New Lobbying Group Targets Anticompetitive Software Licensing

A Coalition for Fair Software Licensing lobbying group has launched, aiming to remedy "anticompetitive software licensing practices."

The group, consisting of "more than a dozen companies," was announced on Tuesday, according to a report (paywalled), as summarized in this snippet. Its backers weren't named "for fear of retaliation" per the story, but the coalition is seeking broad support.

"We are engaging current and potential members from a range of industrial sectors, including: cloud service providers (IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS), end-user facing companies, security services, startup and scale up entrants, and the venture capital community," the coalition's site indicated.

There are nine "Principles for Fair Software Licensing" advocated by the group. They include notions that licensing terms "should be clear and intelligible," along with lots of software "freedom" concepts.

Customers should be able to:

  • Bring purchased software to the cloud service provider of their choice, including bringing on-premises software.
  • Be free from having to use dedicated hardware, and free from being billed at a different price depending on hardware ownership.
  • Be free from retaliation after choosing a cloud service provider.
  • Be free from vendor lock-in caused by the use of directory or identity and authentication software.

Also, software licenses should "cover reasonably expected software uses," and not "require purchasing additional licenses." Lastly, "software vendors should not make material changes to license terms that restrict customers from previously permitted uses."'s story noted that Microsoft and Oracle are two software vendors that "have faced scrutiny for contract policies." Microsoft does appear to be the unnamed antagonist that perhaps led to the forming of this coalition.

For instance, Microsoft recently made concessions to its European Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) partners, as announced in August. The concessions permitted CSP partners to host Microsoft software, but it also cut out major cloud services providers, such as Alibaba, Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft itself, from participating in those concessions.

Microsoft's CSP partners had partly complained that they wanted to run Microsoft software on cloud infrastructures other than Microsoft Azure. However, per Microsoft's August concessions, they can just host Microsoft software themselves in their own datacenters, but can't use the software on the major cloud service providers' networks, as listed above.

In reaction to Microsoft's August concessions at the time, Amazon and Google heavily criticized Microsoft's changes, calling them "harmful" and leading to "contractual lock-ins," per a Reuters report.

In May, Microsoft had first publicly promised to ease unfair European cloud practices, which subsequently resulted in its August conciliations. In that May announcement, authored by Microsoft President Brad Smith, Microsoft had claimed it was planning to simplify its software licensing by following Fair Software Licensing Principles, as listed at the FairSoftware.Cloud Web site.

The FairSoftware.Cloud site has published 10 "fair software licensing principles" for cloud customers. They are remarkably similar to the nine principles listed by the Coalition for Fair Software Licensing. The two lobbying groups appear to be in agreement, although they may have different sponsors.

FairSoftware.Cloud does list its sponsors, based in Europe. They include "CISPE, Cigref, CIO Aica Forum, CIONet Italia, CIO Club Italia, AUSED, FIDA Inform, Danish Cloud Community, Dutch Cloud Community and Coadec."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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