Software Licenses and Non-Profits: To Utilize Or Not To Utilize?

Adobe Photoshop™, Adobe Acrobat Reader™, Microsoft Word™, PowerPoint and Excel.  There is  a variety of software available  that not only make life easier, but enable creativity and productivity to reach new levels.  However, few people understand that when it comes to software you generally don’t “own” it, rather, it is being “licensed” for use. In other words, that information is being borrowed. And only after “reading” (wink, wink) 20 pages of terms, agreeing to behave in a certain ways, and giving up most of the rights you probably think you had, will you able to access and utilize it.

For non-profit organizations, understanding software licenses can be beneficial.  For example,  giving the creator control over use  encourages them to provide access to intellectual property that  most organizations probably could not create and for much lower prices then involved with software development. Moreover, the flexibility provided to the creator enables them to provide discounts or special offers to those they deem worthy (lucky for you charitable organizations are usually at the top of this list).

However, there are a couple of mistakes non-profits make with  licenses as well. Firstly, non-profits often fail to take advantage of discounts set specifically for educational and charitable organizations.  Secondly, non-profits often violate, albeit unwittingly, license terms under the auspices of online casino saving money. For example, if an organization has a staff of three, all of which will be using a specific program, some organizations will chose to purchase only one copy of the program and make copies for the other two staff members. The issue with this is that license terms often prohibit copying or reproduction, particularly for reasons such as circumvention. When education is involved there maybe some exceptions, but these run along a VERY thin line.

In order to avoid violating license terms, and subjecting your organization to both financial and legal woes, there are a few things that non-profit organizations can keep in mind:

  1. Above all else – never engage in piracy!  The legal trouble that piracy entails is never worth it. Make sure to read, and more importantly understand, all license terms that come with all software. Get a firm grasp of the parameters you must operate in.
  2. Understand, in order for software terms to apply you don’t necessarily have to verbalize or actively exercise agreement. There are doctrines online casino in the law called “shrinkwrap” or “browser-wrap” where just by opening the package you are held to have actively agreed to all applicable terms. More recently courts have begun to apply the “click-wrap” doctrine where clicking “I agree” in that little prompt that pops open means you agree to all terms contained in it. Whether you’ve actually read them or not.
  3. Check with individual software companies to see what special discounts they offer to non-profits and any applicable use restrictions that apply as a result.   Software companies’ websites are a good place to check first – for your convenience, here is a short list of the more commonly used software companies:
  • Microsoft:
    • Adobe:
      • Sony:


        If you don’t want to deal with the troubles involved with licensing, consider an option that      non-profits tend to overlook – online applications.  For example, in the place of Microsoft Word™, you can use Google Docs™.  You get nearly the exact same features – at absolutely zero cost!

        Software can do so much for non-profit organizations, and you shouldn’t let the technicalities of software licenses keep you from taking advantage of its benefits.  Just remember to stay within the legal bounds of the license, and do your research.