As CEDIA Members Go Broke Fight Breaks Out Over Code

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A major debate has broken out in the USA as to who owns the source code in a home automation system after an administrator to a failed CEDIA member organisation tried to sell automation code in an effort to recover money.

The debate which is set to have implications in Australia following the collapse Companies like Switched On Living and of late Advanced Living both CEDIA members who owned the code to several multimillion dollar projects has ignited a major issue in light of the tough economic conditions which is seeing several CEDIA members struggle to survive.

For a consumer the debate has massive ramifications as all they are left with without the code is worthless home automation gear that cannot be changed or re configured.

The debate blew up after Baumeister major home integration Company in the USA abruptly closed its doors in February, taking with it the Crestron code that belonged to its clients.

Within weeks the administrator for Baumeister was auctioning the code to th3e highest bidder in a move that has angered both clients and other CEDIA members. 

According to CEPro Magazine the highest bid is currently at $55,000.

Len Wallis of Len Wallis Audio in Sydney said that the argument is not new. “I believe that any court in Australia would rule that the client owns the code. It is an awkward issue and we have experienced problems in this area before. Some years ago when Advanced Living went broke we had a client who had to pull an entire security system out and return it to the manufacturer to be re coded because Switched On Living would not hand over the code”.

He added after the story had been initally posted ” Your question this morning has sparked some lively debate. We have just had a round table discussion on the issue – it is interesting to hear from different people involved in the process. Our chief programmer is English initially from outside the industry. He says that in the IT world it is a non-argument.

Unless you have been commissioned and paid to produce a specific program (rather than the solution) the codes remain the property of the company developing the program. Our chief system designer is ex-New York and he said that this has previously come up a couple of times over there – prompting his company to consult with lawyers.

His finding was the same. The client is entitled to the hardware and the solution that the program provides – not the code sources themselves – these remain the property of the company. Some of our more traditional system designers see no reason not to give the source codes to the client, as we have done in the past, but this is based on an agreement between the client and ourselves, not because of legal obligations.

 

Dave Haddad, president of Chicago-based Vidacom and a long time critic of the code-as-hostage scheme, is one integration company that has taken over several Baumeister jobs says CEPro.

“When I saw the bankruptcy company trying to sell the code, I thought, ‘This is capitalism at its worst,” he says.

I first became aware of the Baumeister issue – indeed the whole who-owns-the-code debate — in late January when I received an email from a former customer who had spent $50,000 to $75,000 on his system, of which the Crestron “programming” costs seemed to amount to about $10,000.


The attorneys assigned to the Baumeister case, Chicago-based Law Office of Deborah K. Ebner, determined that indeed the Baumeister code was the rightful property of the integrator.

However it appears that the clients who complained and then commenced legal action got their goods.

“We’ve spoken at length to everyone who has voiced objections,” attorney Deborah Ebner told CE Pro. “Cases with all of the plaintiffs have been settled” she said.

Please, I would welcome any opinion on this. simply go to the comment section below.

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