Licensing – What can I do with free software?

By Licensing Specialist Vicky Lea

When we talk about free software with regard to Microsoft what we are really talking about is software that can be downloaded for free, as a trial for instance, or maybe software that is granted with certain subscriptions such as TechNet and MSDN. What differentiates these methods are the usage rights that come with the software.

For instance, let us look first at trial software.

At you can access free trials of many of Microsoft’s latest software titles. You will need to register for the trial and each trial will run for its own period, such as 60 days or 180 days. Once that period has finished you may be offered the option to convert the trial usage rights to subscription or perpetual rights. Usage of the software during the trial period is subject to the in-product licensing terms.

Trial software can be accessed by anyone, but if you have a TechNet subscription for instance you will be able to access evaluation software. This varies from trial software again by the usage rights that come with the evaluation.

The TechNet Subscription Agreement states very clearly what you are allowed to do with software accessed via a TechNet Subscription. It states:

  • Using software. Your use of the software is subject to the license terms provided with the software, such as click-through license terms, except for any changes to those terms that are provided in this agreement. You may not use the software if you do not have an active subscription.
  1. You may install and use the software on your devices only to evaluate the software.
  2. You may not use the software in a live operating environment, in a staging environment, or with data that has not been backed up.
  3. You may not use the software for software development or in an application development environment.

So while software that is made available through a TechNet subscription is allowed for evaluation purposes, we then need to think about the software that is available through an MSDN subscription.

There are different levels of MSDN subscription that dictate amongst other things what software is available through the subscription. But one thing that remains the same is the usage rights associated with the software. And the key fact to be aware of with MSDN subscriptions is that the software is available only for development and testing environments.

In the Visual Studio 2012 and MSDN Licensing Whitepaper it states:

All MSDN subscriptions and Visual Studio Professional are licensed on a per-user basis. Each licensed user may install and use the software on any number of devices to design, develop, test, and demonstrate their programs. Each additional person who uses the software in this way must also have a license.

As well as development and testing, certain software titles are also available through an MSDN subscription for evaluation purposes.

So in summary, when you access trial software you can use this based on the in-product usage rights, meaning that you can use the full software for production use if required, for a limited time period before converting it to a full license. Whereas evaluation software, possibly accessed via TechNet, is allowed purely for evaluation purposes, and software accessed via MSDN is available for development and testing purposes.

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