Magazine article Information Today

The Semantics of Site License Agreements: Uncover Hidden Costs and Build These Contingencies into the Agreement

Magazine article Information Today

The Semantics of Site License Agreements: Uncover Hidden Costs and Build These Contingencies into the Agreement

Article excerpt

Ahhh, the start of a new year. Another opportunity to get it right.

I don't know about you, but I never keep all of the resolutions I make on New Year's Eve. This year I decided to make fewer resolutions on the off chance that I might be able to keep them all if there aren't so many.

Making Assumptions

One resolution that I'm going to try very hard to keep has to do with making assumptions. I'm going to try very hard not to make any assumptions in 1998.

I resolve to be better about asking for clarification in the coming year, or I will at least confirm that the other party's understanding of a particular word or term is the same as mine. This way, when the product or service is delivered it will more closely meet my expectations. I'm sure you've all been to that place, the place where you think you've understood precisely someone's intent only to discover at a later date that there wasn't agreement---exactly.

One of the most misunderstood terms in the industry right now is "site license." Almost every vendor has a slightly different way of selling you a site license.

A site license is a way of providing your department, company, campus, or library unlimited use (theoretically) of a vendor's software or unlimited access to a vendor's database(s), and in some instances even unlimited use of a vendor's database(s). The term of the license granted may be monthly, annually, or in perpetuity. Most organizations prefer a site license, if available, because they're able to budget a known quantity of funding for the product or service. It's more difficult to budget per use or per user, especially when resources are limited.

But, exactly what are you getting when you agree to a site license? Well, it depends on who is selling the license. You can't assume that the purchase of a site license entitles you or your organization to use a product or service as much as you want. You also can't assume that everyone in your company or organization is authorized to use the site license--there may be restrictions in the fine print.

In some ways, negotiating a site license is a little like leasing a car. The monthly payments may be reasonable enough, but there's a high premium at the end of the agreement. In order to plan for growth, the librarian needs to know the additional costs up front and build these contingencies into the agreement with the vendor of choice.

Different Types of Site License Agreements

Some site licenses entitle you to unlimited usage at the level of use when the license agreement is signed. These terms might be acceptable to you now if you have been using heavily in the recent past and you have no plans to use more or to allow access by additional users. What you must find out is the cost to add users and the cost of exceeding previous levels of use.

Other site license agreements allow unlimited use of the software or database(s) by a fixed number of users. Adding users can mean incurring costs above the price of the site license. Some vendors limit the number of users by the number of passwords allowed for the site license agreement. …

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