The Problem With Partners: Fake VisualHub Update Aims To Make Bank On Unsupported Software

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Tyler Loch is the creator of VisualHub, one of the best (and funniest) video converters for OS X. He shut down development a few years ago and left the app to linger and then shut it down completely, forcing folks to scour the Internet for copies. A few OS X versions came and went and the program still worked but a Lion killed the app for users fairly completely.

I’m a former VisualHub customer and must have bought it through Tyler’s reseller, Kagi, when it was still available. Today I received an email informing me that I could update VisualHub to work with Lion for a mere $5. Excited that the app was supported again, I soon discovered that Tyler was not part of this update and that Kagi had essentially spammed the VisualHub list in order to wring a little more cash out of the product.

Here’s Tyler’s side of the story:

We used Kagi as our official reseller for all Techspansion sales. We had a good working relationship for the years Techspansion was active.

Although VisualHub had not been offered for sale in years I thought it would be a nice gesture to fix some issues that caused it to fail on Mac OS X Lion.
I quietly released some replacement components for free on techspansion.com a month ago for people who still used VisualHub and AudialHub.

Last night, a former customer e-mailed me very confused. He had received an e-mail from Kagi about a Lion updater for VisualHub. For $4.99.
Then my father-in-law calls, asking if I’m going back in business, and just forgotten to mention it to him…

More and more friends, family and former customers began to contact my wife and I last night, wondering what’s going on.
We began to realize that our entire customer base (or close to it) had been contacted with an advertisement for the $5 “vHub Updater”, something I’ve never been involved with, which touts our software’s name and company name — front and center.

Though FFmpeg and the inner workings of my programs are open-source (FilmRedux, ReduxZero, etc), VisualHub as it exists in the world, is not. I gave no permission and had no prior knowledge of Kagi hosting, redistributing, and indirectly selling the components I wrote in their product.

And I definitely did not (and would never) use the contact info of my company’s customers to solicit business like this.

So, here’s the gist of it:
A former trusted business partner appropriates my copyrighted code…
…Packages it up and makes it available through an updater…
…Offers it up for sale…
…And mass-mails my customers about it.

Honestly, I’m quite disappointed with this entire situation.
I’m in contact with Kagi to see how we can resolve this.

First, you can get the Lion update here for free and second this is probably the most egregious example blackmailware I’ve seen in a long while. vHub Update is, in short, a simple installer built around Tyler’s fix. In a note to Lon Seidman, Kagi’s CEO Kee Nethery blamed Tyler for “walking away from the business” and said his customers were confused by his onerous update requirements. Writes TUAW:

In the case of VisualHub, since developer Tyler Loch has stopped distributing his app, Kagi pointed users to Loch’s patch instructions on the Techspansion site. Despite the fact that the effort to patch the app is minimal, the process of showing the app package contents and replacing three script files was apparently beyond the “comfort level” of many users contacting Kagi for help.

There is also some doubt that the app is a Kagi product. A quick look-up shows that the updater’s “website” (vhub.biz) is assigned to Kee Nethery.

We can clearly presume that Kagi would be happy to repackage and sell almost anything at this point, including OS X updates. It’s an open market, folks, and, if you’re Kagi, you know that there’s a sucker born every minute.