Application Service Providing (ASP), Copyright, and Licensing


Michael P. Widmer


VOL. XXV • Winter 2007 • NO. 1 (table of contents)

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Application Service Providing ("ASP"), where a vendor hosts a software application on her server and grants customers access to the application over a network -- without the software application itself being installed on the user’s computer -- is used by many, e.g. in the form of Web based e-mail services, and grows ever more important. This article argues that although ASP mainly raises questions (i) that come up in the context of traditional use of computer programs; or (ii) that have been addressed in the context of online use of works other than software, ASP has significantly different copyright implications (which also affect software licensing). This is due to the technical differences between ASP and the traditional use of software – where the application is being installed on the user’s computer – and the differences between software and other works. Therefore, regarding new license agreements, the parties have to make sure that the license addresses issues of ASP and all the rights possibly affected by it, which may include rights other than those found in traditional software licensing. In the context of existing licenses, the question has to be raised whether they permit use of the licensed software in an ASP model. As an example of issues regarding already existing license agreements, this article will analyze the GNU General Public License in the light of ASP. The article further explains in which ASP-models the (end)user will need a (sub)license and in which cases she will not need a license. Examples of such agreements between the ASP-provider and the (end)user, agreements concerning Web based e-mail services will be examined.

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