I struggled with whether to write this blog, as those who read these are typically very knowledgeable when it comes to software licensing and usage, but I found the topic to be rather surprising, so I assume others may as well.
I recently attended a presentation by a prominent and highly respected Software Asset Management (SAM) expert. He was describing common areas of non-compliance, and one of his bullet points was about users who fail to realize that we buy licenses to use software, not the software itself. Some of you may dismiss this as common knowledge, as did I, but I spoke with the presenter afterward and he said it occurs quite frequently.
Most will understand that when we purchase software, we are actually buying the rights to use it, subject to the specific terms and conditions stated in the agreement. This is true whether it’s a volume licensing agreement, a consumer End User License Agreement (EULA), or even shareware or free software.
Computer software is intellectual property, and as such, is guarded by numerous legal protections. This may include restrictions on use, reverse engineering, decompiling, unauthorized duplication or distribution, patents, trademarks and countless other limitations. While this is common knowledge among IT professionals, it’s not uncommon to encounter a consumer who believes that when they obtain the software, whether by paying or shareware, it becomes their property to do with as they wish.
When I asked the SAM expert to elaborate on the subject, he said that the most common occurrence for this violation in an organization is when the uninformed end-user brings that belief to the workplace, and innocently(?) violates the terms of the license.
Of course ignorance is of little value when defending unauthorized use to a software vendor or auditor.