FAQs about the dissolution of PASS

closed signIn my prior post, I talked about how all signs pointed to it being Closing Time for PASS. Since then, PASS has announced the organization will “cease its operations and pursue dissolution.”

TL;DR;

The short version is that on 15 January, 2021, PASS will shut down all operations, including various technology assets, such as the SQLSaturday site, User Group tools, etc.

Other than that one blog post, there hasn’t been much information to come out of PASS. User groups and SQLSaturday organizers in particular have been scrambling to sort out their own future–and the Christmas & New Year’s holidays just cut into the lead time available to answer those questions. If you are the organizer of a user group or SQLSaturday, you were given about 18 business days to move to a new platform.

I’ve decided to try to pull together an FAQ here, with some of the answers that have already been answered, as well as questions that remain unanswered. Hopefully this can be a resource to organizers, speakers, and attendees alike, to help figure out their path forward in a post-PASS landscape.

FAQs

If you have additional questions, please post them in the comments below. I’ll update this post with additional frequently-asked questions, as well as answers as they become available (either from the Community, or from PASS directly).


What does “pursue dissolution” mean? Does this mean bankruptcy?

PASS has not answered this, though most folks seem to interpret this as meaning the organization has/will file for bankruptcy. Chapter 7 of the US Bankruptcy code covers liquidation. There are alternatives to Chapter 7 bankruptcy, so PASS has multiple paths it could pursue. Transparency on this point may help provide clarity on other questions, as the bankruptcy code would define what happens to assets, etc.

Update 2021-01-05: I’ve done a search in PACER (the Federal Public Access to Court Electronic Records), and haven’t been able to find any bankruptcy filings for the Professional Association of SQL Server (the legal entity is still named that). The organization does not appear to be pursuing bankruptcy at this time, though it’s unclear if they plan to pursue bankruptcy in the future.

What will happen to SQLSaturday.com and PASS.org?

Both of these websites will be shut down on 15 January, 2021. The domain ownership and any data will remain assets of the organization, and subject to sale or transfer to a debtor, depending on the chosen path to dissolution.

Does PASS own all their domains? Or does Christianson & Company (the event company that ran “PASS HQ”) own them?

I’m not sure. The FY2020 PASS Budget included a $3000 USD yearly payment for “Domain Registration.” That has been criticized for being too high for the list of known domains that PASS uses. Looking at the ICANN domain name registration info, I can provide a little bit of analysis:

  • sqlpass.org, pass.org, and sqlsaturday.com all have private registration info. They are registered to “Domains By Proxy, LLC”, which indicates the domains are held via GoDaddy, and the owner pays for domain privacy services. These are probably owned by the same entity, but that entity could be anyone.
  • I believe that sqlsaturday.org used to redirect to the .com, but that no longer happens and I see that the domain is registered via ENom. Given the difference in registrar, I assume this domain is held by a different party, and was previously redirected as a service to the community.
  • Christianson & Company’s website is also registered via GoDaddy with private registration to “Domains By Proxy, LLC.”
  • datasaturday.com is currently registered to C&C Event Management.

I paid for a PASS Pro membership. Can I do anything I want with the content I have access to?

PASS Pro members will have access to that content until 15 January, 2021, and lose access after that. Copyright on this content belongs to PASS and/or the content creators, but not you. Downloading the recordings via youtube-dl for personal use is likely legal, but doing so to host elsewhere may be a copyright violation and therefore illegal.

I paid for a PASS Pro membership. Can I get a pro-rated refund?

No. PASS is not offering prorated refunds for PASS Pro membership. Their announcement recommends “So, in the meantime, you can watch sessions on our website, and download session recordings that you’ve purchased or that you have access to as a PASS Pro member. Please take full advantage of this exclusive content while you can.”

PASS held my refund for the cancelled 2020 PASS Summit in Houston as credit for 2021 Summit. Can I get a cash refund?

When PASS announced the move to a virtual Summit on 3 June, 2020, and the “default” refund policy (unless you opted in to an altertive option prior to 31 August) was to auto-register you for 2020 Virtual Summit, and apply the difference towards 2021 Summit.

PASS has not provided an official answer to this, but my understanding is that the answer is “No.” PASS does not have the cashflow to offer refunds at this time. You will likely be among the debtors that will need to depend on the sale of PASS assets. After selling their assets, they will have cash to satisfy some of their debt. It is unclear of outstanding 2020 PASS Summit refunds will be among the debts repaid.

I’m a User Group organizer, and use PASS.org to host my group’s website. What do I do?

You need to move to a new home. Most UGs seem to be moving to Meetup, and Microsoft has announced a plan that will “invite qualified user groups to join [their] Meetup Pro network.” (If you are a user group leader interested in finding out more, there’s a link at the bottom of that Microsoft announcement.) You may also choose to create your own website that you have full control over, using something such as GitHub Pages, WordPress, or the new Website Builder from MailChimp.

I’m a User Group organizer, and use PASS.org to host my group’s mailing list. What do I do?

PASS will not be making user group mailing lists available to user group organizers, citing their privacy policy. You will need to use the existing user group tools to contact members and get them to join a new mailing list. You must do this prior to 15 January, 2021, or risk losing your existing group’s mailing list totally. If you have a social media presence for your user group, you can use that to amplify the move to your new home.

Microsoft has announced a plan that will “invite qualified user groups to join [their] Meetup Pro network,” so moving to Meetup may be a viable new place. (If you are a user group leader interested in finding out more, there’s a link at the bottom of that Microsoft announcement.) Take note that like with PASS, you will not have direct access to your membership contact list. You will only be able to contact them via the Meetup tools. This can be a feature, as it prevents you from having to manage data and the various privacy concerns that go along with that. If you need or want better controls over your membership & mailing lists, you may want to have your signups in a CRM, like MailChimp.

I’m a User Group organizer, and use a PASS-supplied O365 account, with email. What do I do?

If you have any accounts (such as social media, etc) that use your PASS-supplied email address, change it now. If you ever need to perform a password reset, it is imperative that you have access to the associated inbox. Additionally, depending on how the sale of PASS and/or it’s assets occurs, the future owner/future organization may be able to gain access to your email account, even if you can’t.

I’m a User Group organizer, and our user group has “PASS” as part of the name. What do I do?

You might not have to do anything. Depending on how the sale of PASS and/or it’s assets occurs, the future owner of the brand/future organization may decide to enforce the trademark of “PASS.” A litigious brand owner could sue you / your group to prevent you from using “PASS” in your name. Regardless of whether such a suit has merit (please seek legal advice from a qualified lawyer, rather than a DBA), you may choose to change your name proactively to avoid such a possibility.

I’m a SQLSaturday organizer, and we use prior events to generate mailing list for future events. What do I do?

PASS will not be making event mailing lists available to user group organizers, citing their privacy policy. If your local user group was the organizing group behind prior events, and they sponsored those events, then your local user group would have the same access to “scan lists” and opt-in lists, per your sponsorship terms. Check those terms & sponsorships. If your local user group is entitled to, or already has the “scan list” and opt-in lists, then your UG can use those lists to promote future events. Note that your UG may be losing their mailing lists, too!

I’m a SQLSaturday organizer, and want to host an event in 2021. What do I do?

The future of the SQLSaturday brand is in doubt. My assumption is that it will be sold to cover PASS’s debt, and we won’t know it’s fate until after that sale. However, events don’t wait!

There is a new, community led, open-source initiative for Data Saturdays, currently growing on GitHub. Join the discussions, and vote or create issues, or even contribute a PR!

UPDATE 2021-01-07: PASS is selling the SQLSaturday brand (including the domain, all marketing assets, and trademarks). Interested buyers must submit bids by January 14th. PASS will select a winning bid on January 18th, and complete the sale by January 29th. It appears that no data, technology, or software will be included in the sale. While a sqlsaturday.com website may exist in the future, it will likely not have past event data, nor the same software format.

I’m a SQLSaturday speaker, and my content (ie, slides) is hosted on the SQLSaturday website. I own that material and it’s copyright. How do I prevent it being included in a sale?

PASS has not provided an official answer to this, so we don’t know for sure. The website is an asset of the organization, and will most likely be sold to cover debts, or transferred directly to a debtor in exchange for forgiving a debt. However, speakers did not sign licensing agreements nor otherwise transfer copyright to PASS. Depending on the copyright holder’s terms, the sale of that material by PASS may be illegal.

If you are concerned about your content being resold, you can log in to the speaker portal for each individual event, and delete your uploads.

Removal of copyrighted material outside your control would be governed by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA).

UPDATE 2021-01-07: PASS is selling the SQLSaturday brand (including the domain, all marketing assets, and trademarks). Interested buyers must submit bids by January 14th. PASS will select a winning bid on January 18th, and complete the sale by January 29th. It appears that no data, technology, or software will be included in the sale. While a sqlsaturday.com website may exist in the future, it will likely not have past event data, nor the same software format.

I’m an MVP & link to SQLSaturday.com and PASS.com to show contributions. What do I do?

André Kamman (blog|twitter) and Rob Sewell (blog|twitter) created SqlSatHistory.com via the publicly available schedules from the SQLSaturday website. You can simply use those links for SQLSaturday events.

If you’ve spoken at a User Group or Virtual Group, there isn’t (yet?) a similar alternative. You should grab screen shots that include the group name, event date, and your session details, and post it somewhere that publicly accessible (example).

What will happen to the SQLSaturday and brands?

PASS has not provided an official answer to this, so we don’t know for sure. These are assets of the organization, and will most likely be sold to cover debts, or transferred directly to a debtor in exchange for forgiving a debt.

UPDATE 2021-01-07: PASS is selling the SQLSaturday brand (including the domain, all marketing assets, and trademarks). Interested buyers must submit bids by January 14th. PASS will select a winning bid on January 18th, and complete the sale by January 29th. It appears that no data, technology, or software will be included in the sale. While a sqlsaturday.com website may exist in the future, it will likely not have past event data, nor the same software format.

What will happen to the PASS mailing list and event attendee data?

PASS has not provided an official answer to this, so we don’t know for sure. These are assets of the organization, and will most likely be sold to cover debts, or transferred directly to a debtor in exchange for forgiving a debt. If the Professional Association of SQL Server corporation is sold as a business entity, the data may be sold along with the entity itself.

If you are concerned about your data being sold, I suggest logging in to the MyProfile page on the PASS website & update your data. Note that changing your email address does not require confirmation, so you can “black hole” email by changing it to a non-existent email address. Speakers should also log in to the SQLSaturday website and update their Speaker Profile, which is different from your PASS profile.

What will happen to session recordings?

PASS has not provided an official answer to this, so we don’t know for sure. These are assets of the organization, and will most likely be sold to cover debts, or transferred directly to a debtor in exchange for forgiving a debt.

Virtual Group & PASS Summit recordings are currently hosted on the PASStv YouTube channel, and are “unlisted” (meaning you cannot search them from YouTube). They are only findable from PASS.org.

Copyright on this content belongs to PASS and/or the content creators, but not you. Downloading the recordings via youtube-dl for personal use is likely legal, but doing so to host elsewhere may be a copyright violation and therefore illegal.

If SQLSaturday is being sold, will the SQLSaturday brand and technology be sold as a bundle? Or separately?

PASS has not provided an official answer to this, so we don’t know for sure. SQLSaturday is only valuable as a brand in its current form if the volunteer organizers & volunteer speakers are invested in it. If community, speakers, and organizers are no longer invested, then the full “package” brand is less valuable and the sale would raise the most funds by selling the event-scheduling software and other assets separately.

UPDATE 2021-01-07: PASS is selling the SQLSaturday brand (including the domain, all marketing assets, and trademarks). Interested buyers must submit bids by January 14th. PASS will select a winning bid on January 18th, and complete the sale by January 29th. It appears that no data, technology, or software will be included in the sale. While a sqlsaturday.com website may exist in the future, it will likely not have past event data, nor the same software format.

Can PASS “spin out” SQLSaturday (as a whole, or parts of it) to gift to a community-led open source project?

PASS has not provided an official answer to this, so we don’t know for sure. Most likely, it is too late to do this. PASS would have had to spin out the SQLSaturday brand months ago in order to protect it’s value from debtors. Doing so now would likely result in a litigious debtor filing a suit to have SQLSaturday included in the assets that need to be sold.

UPDATE 2021-01-07: PASS is selling the SQLSaturday brand (including the domain, all marketing assets, and trademarks). Interested buyers must submit bids by January 14th. PASS will select a winning bid on January 18th, and complete the sale by January 29th. It appears that no data, technology, or software will be included in the sale. While a sqlsaturday.com website may exist in the future, it will likely not have past event data, nor the same software format.

2 Comments

  1. That’s a ton of “PASS has not provided an official answer to this”, which I find appalling. Friggin appalling. Thank you for putting into item after item a post which makes it more even more clear to be why I’d had enough.

    • Mindy, I appreciate your service on the Board, but even moreso, I appreciate your commitment to the community, and speaking up.

      I knew there were a lot of unanswered questions before I started to compile them, but didn’t expect so many of them. The lack of transparency shouldn’t surprise me, but the disappointment and anger are unavoidable.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.