Industry collaboration delivers Principles for Fair Software Licensing

Alban Schmultz, Chairman of CISPE, explains how cooperation led to the Principles.

CISPE and CIGREF have collaborated on several initiatives previously, now they’ve worked together to formulate ten principles for fair software licensing.

As an organisation representing the Cloud Infrastructure Service Providers of Europe, CISPE has an excellent track record of collaborating with stakeholders to develop solutions to the pressing requirements of the marketplace. We, for example, played a leading role in defining a Code of Conduct for Infrastructure-as-a-service for data portability (as part of the SWIPO initiative of the European Commission); have created the first Code of Conduct for Cloud Infrastructure Services for compliance with the GDPR regulations; have initiated the Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact which leads our industry towards climate neutrality by 2030; and are of course, one of the founders of the GAIA-X projects to create an open, transparent and interoperable data infrastructure to support digital innovation in Europe.

Through these projects over several years we have interacted with many key stakeholders in the digital economy, including, in particular, Cigref which represents the biggest users of business software in France. These working relationships have helped us to identify and act upon issues and opportunities that impact innovation, growth and choice in the emerging cloud and digital sectors.

Software licensing is one issue that has been a concern for both vendors and customers for some time. As vendors of cloud infrastructure we must ensure that unfair licensing of software does not prevent future customers from using the provider of their choice. Customers also want fair licenses that support their own growth and do not needlessly restrict their flexibility.

Unfortunately, unfair and bad license terms have become entrenched in some areas, especially with some dominant legacy software companies who are able to use their size and lack of competition to enforce highly restrictive terms. This has been a problem for several decades but takes on another dimension with the cloud. Now, as many businesses look to move to the cloud and want to adapt their software licensing infrastructure to a more agile and flexible environment, they are increasing constrained by the terms set by some of these players.

Recognising this issue in this new cloud-centric world, we at CISPE sat down with CIGREF to discuss how best to promote licenses that were fair for customers, providers and therefore for the development of the whole market. It became clear that there were several principles that could be established that would guide software companies and their customers to fair and equitable agreements: it is the set of 10 principles we present today after months of work.

These principles will stimulate growth, innovation and a vibrant ecosystem of players, each able to present its own differentiation, value and opportunity to the widest range of customers. For their part, business consumers of cloud services will have enhanced choice as they seek to develop, implement and drive benefit from a wide range of cloud deployments and to build exciting new services that create opportunity, value and benefits for their own customers.

CISPE believes in collaboration and the Principles for Fair Software Licensing are a perfect example of its benefits. We urge everyone to support them: join us!