Business of Software

What an ISV (Independent Software Vendor) sells isn’t the software itself, but the right to use. The rights, and restrictions, of both the vendor and the user are spelled out in the software license agreement. By definition that agreement will strike some balance between granting users sufficient privileges to use the software, while preserving the vendor’s rights of ownership.

Given how it’s up to the software license agreement to protect an ISV’s crown jewels, you’d think every book written about the business of software would at least mention the subject. You’d be wrong. As business people we’ve failed to educate ourselves and abandoned this in the purview of lawyers, thereby granting the lawyers incredible control over our businesses.

I don’t mean to pick on my colleagues, but here’s a quick review of the literature.

No, or virtually no mention of software license agreements:

  • Eric Sink on the Business of Software by Eric Sink
  • Software That Sells : A Practical Guide to Developing and Marketing Your Software Project by Edward Hasted
  • Guide to Software Export: A Handbook for International Software Sales by Roger A. Philips
  • How To Succeed In The Enterprise Software Market by Craig Le Clair
  • Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality by Bob Walsh
  • The Business of Software: What Every Manager, Programmer, and Entrepreneur Must Know to Thrive and Survive in Good Times and Bad by Michael A. Cusumano
  • Joel on Software by Joel Spolsky

A brief discussion:

  • Copyright Your Software by Stephen Fishman

The only detailed discussion I’ve found (currently on backorder from Amazon):

  • Web & Software Development: A Legal Guide by Stephen Fishman
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