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Software Licensing for "Home Use"

  1. Feb 2, 2015 #1
    I don't know the first thing about software licensing, so I was hoping someone could clarify something for me. I'm leaving my university this year, so I won't have access to a lot of software packages that I currently use. Looking at purchasing some, I've noticed that in a some cases you can buy an identical "home use" package for a greatly reduced price. These packages say that they can't be used for commercial or academic purposes, though.

    What does that mean, exactly? I don't plan to do anything more than mess around as a hobbyist, but I'm a bit confused by the whole thing. If I did some work on my home version of some package and then wanted to publish a figure that I made in the program, is that a violation of the license? How about simply reporting a number that was calculated in the program? Or reproducing code? What actually happens in these cases?

    I guess I'm just not sure what "academic use" is prohibited here. Like I said, it surely won't be an issue, but the whole thing seems strange to me and I wanted some clarification.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 2, 2015 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    Your question involves aspects of law... sto answer those parts you should consult a lawyer.
    What follows should not be taken for legal advise, but observations from long experience with these issues.

    Commercial use usually means you use it as part of a business ... if your use helps you make money, then you need one of these licenses. What counts as a business depends on where you live... or where the license says is the agreed jurisdiction: a charity in Australia may count as a business in the USA for eg.

    Academic use means part of your work as an academic... so you'd need to be faculty at a tertiary institution for this. Sometimes also covers students and teachers of any educational institution or just privately learning. Students often carry their academic license software with them from college... there is seldom a fuss unless they try to sell it. It will need an upgrade soon anyway.

    If the supplier offers a "home use" licence then your proposed use would probably not be academic.

    You should be aware, also, that the different licenses may indicate availability of different features and functionality. This is why many home users and hobbyists will pay large for the full pro-commercial editions.
    The bottom line is you have to read the license to know exactly what it covers.

    People have been burned on the finer details before so you need to be sure... otoh you are fine as long as nobody prosecutes, which is how most infringers operate. Bear in mind, if someone does proscecute, even if they are wrong, it is unlikely you will be able to afford to defend.

    Prosecuting is expensive too. In most jurisdictions, license infringement is a civil matter so the plaintiff needs to show damages. Even if they make their case, an individual is unlikley to be able to pay, leaving the plaintiff out of pocket and with bad press. It is more likely that an individual will just be asked to stop, unless the company wants to make an example or something.

    The details of what actually happens depends on the jurisdiction and company etc. A lawyer will usually advise you to read all licenses and comply with all their terms. Where the license says stuff like "under applicable law" you need to find out what the applicable law says... which is why there are lawyers. It is certainly a good idea to read the rhings yourself though.

    For your purposes, you should consider open source and free software licenced software.
    ... you can expect a small adjustment period to learn new packages but its worth it to avoid the licence hassels. The main restriction on these is, loosely, that you are not allowed to act to restrict others. You dont sound like you need the specific freedoms in the licence, but you do need the consequences of them: the freedom to do what you want with your computer.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2015
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