Category Archives: license grant

Internal Business Purposes

How many licenses to your core database software do you own?  I ask about this specific type of license because database software is typically expensive (relatively speaking) and customers license an exact quantity of licenses required based on actual use.  In other words, if you need 5 database servers (or instances), you pay for 5 licenses.

Of course, it’s never that simple.  Because your IT department usually also wants a development server for each database instance.  This makes sense – development should be done separately from production (you wouldn’t want some experiment in design to bring down your production server).  Oh, and what about testing?  This is the middle-of-the-road between development and production… where something that your developers believe is ready for production goes to receive significant QA attention.  That’s yet another set of databases.

So, now we’re talking about 15 licenses: 5 production + 5 QA/test + 5 development.  If 5 were expensive, imagine what 15 could become.

Database software developers understand this dilemma.  They know that if you’re really making use of their products, whatever you have in production has to be supported by nearly as many dev/test environments.  Back in the day, this was usually a pretty simple situation – you asked for, and usually received, “free” dev/test licenses.  I say “free” because they were never really free, they just didn’t separately price them.  You paid for them then, just as you pay for them now.  The difference is that the cost was built into the production licenses back then because the hardware wasn’t strong enough to support some of the tricks that can now be used to run multiple databases within a single hardware environment.  Once the hardware was strong enough (about 8 years ago), savvy licensees didn’t actually need 5+5+5 … they could find ways to do 5 + 3 + 2 or some other combination in something other than a 1:1 relationship.

The net result is that these same savvy licensees started asking for discounts on the initial 5 production licenses because they knew they were no longer needing the triple-play effort of that single license.  Instead, they argued, they only needed a few “extra” licenses (now really for free) because it was understood that to make use of the product, you needed these extra environments.  They just didn’t need them in the same quantities as before, so it had the appearance of being less of a freebie than before.

Software vendors reacted in the best way they could – through changes in language.  The phrase “internal busines purposes” became the expected response.  “Yes”, the vendors said, “you can have a few extra licenses – but only for internal business purposes.”  The meaning wasn’t always clear, of course, but the intent was to say that the licenses you purchased were the ones that could see the light of day (be used by regular users, etc), but that the extra licenses were only for back-room development and testing.  You were signing a license agreement confirming that you wouldn’t take these fully-functional licenses and put them into production.

No problem.

Until ASP/SaaS offerings came along.  Now you have databases that are serving data to the world 24/7/365.  Licensees still need dev/test environments… but these are now potentially available online, too.  And, in rare cases, serve as the backup production environment in the event that the usual production environment goes down.

Has this really created a problem?  No.  The case remains that licensees should have frank and honest conversations with their vendors about how they intend to use the products rather than try to sneak some form of unintended or unexplained use by the vendor.  If licensees want “free” licenses for dev/test, they should expect to see (and respect) “internal business purposes” language.  And they should discuss the possibility of needing to put a dev/test server into production in the event of a disaster.

Lastly, licensees should also remember that such licenses are never free.  Whether you have a line-item cost that shows you paying full-price, partial-price or no-price, the cost is still baked into the deal in some way.  However, one key advantage to calling out the pricing specifically for dev/test environments is the ability to get them excluded from maintenance costs – as there should be no need to pay for maintenance on a dev/test box needed to provide support for a production server.

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Grape Licensing

I saw this the other day:

Sunset Seedless grape package

Sunset Seedless grape package

and I’ve been thinking about the implications…  is it really possible to add this type of condition?  I think I agree with Madisonian’s evaluation of the situation, assuming that the grapes are patented.  But what if they’re not patented?  Can you restrict usage of a purchased good?  Thoughts would be appreciated.  🙂

From boingboing.

More on using other people’s work

I’ve written before on the topic of using other people’s work as the basis for your contracts.

Google apparently didn’t learn that they need to not necessarily borrow from themselves, either, for the EULA related to Google’s new browser, Chrome.

But the bigger issue in this new EULA from Google were the terms itself.  Specifically, the license for Google’s new browser states/d, in part, that Google will have “a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute” anything displayed through the browser.

Woah!

At least they’ve changed it.  But the fact that it got in there at all is problematic.

Google, for their part, blames it on a copy/paste error… that it was erroneously inserted to make it similar to their usual language, to “keep things simple for their users”.

Um… sure.  😉

License Grant Discussion at AdamsDrafting

Ken Adams has a great discussion going on over at his blog, AdamsDrafting on license grant language.  Ken’s general concern is that a license grant is overly complex language, redudant at best and confusing at worst.  This follows his general feelings regarding contract language (that we need to simplify and get rid of anachronisms).  And, generally speaking, I support his work to make this happen.

In this case, and as supported by most of the commenters, I think Ken’s admitted lack of knowledge in the subject matter of licensing is hurting his assessment.  Software licensing folks don’t like wordy contracts any more than anyone else.  We’d love to get rid of unnecessary phrases or redundancies.

But I’ve actually seen a license terminated at the will of the vendor as a result of a lack of the word “irrevocable”.  And I’ve seen one restricted because of the lack of the word “world-wide”.  So for me, simple language gives way to extra descriptiveness in the license grant just from a risk management perspective.


Microsoft Equipt

Back in April, we started talking about Microsoft converting home users to a SaaS model, originally code-named Albany.  Today it happened.  Microsoft has finally released a subscription version of Office. That’s right. $69.99**/year allows up to three home-use computers (the same as the regular version of Home and Student) the ability to use this new suite, called Equipt.  The key advertised benefit is that you’ll get all new versions of Office so long as your subscription is current.

Folks – just as I was talking about in the discussion on Invoicing, please watch your pocketbooks on this one.  The current cost of Microsoft Office Home & Student 2007 is $147.00 per Circuit City’s website (which is how you will be able to buy Equipt).  Microsoft releases a new version of Office approximately every 4 years.

Four years of Equipt = $69.99*4 = $279.96.

Oh, not to mention that Internet activation will be required.  Which means that they’re going to be keeping a much tighter grip on the leash this time.

Hmmm…  😉


Microsoft trying to convert you from perpetual to SaaS

Well, as I predicted years before I started writing this blog, Microsoft is now trying to convert the average home user from a perpetual software license model to “software as a service” (Saas).

My knee-jerk reaction is that this isn’t going to be good for the average (any) user – business or consumer.  But let’s play it out and see what happens:

In the current, perpetual model, the average cost of Microsoft Office 2007 is $119 (per Amazon.com).  This is a one-time expense and allows you to install Office on two machines (desktop and laptop) so long as you only use it on one machine at any given moment in time.  The average person never buys any kind of support for this product unless it’s a pay-per-incident issue that is SO complex that they can’t get help with it from friends or strangers via the internet.  But you do get all of the updates to the current version of the product (ie: if you’re on version 2004, you’d get all updates to 2004, but not get version 2007).

Because it’s a perpetual license, you can use this product FOR EVER, without ever having to pay another fee to Microsoft unless you want to upgrade to their latest version (which, at the time I’m writing this, happens about every 3 years per platform, alternating between PC and Macintosh).  From a depreciation perspective, if you were going to buy the latest and greatest version of the product every three years, you would divide the purchase price by 3 to find out your annual cost of ownership:  $39.67, which works out to $0.108/day.  Not too bad for the product that supports all of your e-mail, writing, spreadsheet and presentation tasks.

We don’t yet have pricing available for Microsoft’s new online offering, called Albany, but we do know that they’re going to bundle in a few already-available-for-free services.

We also know that Google already offers something quite similar (GoogleDocs) for free.  If you’re already a GoogleDocs user versus a Microsoft Office user, you have made a choice to go with one or the other for a reason (most would say that they choose Microsoft for “guaranteed compatibility” and “support if needed” … and Google users say that they want “openness”, “freedom” and “collaboration ability”).  I highly doubt that Microsoft is going to offer their product/service for free… but I’ve been wrong before.

However, this really isn’t about Microsoft versus Google – it’s about a bigger issue of whether a conversion from Perpetual Licensing to SaaS is really a benefit to either the vendor or the consumer.  Perpetual software users like not having to upgrade every time the vendor releases a “fix.”  They like knowing that they don’t have to keep paying for maintenance when the product hasn’t really changed much over time.  They like having a one-time depreciable expense (if they’re business users).  Oh, and they like knowing that if the vendor ever goes out of business, it doesn’t matter too much, since the software is installed locally.

SaaS offers a level of convenience not found with perpetual products.  You are always on the latest version, always covered by support and you have less of an administrative headache since the product isn’t installed locally.  Sure, you have to have greater bandwidth (I’m guessing Microsoft will actually have you download a full version of the product which will simply “phone home” every time you double-click on the product to use it).  But you give up the ability to sever your ties with the vendor yet continue using the product.

I like the SaaS model for some situations – I use one for my contract management system, for example.  But for everyday, standard use products?  Especially those in millions of homes world-wide?  I’m not sure we’re there yet.  I’m REALLY concerned about the quality of service – and the constant communication connection (from a privacy perspective) of all of these phone-home events.

What do you think?