There's a saying: "Any publicity is good publicity."
And perhaps Creative took it literally.
Besides revealing that its profit and sales for this quarter is the worst of the past five years, Creative has gone one step further and put itself in what i can only call a "public relations nightmare".
To keep a long story short, Daniel_K, a long-time-hard-core Creative supporter released his own modded soundcard drivers to make Creative's soundcard work flawlessly when used on Microsoft Windows Vista. The modded drivers also add additional functions that is previously not even advertised on the card.
Creative responded with a heavily worded message and took the post off its forum.
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.
VP Corporate Communications
Creative Labs Inc.
The reply enraged many people and over night, more than 1,500 replies were made to that post. It's quite a complicated matter really. How do you stop someone from stealing your intellectual properties and at the same time not look like the bad guy?
Daniel_k says "They publicly threatened me, just to show their arrogance. They were sarcastic, ironic and asked me if I wanted something from them, as if I were expecting something. It was my protest against them and would like to see how far it would go." (Daniel_K did however asked Creative for a "donation")
So if one guy is able to solve the instability of Creative's soundcard on Vista and even unlock some additional features, does it make Creative's team of engineers look like a bunch of clowns?
It would be ignorant to think that the creator of the soundcard would be unable to re-code the drivers to make the older soundcards work on Vista. Based on the statement: "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.", it is safe to say that Creative disabled certain features on its older soundcard so that people would buy its newer and better X-Fi soundcard.
It's purely a financially sound decision.
Furthermore, if you enable a feature (say Dolby Surround) that is not listed on the soundcard, it would involve the infringment of IP of Dolby as Creative did not intend to have that function on that card and thus did not pay Dolby to use their technology on it.
Creative thereafter did some damage control by reinstating the deleted forum posts by Daniel and release the following statement:
We have read the strong feedback about Creative's forum post regarding driver development by Daniel_k and other outside parties. Creative's message posted on our behalf by our Company spokesperson tried to address our concern about the improper distribution of certain software which is the property of other companies. However, we did not make it as clear as we would have liked that we do support driver development by independent third parties. The huge task of developing driver updates to accommodate the many changes in the Vista operating system and the extensive testing required, including the lengthy Vista certification requirements for audio, makes it very difficult for Creative to develop updates for all past products. Outside developers have been very helpful to Creative and our customers by developing updates for many of our Sound Blaster products, and we do support and appreciate these efforts. This however does not extend to the unauthorized distribution of other companies' property. We hope to work out a mutually agreeable method for working with Daniel_k in supporting his efforts in driver development. Going forward, we are committed to doing a better job of working more closely with third parties to support their development for our products and our customers.
The news was covered by all the major technology sites on the net and also on the various dailies. Does this raise awareness of Creative's new range of soundcard or does it reflect badly on Creative? It's really up to you to decide.