Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Legit! ...and software licensing

We recently bought the new Photoshop CS at work here, and amazingly in their license agreement, it states that you are allowed to legally install the software on 1 other machine, either a mobile issued from your company or a home computer.  For me this is fantastic news, because about a year ago I made a personal commitment to eliminate all unlicensed software from my computers.  I replaced MS Office with Open Office.  Replaced Outlook with Thunderbird.  I actually purchased several programs that I found invaluable.  The last piece of the puzzle was Photoshop.  I do a lot of graphics work (although not for a lot of $$$) and there is just no comparison to Photoshop, yet the $700 price tag has been daunting.  I was planning to pay it anyway, but it has not been feasible yet.  So with this new discovery (and it may have been that way with older versions of PS but I never knew), I am now 100% legit!

For those of you who have some input into license agreements with your products, what kinds of structures do you use?  For everyone, what kinds of license structures do you think work best and what is the best balance of profit and customer satisfaction?

Clay Whipkey
Monday, May 17, 2004

I still think Borland's old license was the best. In a nutshell it said you could treat the software like a physical book. You can install it on any number of computers, as long as only one person ever uses that copy. A true per-user license instead of per-machine.

Chris Tavares
Monday, May 17, 2004

I believe most MS volume licences also allow installation on an additional home use computer.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, May 17, 2004

I always admired Borland's "No-nonsense license agreement": "You can use this software like a book..."

You can install it anywhere you want just so long as you only use it one copy at a time (or however many licenses you purchase).

I apply this rule to all shrink wrap software I buy, regardless of what the unilateral license agreement says.

Monday, May 17, 2004

I use the "no-nonesense" per-user license.  If one user uses two computers, he can install the software on two computers.  On the other hand, if two users share a computer, then you need to purchase two licenses.

Since my customers are all developers, and two developers NEVER share a computer (it seems to break some cosmic law), the latter case never happens.  Users tend to be pretty happy with this licensing arrangement, and corporate customers are always pleased that they can just count their number of developers to figure out their licensing requirements.

Monday, May 17, 2004

"I use the "no-nonesense" per-user license."

thats not quite the no-nonsense version. 

why should I have to purchase two licenses  in the latter case?  surely if 1 person only is using the software at a time (guaranteed if they are both using the one computer) then only one license should be needed?

Monday, May 17, 2004

"why should I have to purchase two licenses  in the latter case?"

Because it's licensed per-user.  1 user = 1 license, no matter how many computers.  2 users = 2 licenses, no matter how many (or how few) computers.

Monday, May 17, 2004

" users = 2 licenses, no matter how many (or how few) computers."

Its weird, when did this kind of licensing become popular?

movies, videos, books, cars.....they all allow the basic principle of "you have a right to have this thing in use 24 hours a day, if you are not using it you may allow others to use it"

when did software become different?  why?  how can you possibly justify that kind of greed?

It makes a kind of sense to insist on 1 license per computer, ie, you have 24 hour a day access via that computer.

It makes lots of sense to allow 1 license across as many computers as the user likes so long as its only being used on 1...the main problem with that (and the reason we dont do it) is that its impossible to enforce for any application that doesn't require access to the web.
(and we _do_ use this licensing scheme for 1 application that _does_ require access)

but 1 license per user?  regardless of how many computers its installed on?  thats just odd :)

Monday, May 17, 2004

What's wrong with per-user licences? Cinemas charge for each person who sees the film, and each time too, even though their costs for showing the film are fixed.

Monday, May 17, 2004

" Cinemas charge for each person who sees the film, and each time too, "

thats true, its a good example actually.

<g> Ive often wondered how they survive as well.

Monday, May 17, 2004

The difference is that books, movies and videos never have EULAs -- they just rely on regular copyright law for protection.  Just once, I'd like some publisher try a license agreement for a book to see the guaranteed howls of protest.  ("By opening this book, you agree (a) not to let any other person read this book, (b) sell or transfer it to another person, (c) discuss it in a book club....")

On the other hand, when you give a book or a video to a friend, you're transferring physical possession of the object to another person.  With pure intellectual property like software (or downloaded music, for that matter) there really isn't anything tangible that ensures that only one person is using it at a time.  That's why we get stuck with EULAs and DRM.

(The alternative is to use heavy-handed copy protection like requiring the install CD to be present, which is common with many PC games, or a dongle.)

Also, copyright law really hasn't kept up with software issues.  If you could buy a copy of Photoshop Elements without a license, would it be fair use under copyright law to install it on every computer at home?  At home and at work?  On several computers at work?  There wouldn't be any clear guidelines.

Robert Jacobson
Monday, May 17, 2004

The problem is that in order to know what is and what is not legal, thereby protecting both the consumer and the vendor, there must be a line drawn.  If the license is that once you buy the software you can do whatever you want with it, then it might as well be open source, and you can turn around and give it away.  Bad for the vendor.

On the other hand, if the license is incredibly pricey and outrageously licensed, say I charge  $100 every time a user opens the application, then it costs the customer too much money.  Bad for the customer.

So why not offer the same kind of customer model as a book?  Because people don't treat software like a book.  It's just too easy to copy the bits.  I can install software on my computer and then hand the CD to a friend who takes it to his office and installs it there too.  If it was like a book, then there would be some way of ensuring that only one of us was using it at once.  Since there isn't a way of doing that, we have to come up with some other system, and that's where EULAs have come from.

Imaginary situation:  I have a book that I want you to read.  I also own a magic photocopy machine that can photocopy a book for a price that is immeasurably small.  Does anyone dispute that it is illegal for me to photocopy the whole book and give you a copy of it?

When it comes to software, the computer is a magic photocopy machine that can copy the book for a cost so small it's not even noticeable.

When we find a way around that that is still good for both the consumber and vendor, then we can make some headway in software licensing.  Until then it is in the best interests of both vendors and consumers that software licensing stay strict and clearly defined.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

"Does anyone dispute that it is illegal for me to photocopy the whole book and give you a copy of it?"

surely it would depend on the book?

a proud american patriot
Tuesday, May 18, 2004

"Cinemas charge for each person who sees the film, and each time too, even though their costs for showing the film are fixed."

DVDs don't.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

You can't photocopy a whole book. It's been illegal since before the invention of photocopiers and memographing it was illegal before the invention of that, and making a carbon copy was illegal before the invention of carbon paper, though copying it out by long hand only became illegal after the invention of pen and paper.

Software is different in that the creation, the code, is not normally exposed to the public (in fact Open Source provides excellent protection beause it is clear that your code has been copied, whilst with closed source they can argue independent creation), but there is a lot of copyright case law.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home