SAP Trying To Ban Trainers From Using Screenshots

from the misuse-of-both-copyright-and-trademark-law dept

Dan writes in to point out that SAP's Business Objects subsidiary is apparently looking to abuse both copyright and trademark law to limit who can create training course and materials for its software. The company is sending out letters telling training and tools providers that it's copyright infringement to use any screenshots of their software and that it's trademark infringement to use the names of its programs. Both claims are blatantly false, of course, but appear to be how SAP/Business Objects is looking to corner the training market on its own software, forcing "authorized" training providers to pay them extra and blocking competitors out of the market. Using screenshots of software is clear fair use, and using a product's name in the course of a training manual is, in no way, trademark infringement -- as long as the training material doesn't imply that it's the "official" or "approved" training manual for the software. This is rather disappointing from a company that has built up a decent reputation in the last few years for being more open about these kinds of things.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    Eric Goldman (profile), Jan 12th, 2009 @ 12:21pm


    I wonder if SAP used any of Oracle's screenshots as part of the TomorrowNow fiasco and whether their position here undermines any of their legal arguments in the Oracle lawsuit. Eric.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), Jan 12th, 2009 @ 12:24pm

    Makes me sad

    This makes me sad that my company uses a SAP product.
    However, I would find it rather funny to see them come after the company here for all of the training documents that I and the other trainers have created for our modules internally.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2009 @ 12:26pm

    PeopleSoft did it for years. This policy is continued under Oracle as well. I know because I used to work for a company that created the End User Training Kit for PeopleSoft. When we went out on our own, PS told us we couldn't show screen captures when pitching to clients.

    Of course, we changed our business model to create custom training databases that could be utilized with the Single User Install that came with all PS software at the time. In other words, we used their own data to train them.

    That of course led to new business obscuring critical HR details of the custom database while maintaining the structure. (Roger Smith is the CEO and he makes 25K a year? SSN obscures, etc.)

    Point is, like Mike says, when backed into a corner, innovate.

    FWIW: To stay alive, the company had to broaden scope beyond ERP software and to get out of the database business. (PeopleSoft doesn't ship with a Single User Install anymore. Duplicating the functionality on a standard install was too labor-intensive.) Company is still around doing well. I was laid off because I was one of the database guys, but it wasn't like it surprised me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Kenneth Murray, Jan 12th, 2009 @ 12:56pm

    SAP Best Practice

    I find this highly amusing since in all of the SAP (non-BO) help they don't provide any screen images of their software. Because of this customers have to do this on their own to create any kind of process documentation that should have been provided by SAP....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    chris (profile), Jan 12th, 2009 @ 1:46pm

    wow, excellent business move

    so they want the training for their product to be more expensive? how will that help them sell licenses?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2009 @ 2:01pm

    Hey - carried to its logical conclusion, doesn't this imply that Microsoft could take action against SAP (or anyone else) for screenshots taken on windows? After all those shots almost certainly include Micorsoft formating and stuff. Like the shape of the windows and the little red close box?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Grae, Jan 12th, 2009 @ 4:41pm

    Re: wow, excellent business move


    It's a seriously short sighted move. If you want your platform to spread and achieve ubiquity you don't block the spread of knowledge on how to use your platform!

    Why, why, why would you stop people from essentially helping to proliferate your platform? I mean, sure, you could rake in a few tens of millions of dollars more in the next five years... just enough to cover the severance bonuses of the execs when the company goes bankrupt, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2009 @ 8:17pm


    Process the screen shot with photoshop to make it look like a watercolor.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Michael, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 5:04am

    SAP Harrasing Trainers

    I filed a lawsuit against BO a few years ago. This was one of my items. As part of my settlement, which is not sealed, I am able to do any training I want. I have to put in the std trademark/copyright info, but I am free and clear. I too talked with an attorney specializing in this type of matter and he laughted. HIs comment: Do you think Bill Gates would have let all that money go that he could have had? Anyone need inputs? Contact me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Mike, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 8:35am

    Re: SAP Best Practice

    I'm told that the one major reason why SAP does not use screenshots is enable faster delivery of the Help documentation in all the languages that they support. Screenshots, being very language dependent, can become a big maintenance challange overtime as screens change. nothing worse than screenshots that do not reflect the product's actual screens.

    no idea about the copyright issue though :-(

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Rubberman, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 8:40am

    SAP, intellectual property, and fair use

    Part of the problem is that the law allows this sort of egregious behavior, so the lawyer-types at these companies are going to try and take advantage of it. After all, they have to be doing something to justify their salaries and/or retainer fees... Personally, I think it should the responsibility of the IP owner to prove in some sort of refereed manner that their property IS being improperly used BEFORE they are allowed to suppress its use or sue the other party. Face it. Our IP laws are so bollixed up that it is getting to the point where soon no one will be able to publish/post anything because of this cruft! "You cannot post that! I own the rights to your name, the letter 'a' when used as a word, and the year 2009!"...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    anymouse, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 10:42am

    Follow the $$$$

    For these corporate giants it's not about spreading their product, it's about extracting as much money as they can from the customers who they have already locked into their product.

    As an employee who works extensively with PeopleSoft (now Oracle - one of SAP's main competitors) I've learned that Marketing and Sales have no relation to Service or the actual product. Once they have a sucker hooked, it's all about squeezing them for all they are worth. Often there is no other option, after you've spent several million dollars installing their software and you find out that it doesn't do all the things the sales people said it would (unless you want to hire some of their consultants at $500/hr for a couple months to make it do that for you), you are pretty much stuck. You've got too much invested in the project to admit that it's not worth the amount of money you dumped into it, and there are no 'cheap' or 'easy' alternatives to switch to, so you basically grin and bear it while they continue to stick it to you.

    When it was still PeopleSoft (before Oracle purchased them), they made over 75% of their money (off of our organization) from 'consulting' and 'training' on how to setup and use the system they sold us (and the licensing fees were roughly $250,000 per year)....

    I recently received a training course on two CD's that consisted of 150mb of powerpoint type presentation spread over two disks (apparently putting it all on one disk would have made the course appear to be too simple to justify the $600 they charged for it)... a week after taking the course, I received an invitation and attended a free webinar from a different company that covered everything that was in the course I had paid for, and also included some additional hints and tips that weren't included in the 'official' training course).

    These big ERP vendors are all a joke, but they know that users don't have much choice once they are locked in, so they continue the cycle. I don't know of any other business where you can sell a 'broken' or 'non-functinoal' product (depending on your definitions), charge your customers a yearly maintenance fee, expect your customers to provide you with the 'fixes' to your product (by filing support cases and coming up with solutions/workarounds to the faulty delivered product), then turn around and deliver those fixes to the other customers as 'updates' so that they don't complain too much, while at the same time you are selling your customers 'consulting' help to use their product.

    As an Accountant, this would be about like doing 1/2 of someone's taxes, giving them the mess and expecting them to finish the other 1/2 of the work, then taking that work and applying it to 5-10 other customers and charging them for it... I'm obviously in the wrong business.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    matt, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 11:10am


    I used a program called "Business Objects" while working for a prior employer about three years ago. I don't know if it was the same program as is being discussed here, but whatever I used was about as user-friendly as programming a VCR in 1985.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    matt, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 11:10am


    I used a program called "Business Objects" while working for a prior employer about three years ago. I don't know if it was the same program as is being discussed here, but whatever I used was about as user-friendly as programming a VCR in 1985.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Michael, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 12:35pm


    Now they are going after customers who use 3rd parties and threatening them. WHy! It's clear that SAP/BO are more greed driven than ever. They are anti-competive, and want to run all the competition out of business unfairly. What vultures they are! THe irony is that 3rd parties like myself not only provide huge cost savings, we also provide superior quality, as I can clearly prove based on my numerous customers. Now the customers are being threatened! This is their definition of great customer relations?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Patricia, Mar 17th, 2009 @ 2:32pm

    SAP trying to ban use of screenshots in 3rd party training

    SAP tried to claim this 10+ years ago when the big consulting firms were jumping on the SAP training bandwagon in the early R/3 days. Perhaps they are just trying an old trick a decade later.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    James, Sep 16th, 2009 @ 11:41pm



    Is there any problem with SAP?

    I am planning to use it..

    I need more information about this.

    Any info you give will be highly appreciated.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    NukeToy, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 9:14pm

    SAP truly is Scheiße Asführbare Programm

    Hey found this on a Google search for “law suites against sap for non functionality”.

    SAP like the rest of German companies is at war with the US. Just look at what Daimler did to Chrysler (still do not know how the SEC allowed that) and this action is just another reflection of that.

    @ JAMES. Once the get you hooked on their product you are royally effed. The company I work for used to run the AS400. Under the AS400 we ran without issue for 12 years and no upgrades, a one time upfront cost.

    In 2004 when the moron in charge (the recently fired CEO Dick) decided to switch to SAP we spent around 1M on licensing, the second year on upgrades and fixes we spent around 10M and 15 Million a year since. We been in a constant state of trying to get it to work 6 updates later it is worse than the first version 3.6. I just lost a 150M / year client due to a SAP 5.0 eff up. When you do the math we spent over 100M (when you include the hardware) on an application that has yet to work right. That would be over a 100 programmers for 10 years to write our own. (Writing a data bases it not that hard for a good programmer. I consider my self a mediocre to poor programmer and wrote the ATLAS collider DB, collector, parser and cruncher in four weeks when I worked for Doc Bach at ANL.)

    James if I were you, I would look elsewhere before you’re sorry. If your business is smaller look at Access or Alpha, if it is larger write you own. You’ll probable be better off in the long run. SAP is so bad i would consider M.S. Access better.

    At least the Germans were honest when they named it Scheiße Asführbare Programm.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Nuketoys, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 9:32pm

    SAP truly is Scheiße Asführbare Programm. (extended)

    @ JAMES just found this:

    Three of the top 10 biggest IT phuk-ups are caused by SAP and the largest in excess of 1 Billion in loss.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Lisa, Dec 4th, 2011 @ 11:43pm

    Re: Re: SAP Best Practice


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    david, Feb 24th, 2014 @ 3:55am


    SAP Basis is a composition of middleware programs and gears from SAP, the German group which wide ranging Ep/3 development is being used to assist manage enormous corporations. Sapbasis online training presents the fundamental base which allows applications like as FI, CO, and HR, BW, etc. to be interoperable and manageable crosswise the os together with database artifacts.sapbasis online training SAP R/3 Foundation covers consumer/server architecture plus settings, one relational database management method or RDBMS, including one graphical user-interface or GUI. Besides the boundary among system components, Basis gears include an improvement setting for R/3 applications, including an info dictionary, jointly with customer and system management and monitoring gears.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    fedrick, Sep 22nd, 2014 @ 7:38am

    Re: Comment

    no, there is no problem with SAP

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    mercyjulie, Oct 8th, 2014 @ 2:21am


    This article is very useful for me. Thank you for sharing this article.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    christyjames, Oct 8th, 2014 @ 2:26am


    Thanks for sharing this post. I personally think that this is useful for me to handle SAP.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    SAP SD Online Training, Dec 15th, 2014 @ 9:58pm

    SAP SD Online Training

    Thank you sir,I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. nice explanation.We are providing sap sd online training . It is more effective and interest for new learners. I thought I would leave my first comment. I feel great after reading this information.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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