Licensing and the Stages of Legally Purchasing Software

Licensed software, and the legal purchase of it, has unique legal contract obligations. Generally, the consumer owns any product they purchase. Although the seller may maintain certain responsibilities after the time of purchase, the consumer still owns the rights to do with it what they wish. One prime example would be the purchase of a car.

However, the contract obligations for legal software, or software that has been licensed and legally purchased, is an entirely different story. While almost everyone is familiar with the term “end-user agreement”, since they agree to one just about every time they download software from the Internet, they’re less familiar with the specifics of the particular legal contract they just signed, and what it means to actually own software.

Of course, the contract issues related to ownership of software aren’t just of concern to the end-user. All parties involved in the distribution of software including developers, distributors, and so on are responsible When it comes to a legal battle, any party involved in the life-cycle of software may end up on the wrong side of a dispute when not fully aware of the legal issues involved.

Thus, it’s imperative to be familiar with issues of purchasing software legally, be aware of what constitutes a legal contract in the distribution of such software, and know what kinds of contracts are suitable to various stages of the life of a particular version of software. This preventative method will result in less worry and more security. After all, that’s what a good contract ought to be about.

When speaking of software and contracts, one is essentially discussing licensing. A license is the essential contract pertaining to the selling and/or distribution of software to the end-user. Without a license, a user is fundamentally in possession of illegal goods.

Fundamentals of a License

Some software differs from other consumer products due to the fact that ownership of the product is never transferred. When software is purchased from a company, the consumer is not buying the ownership of the software, but is instead purchasing the licensing that allows them to use that particular software. This is the heart of a legal contract when it comes to the legal purchase of software. However, there are circumstances when software is developed specifically for a company by an outside developer. That software then becomes their property, and a less customized version of the software may be owned by the developer. Understanding this concept will help in comprehending further issues related to licensing.

Licensing in effect is a tool used for manipulating the extent to which users pay for the initial product, continue to pay for use of the product, pay for various services related to the product, and to avoid paying someone else for a replacement product. Influence over all licensing options can often make or break particular software developers and distributors.

While many legal contracts for software may remain stable for long periods of time software consistently changes. Licensing arrangements are extremely flexible, and may alter at diverse stages throughout the lifetime of the software.

The First Stage – The Rise

The first stage of the life-cycle of software that can be purchased legally by a consumer essentially involves its initial introduction into the market place. This is where licensing becomes important – not only as a tool of legal ownership, but also as a tool of profitability.

At the beginning of the software’s life-cycle, the most important aspect of marketing the product is convincing enough users that the software is something they need. Thus, building a licensing strategy along with the marketing goal is of utmost importance. Consequently, the kind of licensing fitting for older software is divergent compared to licensing for software that’s just been designed.

Gaining the attention of the user is vital for new software, as consumer choice plays a life-sized role when software is first introduced into the market. The software company is able to get a foot into the door by allowing the user an opinion as to the kind of licensing desired. Then the company is able to create more limiting forms of licensing later on.

Utilizing licensing strategies in tandem with marketing strategies can lead to success in the world of software. This is in essence what legal contracts are about in the software world, and therefore, is a key component of licensing.

Once a software product has been introduced into the marketplace, users begin to learn it, gain an impression of its capabilities, and are then ready to build a more lasting relationship with the software company or distributor. Thus, the licensing strategy should reflect this aspect of the growth stage in the life of the software. While capturing user interest is central in the first stage, growing their interest in the product is part of the next stage.

The Second Stage – Maturity

Legal contract licensing at this stage should be focused on ideas such as non-perpetual licensing. With non-perpetual licensing the user must renew their licensing periodically based on their initial interest and demand for the product. Adjusting price comes into play at this stage, while adapting to volume licensing can maximize the length of relationship with the customer, and the profitability that comes with it.

It’s at the maturity stage of legal software where most of the crucial licensing issues occur, especially when it comes to maximizing a long-term and profitable relationship with the end-user. This stage determines the ultimate difference between a successful software product, and one that fails to maintain market share.

Non-perpetual licensing agreements become a requirement at this stage. Users are not only now interested with the software, but desire to keep using it for the anticipated future. Here is when licensing such as maintenance and enterprise distribution can be introduced and utilized to yield even more of a profit. Having legal contract licensing that maximizes all of these issues for a distributor is the essence of success in the industry.

Stage Three – Decline

Finally, once software has passed its maturity stage, and is ready for some degree of decline, it’s important to develop licensing strategies for legal software that preserve the maturity stage for as long as possible. Creating various innovative products to fit with the original software is one way many companies will extend the life of their product. Such things as supporting rights, courses, and backup licensing are all methods of generating income during the decline. Companies are advised to be careful at this juncture when changing licensing arrangements, as users may attempt to find a new product.

Today’s technological age requires the comprehension of all these legal contract issues. The sale of legal software can net a great profit simply due to the nature of its license arrangement. However, it’s important to utilize strategy with software development and distribution.

Legal Translation Condensed

Legal matters can be a minefield in any circumstances and accuracy is paramount. It goes without saying therefore that legal translation requires diligence and absolute adherence to detail. Remember, when you are dealing with legal translation you are interacting within a two way system with differing legal systems.

When considering legal translation it is essential to fully understand the legal system of the target language. This means you don’t just need a basic knowledge of the legal system, you must ensure that you have an understanding of the history that forms the basis for the current legal regulations of the law relating to the target language and, indeed, the legal language itself.

Before embarking on the legal translation of documentation, contracts etc in your language, if you don’t have an academic knowledge of the law yourself, you must ensure to engage the services of a legal expert to unravel intricacies of the finer detail in your own language and in that of the target language.

One of the most difficult areas is posed by the translation of a legal term which does not exist in your target language. This is particularly important where your legal expert comes in if you don’t have that expertise yourself. If you are of the view that legal in itself is a straightforward task and overlook the finer details as mentioned above with specific legal terms, then you could end up losing money and possibly cause damage to your business. It is always important to lay your cost out with this in mind before undertaking the legal translation. Rather than to try to find an appropriate term to adapt to your language from your source language it is better to break down the specifics and reach a solution by way of creative explanation that fits yours and the target language expectations and understanding.

It is crucial to bear in mind throughout the process of legal that any mistranslation or misunderstanding no matter how minor, of a legal document can have disastrous consequences upon your business. It is therefore prudent to ensure that you have the necessary legal available in both the source language and the target language and to make sure of good proof reading before documents, contracts, certificates etc are sent out.

The Legal Environments

Firms, as societal entities, operate in particular economic, political, and legal environments. The legal environment is a result of legislative intervention by the government (state) and the positive practices that are recognized and sanctioned by the positive law. Historically, the legal environment has usually been nationally defined, although scholars have tried to group legal systems into various groups, based on their similarities and dissimilarities.

A student of this topic would usually argue that there are two basic groups of legal systems, which traditionally have been opposed: the Anglo-Saxon (Anglo-American) model and the continental European law. However, although both main systems of law may have their distinctive features listed, in fact there are far too many convergences in recent times. In the past the common law (Anglo-Saxon) model would be predominantly based on the precedents, and the continental European law would be primarily based on the codifications.

But, there is ever-increasing legislative activity in the Anglo-Saxon countries, with a number of codifications taking place as judiciary may uphold the consistency of court practice. In either system, a judge may take a stance to create a precedent, but the sources of precedent would differ significantly. Growing empirical literature has attempted to prove the overall superiority of the Anglo-Saxon model. Although it is evident that economies of Anglo-Saxon countries may be doing comparatively better than the others in the long run, it is not empirically corroborated that the growth sustained over a period of time may be directly attributed to the features of the legal system (legal environment).

Legal systems, although they may be classified into larger groups, are basically heavily influenced by national colors and experiences of legal development, especially in revolutionary environments (when there is abrupt change in the development). Scholars studying legal environments would focus more, nowadays, on judiciary independence from the state and the politicians. It is believed that if the judiciary protects consistently property rights, even from the state, the results of development will be better, and in the case-law system, judges historically have been more prone to uphold the sanctity of private property rights.

Ex post judging is far better in responding to local information, rather than the application of abstract law, regulating the principles. However, increasingly the common law countries are resorting to promulgating laws and codices, in order to better capture different areas of law. In the United States, the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) is probably the best example. The growth in legislative activity may also be seen as a sign of upcoming struggle between judiciary and legislative power for predominant societal influence. Most recently the discussion on “political delegation” would suggest that it is necessary to subsume, at least formally, all institutions of the state to the highest democratically elected body in the country (assembly, parliament, etc.), although that body is controlled exclusively by the politicians.

The literature has also defined a common law system as one in which judges exercise discretion to decide cases in independent and/or adaptive lawmaking ways, while in continental European countries the state would control judicial outcomes and the content of law as well. The basic premise of change between the two wider legal groups has been the perception as to what extent the judicial practice may influence the future legal decision taken by the court. It is a fact that in Anglo-Saxon countries precedents are a source of law and they have to be regarded in the future when the act is required in a similar situation. However, although in the continental European legal system judiciary practice is not a formal source of law, judges take into consideration the prior practice in order to ensure consistency in acting in the court and the country.

In comparative law, the literature is quite often focused on a set of five parameters, like (1) judicial incentives; (2) exogenous legal human capital; (3) the processing of litigant information into judicial error-reducing legal human capital; (4) the cost of producing evidence and legal arguments; and (5) the penalties (damages) levied in adjudication. Judicial incentives may be influenced by the way their independence is defined. Often in the analysis judicial independence features highly, especially as it is believed to be an important feature of the Anglo-Saxon model, which contributed to its better results. In the U.S. model, over 80 percent of serving judges are subject to some kind of election, reelection, or recall voting.

But even in the United States the upper echelons of judiciary are dependent on politicians who decide on their promotion to the highest offices. Similarly, in the continental European countries, the government may have a strong say in appointment of judges, especially in the case of higher courts. However, the very path of professional progression differs between European (especially French) and U.S. judges. In Europe, judges are often career civil servants, who have opted for the judiciary profession almost immediately upon graduation from the university; in the United States, judges are appointed from among practicing lawyers who have had more than 10 years of professional experience.

Comparative analysis of independence has shown more than a puzzle-judges should be independent, but the question is from whom? And, if one is independent, does it mean that he or she is also unbiased (objective)? Often it is assumed that judges, if not appointed by the government directly, will be critical of the government and look at the breaking of law made by the government in an unbiased manner. However, empirical research does not corroborate this claim. Some judges are more independent and unbiased in the way they operate than others, but it cannot be generalized as to what contributes to that. Another important feature is the relationship between precedents and statutes.

Anglo-Saxon law is believed to be based on a set of more or less harmonious precedents (stare decisis), while the continental European legal practices are based on the interpretation of law and the application of the abstract legal (statutory) rule to a concrete situation. However, even in the latter case there is a high level of consistency in judiciary practices, as the higher courts have the right of cassation and therefore for the performance of judges it is important that their decisions not be annulled and/or modified by the higher court. Therefore, even in the continental European legal systems, court practices are consistent, that is, jurisprudence constante.

At the far end, the issue is primarily behavioral-whether the judges will be expansive or rather conservative (narrow) in their apprehension of laws. Some recent empirical research has clearly shown consistency of judicial behavior across various systems. However, de jure legal practice is not a formal source of law in continental European legal systems, but, as already pointed out, will be seriously considered in the process of application of law. In both systems the vast majority of judges will opt not to rock the boat.