News & Insights

Fair Software Licensing: By the Numbers

By The Coalition for Fair Software Licensing Team

In September 2022, the Coalition for Fair Software Licensing announced the results of a survey conducted by Morning Consult of 250 tech decision makers (chief technology officers and c-suite executives) at Fortune 500 companies and their experiences with restrictive licensing. Here is what we found and what it means for your organization.

What we found

  • Nearly two-thirds of chief technology officers and c-suite executives said that licensing terms for the software they depend on are too restrictive.
      • Simply put, you are not alone.
  • Across a multitude of industries from finance to manufacturing, customers are experiencing restrictive software licensing which limits their ability to choose the most effective and cost-efficient cloud vendor of their choice.
      • More than half were very familiar with software providers restricting Bring Your Own License (BYOL) to limit the use of products and/or services on 3rd party cloud providers.
      • Many experienced unexpected changes to the scope of licenses when negotiating software licensing for use in the cloud.
      • Nearly half needed to repurchase licenses when negotiating software licensing for use in the cloud.
  • Of those who experienced restrictive software licensing:
      • Almost half reported a limited ability of the organization to utilize software on the hardware or cloud service provider of their choice.
      • More than 60 percent experienced limited ability to roll out new features or products.
      • And more than half reported increased costs.
  • For many organizations, switching from their existing software provider just isn’t an option.
      • They depend on this software.
          • 82 percent of tech decision makers identified Microsoft as the software provider their organization was most dependent on.
          • Further, Microsoft was the #1 software provider that respondents said would be the most difficult to switch from.
      • And they fear retaliation from their existing software provider.
          • Some tech decision makers experienced actual or threatened audits of existing software licenses when negotiating software licenses for use in the cloud.
          • 45 percent experienced increased licensing costs associated with running software on 3rd party cloud providers.
          • The CISPE-commissioned study by Professor Frédéric Jenny, Chairman of the OECD Competition Committee and Professor at ESSEC Paris Business School, reported that customers wishing to remove the cloud infrastructure aspects from other Microsoft product purchases saw cost increases of up to 70 percent.
      • These experiences are not rare occurrences. According to a recent survey sponsored by LicenseFortress, an independent software asset management company, 69 percent of 283 respondents reported having been subject to a software audit within the past three years.
          • Among those audited in this time frame, over one-third had to pay $100,000 or more to achieve compliance with the vendor.
          • And the costs extend beyond just dollars. Close to half of respondents spent more than 10% of their days tending to audits.
  • The bottom line: Restrictive software licensing inhibits customer choice. Legacy software providers are prioritizing profits over their own customers, employing anti-consumer tactics which create budget busting added costs and determine cloud strategies directly at odds with customer needs.
      • 94 percent of tech decision makers experiencing unfair software licensing practices say these practices are very or somewhat influential in forcing their organization to change their original cloud strategy.

How the Principles of Fair Software Licensing Address these Issues

The Coalition for Fair Software Licensing came together to provide a united voice for organizations experiencing restrictive software licensing. The first step? Providing information to let customers know they are not alone and educate policymakers and the public alike on the harms of restrictive licensing.

Ultimately, our goal is the adoption of the Principles of Fair Software Licensing by vendors and customers alike for use as the foundation of their contracts and negotiations. 90 percent of those surveyed support the adoption of the Principles of Fair Software Licensing to preserve choice and transparency throughout the digital transformation process.

If your organization has experienced restrictive software licensing, reach out to learn how the Principles of Fair Software Licensing can protect you from becoming another statistic.

As a healthcare software provider, our ability to utilize the cloud provider of our choice impacts more than just our business – it affects the health and well-being of patients everywhere. Restrictive software licensing imposes real-world threats like pricing increases that directly influence how we are able to assist healthcare providers and the patients they serve. We support the Principles of Fair Software Licensing to protect both cloud customers and the communities they serve.

Healthcare Technology Company

Cloud computing has brought low-cost, on-demand IT services to every corner of the economy, raising productivity and innovation levels at enterprises of all sizes. And intense competition and innovation among cloud providers continues to drive costs down while adding new customer capabilities.

But some incumbent IT vendors are imposing restrictive software licenses to limit how customers can take advantage of competing cloud offerings.

NetChoice supports the Principles of Fair Software Licensing as a roadmap to drive innovation, serve customers, and promote competition in IT services.


Frustration, use limitations, threatened audits, and significant additional expenses. That has been our experience with unfair software licensing. Organizations need transparency from their software providers.

We support the work of the Coalition for Fair Software Licensing to protect customers and ensure IT spend is effective and free from surprises.

Global Building Materials Supplier

Unfair software licensing practices in the cloud are a global issue, and CISPE is pleased that the Coalition for Fair Software Licensing is taking the Principles to North America.

Originally launched and jointly conceived by customers and cloud providers in Europe, we encourage customers around the world confronted with unfair software licensing practices to consider the Principles as a powerful framework for positive change.


As start-ups, it is essential that we retain flexibility to use the cloud infrastructures that fit best our aspirations and those of our customers. The Principles of Fair Software Licensing help the next generation of software and service providers to avoid lock in and ensure a fair playing field for all. Seeing their adoption in North America adds weight to this important movement for innovators in Spain and worldwide.

Carlos Mateo Enseñat

President, Asociación Española de Startups (AES), and Promoter of the NUBES Initiative in Spain

Developed in Europe by CIOs and cloud providers, the Principles of Fair Software Licensing are supported by digital organizations in Italy such as Assintel. Assintel welcomes the Coalition for Fair Software Licensing’s embrace of the Principles in North America. Fair licensing of software in the cloud is a global issue for businesses of all sizes. In Italy, our government recognises this challenge and just updated its antitrust bill to put an end to unfair software licensing practices.

Businesses in North America can benefit just as well as those in Italy from a best practice framework for software licensing.

Paola Generali

President, Assintel

As a longtime advocate for open systems and open networks, CCIA supports the competitive ideals reflected in the Principles of Fair Software Licensing for Cloud Customers as the Coalition embarks upon its efforts in North America.

Matt Schruers

President, CCIA

Some legacy software providers are attempting to extend their current on-premise market dominance into the cloud market through aggressive and restrictive contracts, licensing terms, and software audits.

While many promote ‘cloud freedom,’ in actuality they are employing tactics designed to lock out competition and innovation while increasing profits for themselves at the expense of their customers. No longer can legacy software providers be allowed to disguise their predatory practices.

I am proud to align myself with the Coalition for Fair Software Licensing in shining a light on these issues and putting forth actionable solutions.

Craig Guarente

Founder and CEO, Palisade Compliance

Despite the current spotlight on antitrust issues in Washington, behemoth software providers continue to misuse their legacy status and market power to target business customers with predatory audits and trap those customers in restrictive licensing agreements.

Through our practice — dedicated to representing software licensees against these very tactics — we have seen first-hand the real world effects of such licensing practices. Both growing and established companies are routinely kneecapped by unexpected costs, forced to waste immeasurable resources in spurious audit defense, and stymied in their efforts to make the technology changes they believe are necessary for their business.

We support the Principles of Fair Software Licensing and believe they represent an excellent and necessary step towards much needed business consumer relief and will help open the market to smaller providers in the cloud ecosystem.

Arthur S. Beeman & Joel T. Muchmore

Founding Partners, Beeman & Muchmore, LLP

Consumers benefit from a competitive, dynamic information technology marketplace. Competition drives innovation and ensures that customers get the benefit of fair pricing.

Overly restrictive, abusive licensing agreements from IT companies with market power, on the other hand, impose costs on government and corporate customers of reduced innovation and long-term price increases. We support the Principles of Fair Software Licensing and policies that encourage innovation, competition, and licensing practices that give customers the freedom to mix and match solutions from a wide variety of vendors.

This is particularly critical in the market for cyber security solutions since hackers are innovating every day, leveraging new strategies, new tactics, and new technologies to support their illegal campaigns. The only way to defeat nation states and trans-national criminal organizations is for the government to ensure that the IT market for cyber security is as competitive as possible and customers have the freedom to choose.

Cybersecurity Provider

The Alliance for Digital Innovation supports the Coalition for Fair Software Licensing’s efforts to protect customer choice and advocate for access to modern, secure commercial solutions.

As advocates for public sector customers, we think that government mission owners and enterprise information technology and cybersecurity leaders should have access to as many modern commercial solutions as possible.

These solutions are critical components to driving digital innovation and security in the public sector, and ADI supports removing barriers that slow adoption of those solutions, including restrictive licensing practices.

Alliance for Digital Innovation

As an attorney, I have represented enterprise software customers for years and have routinely seen enterprise software companies deploy predatory business practices, including falsely inflating alleged non-compliance gaps, to increase profits and limit customers’ ability to go elsewhere.

These practices produce causal effects throughout the economy including increased prices, as businesses across various sectors are forced to spend resources dealing with these unforeseen issues. I support the work of the Coalition for Fair Software Licensing to help my clients and enhance an economy that provides opportunities to all.

Pam Fulmer

Founder and Partner, Tactical Law Group LLP

We believe licensees should be able to deploy licensed software in a way that best suits their business, including their choice of cloud provider at no additional cost. Having experienced licensing practices inconsistent with the Principles of Fair Software Licensing, we support the Principles and urge others to support both them and the Coalition for Fair Software Licensing.

Insurance Industry Business

Startups, often operating with limited resources, need the freedom to assemble the technology infrastructure that best suits their needs.

Cloud computing infrastructure is central to startup growth, and the Principles of Fair Software Licensing will help maintain accountability, mitigate unnecessary costs, and promote innovation in this environment.

Industry-wide adherence to these principles will level the playing field for startups.


Get Involved

Learn more about joining the Coalition or expressing support for its Principles