What is Software Licensing anyway?

Software licensing is a contract of agreement between the software publisher – e.g. Oracle, Microsoft, Adobe, to name a few – and the end user, sometimes referred to as the End User License Agreement, or EULA. Though software licensing can be a paper agreement, most often it’s embedded in the software itself as part of the installation process. You see this kind of EULA in every day life. Just over the weekend I installed some play software for my 6 year daughters’ use and presto, I was faced with one and had to agree in order to continue. (And if I disagreed, I would have had a very disappointed girl but that’s another story…). Anyway, if the user does not agree to the software licensing terms, he or she can indicate so with a click. This aborts the installation process. In most cases, end users click in agreement whether they actually read the license or not. (Yes, I read the damn things. But I’m a software licensing geek).Software licenses of the magnitude of, say, an Oracle are not of the ‘click’ variety and are therefore paper agreements that are signed to indicate one’s agreement. Sometimes these agreements follow boilerplate, but sometimes –and this is especially true in the business-to-business environment – they are customized to some degree and therefore what I’ll label to be ‘non-standard’.Software licensing protects the copyright of the software publisher by placing restrictions on the end user in relation to the product. Duplication for purposes other than backup, installation on more than one computer, editing the code, or changing the program in any way is usually verbotten or otherwise requires you to purchase the additional rights to do so. Software licenses usually restrict reverse engineering and bypassing controls intended to cut down on pirating. And aside from restrictive uses of the software, software licensing functions as a kind of disclaimer. Most EULAs include statements to the effect that the software publisher will not be held liable for any unanticipated circumstances that might arise as a consequence of using the software e.g. loss of income, disruption of the enterprise, computer crash, etc.

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