if you access a machine with an expensive app via GoToMyPc/etc, what says the law?

has this issue ever come up in the realm of law, licenses etc? Do the licenses for things like Mathematica or Adobe Flash CS4 already include regulations that teleconference users would be effectively breaking, although for now there is no active suppression of this? Or is this just something not yet fully covered but we should just stay tuned?

Don’t know about GoToMyPC specifically, but when using screen sharing to get to my work PC, I had to log in, and no local user could also use the machine. It was the same as using a KWM switch, but over the network; there was still only one user. Unless the EULA specifically forbids remote access, I don’t think there would be a problem.

Edit: I’m looking at Adobe’s EULA for my copy of Illustrator, and it includes this provision:

This would seem to preclude having a public Illustrator server. But does remote access to the program on a specific PC count as being on the Internal Network? I’d have to get a ruling from Adobe.

The main point of most EULAs is to make sure you have a license for every user. They don’t want people buying one copy, and sharing it among themselves. As long as no one else is using it, I don’t see a problem.

There is no difference from a licensing perspective - GoToMyPC/VNC/etc separates presentation (display and input) from execution (use of CPU and memory) but does not change the number of installed nodes or increase the number of simultaneous users.

Terminal Services/Citrix (systems which allow multiple simultaneous user access) requires the purchase of multiple user licenses, up to the number of simultaneous users. Software metering is vital to ensure that proper licensing is maintained, particularly across TS/Citrix farms with multiple nodes.


Goodness how perceptions change. When I were a lad all machines were shared, you accesed them with remote protocols (anything from RS232 to X-Windows) and licenses came in many flavours. Per user, per machine, per institution, counted, all sorts. This Johnny Come Lately idea of single user PCs is well behind. And going away again too.

In reality high end software is still licensed on a wide ranging set of options. Even under Windows, you will find per-user and per machine licenses - and often at different price points. By high-end I don’t mean Adobe CS. Things like Matlab with a few add ons. Prices that will make your eyes water.

So rather than it being a new idea, licensing for remote access is well understood. Finding vendors that are sensible about it has always a been a different issue.

I think the OP raises a slightly different question than has been answered so far. The various answers are (IMO) valid and correct for their domains, but aren’t quite the question being asked. Either that or I’m about to hijack this thread …

Lemme try asking what I think the question is.

I have some properly-licensed app on my PC. Its license says I can use it on my PC, but I can’t install it on a sharing system like Citrix unless I get one license per session. IOW, a pretty typical modern day license.

Now I host a virtual meeting (.e.g. LiveMeeting, WebEx, etc) where 10 people are dialed in and all can see my screen.

We’re discussing the results of using this app. I fire it up and share the window with the virtual meeting so everybody can watch me using the app. Did I violate the license? Now I hand control of the virtual meeting over to one of the other participants who then uses the app while we all watch. Did I violate the license?
Obviously the general answer is “It depends on the specific terms of the license.” Most licenses now address thin-client remote presentation tools like Terminal Server or Citrix. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a license which addresses virtual meetings.

It’d make sense to consider this use case no different from 10 people in a room watching me on the video projector screen on the wall, or 3 people looking over my shoulder at my desk. OTOH, I can imagine some wiseguy trying to rent access to an app via single-user LiveMeeting sessions and hoping to skirt the licensing restrictions that way.

It is still only a single instance of the application running with a single input stream - no different from a room where a kvm switch is used to transfer control between two people. I can’t see any license issue.

How can they skirt the licensing - there is only one license running, and only one user, just like a physical machine that someone rents access to.
There are tools that do partition a single instance of Windows into two or more independent sessions - these would cause a license violation, but would probably trigger (in the case of Adobe products) the network use detection.


Sometimes licenses are actually location-locked. That is, both the computer and the user have to be in a given location for the license to be valid. Sometimes they’re only valid if you’re not connecting remotely (the computer can be anywhere, but the user must be sitting at it. Sometimes this is only present in legal agreement, but not enforced in software, and sometimes the licensing software actually checks to see that things like VNC and RemoteDesktop aren’t running.

Generally, buying per-machine location-locked licenses is cheaper than buying more permissive ones, but the option exists (and, apparently, is enough of a sales driver that some companies put effort into enforcing it).

If this is something you really need answered (as opposed to a hypothetical question), I’d suggest asking Adobe.

I found a difference between Adobe’s stated CS4 license agreement and their CS4 FAQ (license says 1 install allowed , FAQ says 2 as long as they’re not used at the same time) and contacted them about it. They replied that the FAQ was right and the license agreement was wrong. While I expect there’s the usual “license agreement may not be modified except by an officer of the corporation” boilerplate in the license, they were kind enough to send me the 2-user answer as a digitally signed PDF file, which should give me a leg to stand on if it ever comes down to that.