Autodesk Licensing Implications of Working from Home

The Covid-19 pandemic shifted entire non-essential industries to a remote workforce, leaving companies scrambling to set up employees to work from home. A study in June 2020 by Pricewaterhouse Coopers determined that nearly 70% of office workers were working remotely. While some employees were allowed to simply transfer their work computers to their home office, others acquired new computers, new software, and new internet connections including VPN to ensure privacy and security.

One significant area often overlooked is ensuring the migration complies with the relevant software licenses. Autodesk in particular has targeted companies that might have allowed software licensing restrictions to slip through the gap.

Autodesk moved to subscription-only licenses a few years ago, but some companies still use older perpetual licenses acquired prior to the transition. The majority of Autodesk’s perpetual licenses have specific license terms governing users and sharing the license. Single-use licenses allow only one user to access the software and make a single archival copy for backup purposes only.

Subscription licenses differ from perpetual licenses on a number of terms. A single-user subscription is tied to a single user, whereas a perpetual license could be tied to a computer (as long as it is used by one person concurrently). Sections 7 and 9 of the Autodesk Terms of Use describe the restrictions for subscribers of Autodesk software. The following are several terms that may impact validity of the license:

  • Home Use: Only multi-user subscription licenses allow home use copies for employees to work from home as long as it is within the same Territory.
  • Geographical Restriction: All licenses have a specific geographical restriction (Europe, Asia, or Americas). A license granted in the Asia cannot be used in the Americas.
  • User Restriction: Single-user subscriptions allow up the installation of software for the licensed user on up to three devices for non-concurrent use. See Autodesk Subscription Benefits here.
  • Backup Copy: During the term of the subscription, a user can make a single backup copy of the software for disaster recovery purposes. It may not be used concurrently with the primary installation. See Section 9 of Autodesk License Terms for Subscriptions after May 2018.
  • Transferring a subscription: A user assigned to a specific product can be reassigned or changed in the user management system online in the Autodesk license portal.

The key is to ensure that all employees comply with the license terms and do not exceed the scope of the license grant. Sometimes companies may discover that Autodesk is over-deployed resulting from a failure to maintain a network inventory and software asset management protocol. The first step a company should take is to determine the license terms for each Autodesk product and conduct regular internal audits to ensure license compliance. This is particularly important for a transitioning workforce that may inadvertently exceed the permitted uses of the assigned licenses.  The resulting fees can be excessive when compounded with potential copyright infringement penalties.