License or Sale?

This is a short one more to inspire the thought and debate. Check out the ruling summary over on Wiley Rein regarding Vernor v. Autodesk, Inc. This is going to get interesting. Despite resistance, I think we’ll eventually move to expiring floating licenses that _maybe_ come at a lower initial cost.

I hate the no resale clause of the Adesk EULA. I find it particularly nasty now as many Engineers try to go their way as their former employers contract. With this clause gone, it would be easy for firms to let engineers take a seat as part of their severance and make it easier for said ex-employees to make a go of it independently. Trying to start up an independent business with a ~10K hardware/software sinkhole (C3D) is a hell of a burden for the land development guys that are struggling to make ends meet. What do you think? Let’s make this one lively!


  1. Matt Kolberg says:

    I’m not a fan of the no-resale clause either, but for the independant, isn’t buying Civil 3D a typical business startup cost? I agree it would be nice if an employer gave a seat to those starting a new company, but would they? This new company would be competition I would think.

  2. For many companies shedding staff, the ability to reduce their subscription count by one and possibly recoup some of the initial cost are a worthwhile trade off. The companies I see laying off engineers are still big enough that they’re not competing with the one-man shops for the corner gas station or the home expansion survey work. There are obviously different cases all over, but wouldn’t it be nice if the decision was up to the companies instead of Autodesk?

  3. Rick Carle says:

    I’m not sure I agree with companies giving a license away as part of their severance package. First, companies don’t buy licenses at a 1:1 ratio. So then who would be the lucky winner say if several people were let go. Second, we have paid a lot of money for that license as well as maintenance on that license. It’s an investment by the company. If the company is downsizing and no longer needs the license and is OK with giving up the license and investment, then I guess that is OK. I would not do it. Too big of an investment and I would not be willing to concede that my company is going to stay downsized for too long. Tough call though. From where I sit in my company we would never decrease our license pool.

    • That’s kind of my point. Under the current licensing system, it’s not even an option. Whether or not it would make sense to a company is irrelevant since it’s barred currently.

      Anyway, to elaborate on the situation where I can see it working, I’ve seen companies go from 100 to 25; from 300 to 150. That type of drop is pretty big, and some of the people released were junior partners, associates, senior PMs and the such. There’s very little ill will from the company to these folks, and in many cases, the company is looking for anyway to help that person stay afloat as a show of goodwill after years of service. And the sort of person this might be an option for is not the red-line drafter, but the senior staff. The joy of severance packages is that they don’t have to be equal.

      Hell forget the severance package. What if two partners agree to disagree and need to split up a company. Right now, you can only transfer licenses in acquisition. How does one explain a new company is an acquisition of old licenses? Can’t be done. Yes, there are shenanigans that can be gone through, but the simple fact is, the EULA right now is overly complicated and gets in the way of legitimate business dealings for many companies.

  4. Ok, here’s my resume. I come complete with ten years cad experience and my own license of the software. Yep, that’s right!!- You won’t have to spend the money on software to bring me on…. Hum…..sounds interesting….

    Ok, joking aside, I do believe something that many people in this world want is the right to chose. I wonder how many companies would actually support the idea of the right to chose on this kind of thing. Poll time?? Some of them, I would think, would love to be able to unload some of their seats when they have mass layoffs. The flip side is that usually, a company experiences a downturn that hopefully does not last more than a year. So, it would be cheaper to keep the seat and pay for the subscription for the remainder of the year, than, when work comes back around and you need to hire more people, purchase a new seat again.

    I don’t think many would use it, but again, the right to chose would be nice.

  5. If Autodesk holds to it’s announced upgrade pricing change, they could see a big drop in subscription seats.
    The non-transferable licensing arrangement is currently near universal in the software world and it is patently a one-sided arrangement.

  6. Jon Rizzo says:

    In the current economy, if resale was allowed, Autodesk’s biggest competition would be from their existing customers. I mean, how is a “used” Civil 3D license any different from a “new” license?

    Autodesk makes a lot of money off of it’s customers by requiring a subscription contract if you want to upgrade more frequently than once every 3 years. So, I have a decision to make: pay a ridiculous amount of money to maintain support on these unused licenses in the hope that business will rebound within 3 years OR take them off subscription and hope that business does NOT rebound within 3 years. It would sure be much better if I could sell these unused licenses on ebay to recover some of the money that I might need to shell out next year to get some of those licenses back. Of course, next year, I wouldn’t even think of going back to Autodesk for these licenses, I would go to ebay! 🙂

    • You know, that’s a hell of a good point, Jon. I guess Adesk could say that once a seat is transferred/not with the original purchaser, it’s a dead set, no option for upgrade, no option for subscription, but it does make a tangled web.

  7. Bryan Tanner says:

    As an alternative and/or additive option within the Autodesk Subscription methods, I offer up a recent discussion on the AUGI forums:

    I don’t want to divert traffic from your site, James, but this is an interesting and relative debate. What if Autodesk offered discounts for unused seats during a company’s downturn? The company could register the decrease of active seats with Autodesk and receive a discount during that period of time. Then, when the seats need reactivated, the company can update the registration with Autodesk and pay the full amount from that point along with a “reactivation fee” of some sorts.

    • Gary’s been trying to get traction to that letter writing campaign for some time now. I wish him luck, but I don’t think there’s enough solidarity in the marketplace to actually make any headway.

  8. Matt Kolberg says:

    I like the “right to choose”. I’m thinking about piracy, however. Do you think this would make piracy easier given that you can obtain a license easier and presumably cheaper? It would be very easy for the seller to just keep on using the software. Yes, they could be audited at any time, but why would they? How would the seller prove that the software was indeed sold? They would still have their original paperwork, but “lost” the disks.


    • Jeff York says:

      If Autodesk had a transfer procedure in place, the buyer and seller would have proof of transfer. Then Autodesk would put a fee on the transfer of ownership and record keeping.