ECS Computers

What is a software licence?

  • A software licence is proof that you have paid for the right to access the software, for a particular use.
  • It validates your software install as a legally bought version of the software and typically, if you don’t activate your software within 30 days of installation it will stop working to full functionality or could stop working completely.

Are there different ways software can be licenced?

  • There are many ways that software can be licenced, and it depends on the developer of the software as to which types of license they offer:
    • A licence per installation: you pay for the software on each PC you install it on.
    • Concurrent licences: you pay for 5 licences and can install the software on 10 PCs but only 5 people can use it at once.
    • User licence: you pay for a licence per person that uses it and they can use it on any computer.
  • There are also different types of licence depending on its use, such as:
    • Educational
    • Business
    • Charity
    • Home

An example:

  • Microsoft Office have a “Home & Student” package as well as a “Home & Business” package.
  • If the software is being used for commercial purposes, it cannot use a “Home & Student” package as this violates the terms of the licence agreement, which is agreed by the end-user when the product is purchased.
  • It’s like you’re driving an HGV when you have a driving licence for a car – yes, you have a driving licence but it’s not for the vehicle you’re driving.

This also applies to educational or business licences. Once you leave the place of employment or education you cannot use the software as the licence is only for the use of members of that business or educational institution. Your use would be in breach of those terms and conditions.

“But I’m safe right? They’ll never come after me”

  • Wrong! Software developers can and do take legal action against individuals and companies for violating licencing terms and can request random license audits.
  • There are cases of Microsoft genuinely contacting end users to audit their licences, and then filing lawsuits for compensation when the incorrect licences were in use.
  • While that sounds harsh, software developers can lose billions in revenue each year from people not licencing their software correctly or at all.

There is some software that doesn’t require a licence!

  • Open Source software or free software:
    • This is software that you can modify and redistribute. It can be licenced or unlicensed.
    • Android is the best example of this, the mobile phone operating system is now developed by Google and is an open-source project. This means that each manufacture can develop their own version of it by modifying the original source code provided by Google.
    • This allows them to release mobile phones with new software features and applications that their competitors do not have and to include custom branding options.
  • Freeware:
    • This is where the developer of the software gives it away to be used for free and no licence is required to use it, however, the software is closed source and cannot be modified or redistributed by 3rd parties.
    • Adobe Reader, Audacity Audio Recorder and Notepad ++ Text Editor are all examples of freeware. They cost nothing to use but you cannot edit the source code for the software and modify it.

So to summarise, if you’re using software for commercial or educational purposes please make sure you licence it correctly or you could face a nasty fine.

Confused by software licencing? Want to make sure you’re getting legitimate software for the right price? We can help – give us a call on 01553 692727 or email us at [email protected] to talk about your software needs.

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