This article has been contributed by John Lovelock (independent consultant).
UK centric organisation the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) has been in operation for almost 30 years this April 2014 along with other more international organisations such as the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) all concerned that the software publishers (vendors) receive their just desserts from all the villains in the business world misusing their products.
For the first time in my 12 years in this arena we at last have the formation of a collective brought together by industry people of the business end users to plead the case for the users to ‘balance-the-scales’ which have always been in favour of the software publishers.
I for one, and I know I am not alone, applaud the Campaign for Clean Licensing (CCL) and will support their efforts to bring parity between vendor and user as the conflict is endless and I have never before seen an end in sight of the constant accusation, counter accusation, audit and finally settlement to the publisher of very serious amounts of cash. Ring any bells anyone?
A spin off from the not-for-profit FAST saw the formation of the commercial organisation, bearing a similar name. This organisation recruited corporate UK into a membership scheme which sought to educate the IT people in effective software asset management (SAM) to avoid the pitfalls of breaching Intellectual Property (IP) laws of software rights holders.
Unfortunately, many businesses sole raison d’etre is to make profit, or survive in the case of not for profit operations, and their skill set is not managing effective SAM programs.
Licence agreements on the use of software and the entitlements of the purchaser are, by design, extremely complicated, legally jargonised documents, written entirely in favour of the vendor with no, or little, cognisance in favour of the user. Therefore is it really surprising that after so many years, in the case of FAST, taken 30 years for the ‘penny-to-drop’ and an organisation formed solely to arbitrate between vendor and end users to understand and manage their software estates?
Let’s be honest, many end users do not want to call the vendor when having difficulty managing their software and the history hasn’t always been amicable if and when they have either.
In my view, from reading the initial documentation from CCL, more particularly their experienced founders words of wisdom, but not rocket science I hasten to add, something I have been telling clients for 12 years, at last it may be possible to bring some parity between vendor and user. All CCL members want is transparency; clarification and understanding of what licence agreements actually allow end users to do with the products they’re using. What their entitlements are; what must they [end user] provide [vendor] as proof of ownership, legitimacy to use the software installed which they cannot do without.
From my meagre time in this industry I have deduced that some vendors do not want effective SAM to be easily demonstrated by end users to them as, allegedly, this provides a circa two-yearly cycle of extra revenue stream to their organisation and funds much activity for their partners in providing other services to their own customers [end users].
Now to the work required from CCL, who will definitely receive strong support from large ‘blue-chip’ enterprise software users, as was demonstrated at their first roundtable meeting in September 2013, and I understand some Government interest too.
The issues for them, CCL, notwithstanding corporate UK support, will be the Terms & Conditions (Ts&Cs) contained in all software licence agreements and couched in the already mentioned legal jargon but, more significantly perhaps, the vast majority of enterprise software publishers are USA based and owned.
Why is this a problem? In itself it isn’t but I have heard during my time that some [vendors] have legal people at base [USA] whose sole job it is to resist and/or deflect any attempt at Clause amendments by anyone anywhere. Will it be possible to anglicise or Europeanise some Ts&Cs to enable transparent, clear, understandable clauses that all can adhere to and avoid anti-piracy enforcement, which is about where I came in I think. Food for thought and requires serious commitment and support, CCL you have mine as will anyone else seeking my counsel on the subject matter, please contact me.