Friday, June 8, 2007

Software Licensing Messiness

Here is a link to the original document (from that Ed Bott wrote about on the ZDNet blog about the messiness of Windows Licensing.

Mislicensing occurs when a customer uses their Volume License Agreement to install the initial Windows License on a new PC. Volume License Agreements cover the Windows UPGRADE only, therefore these systems are not properly licensed—they are mislicensed. You must first acquire a qualifying underlying operating system license, such as a full version of the Windows Desktop, either preinstalled from your hardware vendor(OEM/system builder) or through Full Packaged Product.
The Microsoft document is not dated – so there is no way to know when it was published or what specific Windows licenses are covered, nor is there a way to know on what data the following statement is based:

we (presumably Microsoft) have found that nearly 44% of Volume License customers believe that Volume License rights include the full OS and 40% of Volume License customers report they have acquired naked or unlicensed PCs, putting themselves at risk of non-compliance with their Volume License Agreement.
I tried calling the phone number in the document in the middle of the business day. The phone rang and rang and I never even had an opportunity to leave a message with an automated attendant.

If you have further questions, please contact 1-866-606-3749 (8-5 pm CST).
My conclusion is that there is a lot of litter in the literature…

However; I find value in the 5 issues that Ed identified in the Microsoft License. These are pretty fundamental to many Software licenses. I’ve added some of my own comments to Ed’s below:

1. The license agreement is not understandable on its face. New license agreements are commonly infested with jargon and gobbledygook terminology, which is why most people don’t read them. It’s definitely not in the interest of the lawyers to provide a one-page summary written in language that anyone can understand. If vendors provided a summary, it wouldn’t be binding and you would have to understand the full document to interpret its meaning anyway.

2. Multiple license types cause confusion. Different license types are offered to address business requirements for different channels or sales models. They channels often overlap and transparency may be contrary to the vendor or channel business objective. The trouble is, most vendors provide don’t provide an easy way to tell which type of license you own. Why can’t vendors provide a simple tool that generates a license report showing your version, product ID, and whether the license can be transferred to another PC?

3. Multiple versions of media and product keys cause unneeded headaches. This problem is especially bad with Windows XP, where you need to find exactly the right type of Windows media to reinstall Windows. If you have a Dell system and a Dell product key, for example, you can’t use a retail copy of Windows to reinstall. This means you need to keep track of the installation media for the life of the system. Oh did media come with that?

4. Record-keeping requirements are burdensome. If you have a large shop, you need to keep a paper trail for every PC and be prepared to prove that each one is properly licensed.

5. There’s no way to deactivate a license. Even though you can legally transfer a retail Windows license from one PC to another, there is no way to de-activate the license. Wouldn’t it make more sense if you could deactivate a system as easily as you can activate it? Doing so could tell the activation servers to remove the record for the current system and would allow activation on a new PC.

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