Would you buy software licenses that you can’t use?

I don’t often get surprised or shocked by stuff – events and such normally just strike me as one of those things or simply inevitable. Today however, I learned that our schools and further education establishments are being screwed!

If that doesn’t make sense, here it is in English…

Here in the UK, the government commissioned a report into Microsoft’s academic licensing programmes. The research and report publication is by Becta. [WHO?] “Becta is the Government’s lead partner in the strategic development and delivery of ICT for the schools and the learning and skills sectors.”

The interim findings are nothing short of scandalous and I am surprised that this hasn’t received more coverage. Here are some key quotes from the report:

Microsoft’s subscription licensing agreements are all or nothing: in other words, if a school wants to cover any of its ICT estate using a subscription agreement, it must cover all its ‘eligible PCs’. Microsoft has set the definition of an eligible PC as any computer with a specification of a PII processor or higher (the PII was launched in 1997). The eligible PC definition also includes Apple Macintosh computers (G3 or higher). This approach results in over-licensing, double licensing and other anomalies.

So basically some of our schools (and I don’t know how many) are paying Microsoft licenses on each and every PC they acquire. This includes machines which may be too old or unsuitable to run the standard application/OS package that their license provides.

Schools subscription pricing is on the basis of eligible PCs, where licensing for Microsoft products is based on the number of computers in the school estate irrespective of whether the Microsoft product is installed, required or used on all of these computers.

That’s nice 🙁 – NOT.

A further anomaly arises in that a school which uses a mix of Microsoft-based and Apple computers can find itself paying Microsoft a licence fee for software which cannot run on its Apple machines.

Get the idea now? And finally here’s a nice conclusion:

Becta’s advice to institutions that are not currently using a Microsoft subscription licensing agreement is that they should consider carefully whether, in the absence of the changes Becta is recommending, they should enter into such agreements.

You can download the whole report – it’s about 20 pages so not that long – from here: http://publications.becta.org.uk/display.cfm?resID=28197&page=1835.

There is more in this report too – about the way that certain licenses used for schools mean they pay over-the-odds pricing AND that they get tied-in for long-term subscriptions which are so calculated that the cost to cancel or stop becomes prohibitive!

Now, like I said, I’m not usually surprised or shocked by much, but that fact the we (all UK taxpayers) are paying for unnecessary, potentially useless, and duplicated Microsoft software licenses does offend me.

The final blog which led me to this report came from here: http://www.businessreviewonline.com/os/archives/2007/06/paying_for_soft.html where the author describes how, in Norway, they have managed to stop this scandalous activity. Why can’t we do the same?

I have forwarded my findings to the Conservative MP and Shadow Chancellor, George Osbourne, who regularly promotes Open Source initiatives.

If you think this important, please contact your local MP and ask for them to explain why we are paying tax on software that our kids will never use?

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