Licence Compliance – Scenarios to Watch Out For
A quick disclaimer before I start on this – the devil is in the detail when it comes to limiting your risk of falling foul of licence compliance. Please do not take this article as your sole source of insight into this subject. I will be referring to different elements in a broad sense and as stated, it is the easily missed idiosyncrasies that can lead to potential non-compliance. As I work predominantly with Autodesk licensing, examples and specific insight will be from their portfolio. Although much of the premise will translate please review the terms of each software vendor directly.
In issue 1 of EI Magazine back in June 2018 I wrote an article on The Common Pitfalls of Software Compliance and some guidance on how these could be avoided, https://www.excitech.co.uk/Software-Compliance-Common-Pitfalls. This time around, I want to run through the most common scenarios that pose a compliance risk. The hope being that you will be aware of what to look out for if you find yourself in any of these scenarios and ensure your software licensing doesn’t pose you any issues.
Many of the pitfalls previously mentioned will come as a result of the following scenarios, so it’s probably a good start to recap on that advice;
• Assign, educate and limit the amount of people who are responsible for managing your software licences – be it purchasing or deploying.
• Remove previous versions of software that are no longer required.
• Remove software from hardware that is being repurposed.
• Know your entitlements.
• Ask for help/look for support.
Temporary staff – Students
Employing students is a great way to get additional staff to support peak workloads. It allows you to resolve the need for more “hands on deck” with the option to evaluate their potential fit for your company long-term and mould them into your internal culture and processes. Companies such as Autodesk support those in education with access to software at a considerably reduced cost – as such students can be a great source of insight into new technologies and many even have their own licence. This is the key risk.
Educational licensing is not permitted for commercial use. What’s more, an educational copy should not be installed on any hardware owned by your company. Many of our customers look to support students with access to a laptop powerful enough to run complex software, however the installation of their own educational copy should not be permitted on your company hardware, even if it is only to be used for non-commercial, learning purposes.
Temporary staff – Contractors
Much like the first scenario, this one relates to ensuring only your software licences are installed on your hardware. Even though a third party may be using a full commercial licence, this should not be installed on your hardware. Any software vendor reporting on your installed licences will be able to identify a licence not registered to your company and therefore would deem you in breach of compliance. Although the scenario outlined is perfectly innocent, without the context to back it up, it would be seen negatively. It would be best to avoid this entirely.
My preferred option in these scenarios is that all parties use their own hardware and supply their own licences – I appreciate this may not always be possible, so please refer back to the specific software vendors terms and conditions.
Management & Information
In a previous article I mentioned the importance of having specific persons responsible for managing your licences. This limits the potential risk and ensures there is a go to person/group of people with the appropriate knowledge and expertise in managing licences.
This point looks to expand on that by noting how crucial collating and retaining the correct information can be. Many software applications offer some form of online portal for licence management. These are often set up to be simple and ensure tasks are not overly arduous. However, it is a common misconception that this is all you need. What is the portal actually offering? Many will provide a list of licences and who they have been assigned to, they do not reference where the licence is installed, how many times or any of the benefits associated with the application.
In the modern age of software asset management, I am often inclined to revert back to the simpler times of spreadsheets. Until licence portals offer everything you need to know, it is key to collate the information for yourself. Who has the licence, what licence they have and where they have it? Knowledge is power.
Multiple Office Locations
This is one of the most common situations that can pose a compliance risk. If you are managing licences across multiple offices, ensuring compliance use can be a challenge. If you have to contend with offices in different countries, it can get even more complicated. With many of the scenarios outlined, the devil is in the detail, this is never truer than here.
Some software vendors will permit use in different countries. Autodesk subscription customers are afforded global travel rights as a benefit. This does not permit standard use in other countries, instead allows users to travel with their licence. The key element here is to seek advice from your software partner. Will the office be registered as the same entity? Can we purchase from the head office country for our regional offices? Generally, if all the offices are in the UK, this is usually quite straightforward, but across countries, it is important to review your rights and any restrictions.
Many of our customers have considered or are considering this. To avoid sounding like a broken record throughout, I’ll only say it one more time – review the terms of software.
To outline Autodesk’s view on this in a general sense. Single-user licences can be virtualised, multi-user licenses cannot. Should you wish to virtualise a multi-user licence, dispensation from Autodesk will need to be requested. This is one of the situations where it is important to be open with what your intent is. You can limit your risk of falling foul of compliance by simply telling your vendor your intent and seeking confirmation it is within the terms and conditions.
The key takeaway form this is to be aware of licence compliance when making changes to your business and when in doubt, look for support. If you would like to discuss licence best practice further, feel free to get in touch by emailing email@example.com.