and other system operators carefully scan programs for viruses before offering them to consumers, so a shareware program will often have more checks made on it than regular commercial software. In recent years, very few shareware websites host files; most are linking to the shareware files back on the web sites of the authors, so you're getting files directly from the source. The few sites that do their own hosting are nearly all quite large, and scan their collections regularly and carefully. When in doubt, download directly from the authors' web sites.

Why do authors use shareware to distribute their programs?

Basically, it's efficient. Costs are generally less than for software sold through traditional channels. Lower operating costs mean shareware authors can concentrate on writing great programs, while often charging users less. Shareware also allows authors to retain complete control. Microsoft and Netscape are just two software companies that have recognized benefits of "try-before-you-buy" distribution.

I'm looking for software to ... (fill in what you need here).

There are many good search engines where you can find and download shareware, freeware, demos, and public domain software. We have a list of these here. [BACK TO TOP]

How can I legally distribute someone else's shareware?

You'll need to check each program you wish to distribute for any distribution restrictions that the author may have placed on their software. Check the PAD file, the program documentation, and files with names like DISTRIB.TXT, VENDOR.TXT, and VENDINFO.DIZ for restrictions. When in doubt, you should contact the author for permission - failing to do so could leave you liable for copyright infringement.

COMMON MISTAKE - Some folks think that if they purchase a CD-ROM collection of software they may feel free to distribute that software, or if they've downloaded a copy from the Internet that they can sell copies if they wish. Unfortunately these statements are not true. A number of software publishers are using exclusive distribution licenses to allow distribution of their software, and violating one of these licenses could result in a very expensive lesson when you're sued for your actions. Better safe than sorry!

Can I just keep using software that's outdated?

No. There's a specific procedure that an author must follow to abandon their copyright, and if they haven't done so then the shareware continues to be copyrighted. You should check for a newer version for current contact information. It's also possible that the software has been sold to another shareware business and they may be actively supporting it. Even if the author has actually gone out of business, why do you want to use an unsupported program? What are you going to do if it crashes or if you need changes? Where are you going to find support and upgrades? How will you get newer versions to support new operating systems and features? You'll be doing yourself a favor if you find a newer program that you like instead and is still actively supported.

I registered my shareware but never got the program; what can I do?
Can the ASP help me get my program?

If the author is an ASP Member (indicated by the three-disk ASP Logo and/or the ASP Ombudsman statement appearing in their software) you should contact the ASP Ombudsman for help in resolving your complaint.If the author is not an ASP Member, then there's not much we can do. You may want to try contacting your Postmaster if you mailed payment or the local Better Business Bureau where the author does business for assistance. If you paid by credit card you may be able to request a chargeback to get your payment back - check with your credit card company for details.[BACK TO TOP]