The Mega-Vendor Arab Spring
In my experience the vast majority of businesses are enthusiastic about technology and are happy to pay a fair price for it.
However, software licensing is complex. Software licensing is a hindrance to the adoption of new transformative technology and innovation.
Software licensing is a blocker rather than an enabler.
Software publishers abuse it as a mechanism for extracting the most revenue from a customer once they are committed to a technology platform. Shouldn’t it be used as an enabler to adapt technology to their requirements?
Many terms within license agreements are either unclear, unmanageable or simply move too quickly for the customer to keep up.
I wrote back in October “…the software licensing industry desperately needs to have an ‘Emperor’s New Clothes‘ moment of clarity and recognize the absurd behavior of mega-vendors.”
Software Licensing Market Pivot
It is time to pivot the software licensing market and tip the balance in favour of customers.
Several trade bodies exist within the software licensing market such as the BSA, SIIA and FAST. These organizations are squarely focused at intellectual property protection and raising the profile of software as an asset.
Where is the trade body speaking and acting on behalf of business customers? Who is making sure that software publishers are not unfairly manipulating business users of software?
Why Barium? Barium is used in medicine when a Doctor needs to examine the digestive system.
“Barium is a white liquid that shows up clearly on an X-ray. Once it is inside the body, it coats the inside of the gullet, stomach or bowel. And so it shows up the outline of the organs on the X-ray.” source
With clear visibility and transparency of the insides of the patient, the Doctor can make an informed prognosis.
I’d like to perform a similar analysis on the software industry.
IT and software in particular is an enormous part of business today, and software licensing is the vehicle for transacting business with customers. I’d like to shine a light on the guts of software licensing and expose the inner workings.
Project Barium – The Manifesto
In short, I propose a new not-for-profit regulator for the software licensing industry.
This licensing regulator will provide:
- Clarity to the software licensing market
- Highlight absurd, confusing or unrealistic licensing terms
- Promote and reward clear licensing terms
- Not for profit organization
- Publisher independent
- Supported by commercial sponsorships and accreditations
- Provide an anonymous ‘whistleblowing’ mechanism for customers to highlight software publisher malpractice
- Openly highlight bad licensing practices and suggest acceptable legal workarounds in the absence of clarity from publishers
- Proactively lobby software publishers to clarify their licensing programs
- Provide a code of conduct for vendor audits, licensing programs, SAM technology and software management
- Recognize and reward clear licensing programs
- Proactively seek the support and endorsement of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other central government agencies responsible for fair play in competitive markets.
- Proactively support and promote the adoption of measures to increase competitiveness in the software licensing market such as secondary use and cooperative agreements.
- Support the software licensing industry in exploring new platforms and devices.
Who’s with me?
After four years commentating on licensing and SAM I thought it was about time I started taking action. This is my effort to start changing the status quo. It starts here. From humble beginnings in a blog article, maybe we can make a positive difference.
YOUR CALL TO ACTION: This article proposes a new not-for-profit regulator for the software industry. If you support the idea in principle please lend your support for the project by leaving a comment below.
About Martin Thompson
Martin is also author of the book "Practical ITAM - The essential guide for IT Asset Managers", a book that describes how to get started and make a difference in the field of IT Asset Management.
On a voluntary basis Martin is a contributor to ISO WG21 which develops the ITAM International Standard ISO/IEC 19770.
Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.