Department of Engineering

IT Services

Licensing of Computer Software

Members of the Department are reminded that there are serious legal penalties for contravening the licensing conditions of software packages (eg see FAST's website). It is therefore important that everyone ensures that any software they are using is being used legally and that all licences are properly recorded in the Department's database.

If you are in any doubt about the legality of any software you are running, please contact one of the Department's Computer Officers for advice - the old maxim that ignorance of the law is no defence applies!

Things Can Go Wrong (but shouldn't)

There are occasions when a Computer Officer has been asked to fix a problem on a PC and has discovered while doing so that the software on it is unlicensed. This is not something which can ignored by Computer Officers nor by the Department: it is illegal. It is thus something which the Computer Officer must report and the owner of the computer should not be allowing to happen.

In many cases, the problem arises because of a lack of understanding of the licensing rules, particularly over Microsoft products. For the two main Microsoft products, Windows and Office, no general site licensing deal exists: each machine using them must have its own licences. There is no longer even a provision allowing non-concurrent use on two machines.

For any licensed software, the burden of proof if we were to be investigated would lie with us, both collectively and individually. We must be able to demonstrate (usually by production of a licence) that the software is licensed.

Requirements on Everyone Responsible for a Computer

If you are responsible for a computer running software which requires a licence, you must be able to prove that it is licensed. If you cannot, the only solution is to buy a new licence. You must also ensure that all your licences are properly recorded in the Department's database.

Problems tracing licences frequently arise when a computer is handed on from one person to another. It is the recipient, ie the current user, who is responsible for ensuring that the software is properly licensed, and recorded in the database in their name.

When software is no longer required (e.g. a copy of Windows locked to a machine which is being disposed of), all copies of it should be destroyed and its database entry amended.

Getting Help

The Department's Computer Officers can provide advice on the cheapest suppliers of licences for most common software. Computer Officers can also advise on free alternatives to common licensed software, such as the Linux operating system and the OpenOffice suite.

The Department has auditing software (available by emailing pc-support) which can be run on a PC to determine what software is installed. This list can (and should!) then be checked against the list of licences held.