Information Technology Services

Home » Software » Licensing

Software Licensing

A software license is a legally binding agreement that specifies the terms of use for an application and defines the rights of the software producer and of the end-user.

All software must be legally licensed before it may be installed. Proof of purchase (purchase orders, receipts, invoices or similar documentation are acceptable) must be maintained by individuals or departments for all non-ITS provided software that is installed on a university-owned computer. Vendors may require proof of purchase during an audit, and technical support staff may ask for proof of purchase before software can be reinstalled on a computer that has been reimaged or rebuilt.

Software licensing can be a confusing subject. There are different types of licenses and licensing contracts, and different vendors may use different terms to describe their licenses. Here are some key terms to help you navigate through these murky waters.

Before purchasing any software, be sure that any End User License Agreements (EULAs), or "clickwraps" are submitted to the University Counsel's office. For more information, visit List of Approved Click Wraps and Procedure for Entering into Non-Approved Click Wrap Agreements.

Types of licenses

Proprietary license
Most software licenses are "proprietary" licenses, meaning the software publisher grants a license to use one or more copies of software, but that ownership of those copies remains with the software publisher. The user must accept the license before they are permitted to use the software.

GNU General Public License
These are agreements under which much "open source" software is licensed. End users may do things like change the source code, but any refinements of the software must also be made available under a GNU GPL license. Often referred to as "free, copyleft" licenses, the software may or may not be distributed for a fee - "free" refers to the ability of users to change and distribute modifications of the software, not to cost. See the GNU General Public License web page for more information.

End User License Agreement (EULA)
Also called "clickwraps" or "shrinkwraps," EULAS indicate the terms under which the end-user may use the software. Agreements with organizations or companies often take the form of contracts between the organization and the software publisher or vendor, and specify the terms of use for all users from the organization, superseding any EULAs which may come with the software.

Workstation licenses
These are licenses that permit the installation of an application on a single computer. You may not install the software on more than one machine unless you purchase a license for each additional machine. Most workstation license agreements allow you to make a single backup copy of the software as long as that backup copy is used only to restore the software onto the same machine, or a separate machine if the software is removed from the original computer.

Concurrent use license
These are licenses that permit you to install the software onto multiple machines as long as the number of computers using the software at the same time does not exceed the number of licenses which you have purchased. Concurrent use licenses are usually used in conjunction with "license manager" software that prevents the number of licenses from being exceeded. At UNCG, ITS uses KeyServer software that monitors and controls the use of concurrent use licensed software.

Site licenses
A site license permits the use of software on any computer at a specified site. Unlimited site licenses allow the installation of software on any number of computers as long as those computers are located at the specified site. Some site licenses permit the installation on computers owned by a particular entity (such as a university) regardless of the physical location. Some vendors refer to their licenses as site licenses but restrict the number of computers on which the software may be installed. The only way to know for sure is to read the license specifics.

Perpetual licenses
These are licenses without expiration dates, which permit use of the software indefinitely, without requiring a recurring fee for continued use. Most software that individuals buy for use on their home computers are perpetual licenses.

Non-perpetual licenses
These are licenses that "lease" the software for use for a specified period of time, usually annually or sometimes bi-annually. Users are required to remove the software from their computer if they cease paying the license fee.

License with Maintenance
Some license agreements allow the user to purchase "maintenance" or "software assurance" along with the original license fee, which entitles the user to receive new versions of the software for one to two years until the maintenance agreement expires.