Silly software licensing models

I recently stumbled upon a situation where I violated the terms of my software license agreement. Following that, I almost bought another piece of software where I would have inadvertently broken the terms of my license agreement there, too.

What gives?

What would cause me to violate the terms of my software license agreement? A bad software license agreement. In both cases, one from the most well-known software company and one from a shareware developer. What they have in common is a two-tier software license model where you can purchase a license for personal use or a license for commercial use at a significant premium.

So here is the scenario that caused me to violate my software license agreement: I purchase the “Home and Student” version of a well known office suite. In the fine print is a clause that states I cannot use the software for commercial work. I assume that means I cannot create work products that are sold to someone. A colleague sends me a document at home which I open, review, edit and send back to him using the restricted software. Bingo. I just broke my license agreement. Or did I? Where does personal use end and commercial use begin? If I create a document and post it to my personal website and then, using the Creative Commons License model, allow for a derivative work with attribution with royalties… did I just violate my software license agreement? Isn’t the content what was being licensed and not the file format?

If a lawyer wants to pipe in on this, contact me. I’m sure that in communist, er… socialist democratic (gotta be P.C. these days) countries there are probably some kind of tax implications I’m ignoring such as valuation of software as an asset, etc.

The entire thing is silly. One price and quit jerking me around, please. As a side note: I’ve since found “free”, open-source replacements for both products. Not only are they viable alternatives, but is actually a step-up.

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Post Disclaimer

The information contained on this post is my opinion, and mine alone (with the occasional voice of friend). It does not represent the opinions of any clients or employers.