Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Software Licensing

I strained as hard as I could but I simply could not come up with one of my usually clever and humorous (read: stupid and boneheaded) titles for this subject matter.  It is the blood from a Turnip.  The silk purse embedded into the sow's ear.  You get the picture.  And rather than frame this gently, I'm going to drop in like a turd from a seagull in a parking lot.  The names are entirely made-up…

Question: "Hey! Can I wrap this application in App-V and stream it to every desktop?"

Answer: "Hey!  Read the EULA"

Question: "Ummm, can we install this application on all four desktops that Mr. Stinkfist uses so he can have it on all his computers?  And can we redirect the AppData folder so the config data follows him around?"

Answer: "Ummm, it depends.  First: Read the EULA.  Second: Determine how the software is "registered" with respect to per-machine, per-user, per-CPU, per-machine AND per-user, per hard disk, per NIC, pur kitty (ok, I made that one up), and so on.  Some applications (no names) will break if you redirect the AppData folder, or if you use Roaming profiles and float the appdata content.  Many vendors void your support or will outright prohibit such practice (again, stated in the EULA or addendum material)."

Question: "What's the worst that could happen if we install more copies than we legally own?"

Answer: "You don't want to know.  The BSA (that's Business Software Alliance) is an ugly, forty-headed beast with deadly claws.  They call their claws "attorneys".  They rarely, and I mean RARELY, ever lose a legal case (go researc that if you don't believe me).  The penalties for inappropriate licensing, be it malicious or negligent, is harsh.  How harsh?  Like getting a prostate exam by an ape with welding gloves on.  In fact, seriously, if you read into the penalty structure you will need to locate your jaw, which will have fallen off and slid across the floor."

Question: "Why are the terms of licensing so confusing?"

Answer: "Attorneys."

Question: "What if the software vendor is in a different country?"

Answer: "Does that country do business with your country?  Do they have ANY trade agreements?"

Question: "What if I want to remove a license from one computer and install it on another computer?"

Answer: "Read the EULA.  Then contact the vendor and ask them.  The terms vary so widely you'd think they were written by a team of mushroom-swilling monkeys on a day at Disney World."

Question: "Can I host this application on a Citrix or Terminal Server host?"

Answer: "Read the EULA *(AND)* contact the vendor.  Seriously, I have encountered quite a few that EXPLICITLY disallow this for their products."

Question: "I want to write my own network/concurrent license management solution."

Answer: "Bravo for you.  Start by researching the existing patents (www.uspto.gov) where you may likely find most of the intellectual property locked up in patents owned by Rainbow/Globetrotter/Macrovision/InstallShield/Acresso/Flexera, IBM, Sun or Microsoft."

Question: "Why is software licensing so confusing again?"

Answer: "Attorneys"

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