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Software Licensing - Appropriate Use and Compliance

This guidance is for campus software users of all types (students, faculty and staff, and their departments and units) on the appropriate use of software. SAM will help resolve problems with software licensing when they occur.

University of Colorado Policies

Several University of Colorado policies cover the appropriate purchase and use of software, including the CU Code of Conduct, CU Fiscal Roles and Responsibilities policy, CU Providing and Using Information Technology policy, and the Acceptable Use of CU Boulder's IT Resources policy. It is important for every CU employee and student to understand their role with respect to these policies. If at any time you have a question about the appropriate use of software licenses, please Contact Us.

Special Provisions

Some software used at CU Boulder has special provisions for appropriate and allowable use, and may have specific restrictions. Each software title in the Software Catalog will provide details, if special provisions exist. 

Guide To Legal and Ethical Use of Software

For an excellent expression of the EDUCOM code, see the Guide to Legal and Ethical use of Software at the Washington University in St. Louis site.

Alternatives to Explore: Software can be expensive. You may think that you cannot afford to purchase certain programs that you need. Site-licensed and bulk-purchased software are legal alternatives to make multiple copies of software more affordable. Many education institutions, including our campus, negotiate special prices for software used and purchased by faculty, staff, and students. Consult our Software Catalog for a listing of these alternatives. As with other software, site-licensed or bulk-purchased software is still covered by copyright, although the price per copy may be significantly lower than the normal commercial price. A usual condition of site-licensing or bulk-purchasing is that copying and distribution of the software is limited to a central office which must maintain inventories of who received it. OIT Software Licensing serves this purpose. When you leave the academic community by graduation, retirement or resignation, you may no longer be covered by the institutional agreement and may be required to return or destroy your copies of the software licensed to the institution.

Educational Discounts and Terms of Use: You may be able to purchase software from other sources with an “educational discount”, usually by proving your institutional affiliation. If you purchase software for yourself through such an outlet, read the terms and conditions carefully. Sometimes, the software is yours to keep and need not be destroyed or surrendered when you leave the institution. It is, however, still covered by normal copyright protection and covered by the specific conditions of the licensing agreement. 


“Compliance” in this context means ensuring that the software installed in the organization is what the organization is legally allowed to use. From an individual perspective, ensure that you have the legal right (license) to install software before you do so. When we are “in compliance”, this means that we are legally allowed to use all of the software we are using. When we are “out of compliance”, this means that we are not legally allowed to use at least some of (or some quantity of) the software we are using - or we are using it in a way that is not allowed within the terms and conditions.

As a user of software, what are my responsibilities?

Be sure to read and understand the Policies and Guide to Legal and Ethical Use of Software sections above.

As a purchaser of software, what are my responsibilities?
  • Review and understand the CU Fiscal Roles and Responsibilities policy.
  • Remember that you are not allowed to sign a contract, including a license agreement, on behalf of the university. Only selected individuals at the Procurement Service Center may do so.
  • For multi-user software contracts, consider allowing OIT Software Licensing to review and provide advice on the terms and conditions of the contract.
  • After purchasing, keep track of your entitlements (the license rights that you purchased) and who you assign them to. 
As an IT Professional who installs or manages software on behalf of others, what are my responsibilities?

Software Audits

What is a software audit and what can I do about it? See the Software Audit Information page.