“But it’s free…”

If I had a tenner for every time someone wanted me to install some ‘free’ software on a school computer, I wouldn’t bother playing the lottery.

Now, ‘free’ software differs from free software because, in the circumstances, it’s not. What I’m talking about here is software that is free for personal use, but not any other use – and that includes use in schools.

The two most common ones I hear about at the moment are Microsoft Security Essentials and Spotify. The former is the capable and well-reviewed anti-virus software that Microsoft released last year. I use it on my personal systems, and have no complaints. Similar experiences seem to drive the urges of a different school IT technician every month to proclaim over on Edugeek that they are about to install it on all the school systems, oblivious to the fact that it’s not free for anything but home and “home-based small business” use. I’ve checked and double-checked this, even getting an official answer. It’s not free to use in a school. Miserly? Perhaps (though I personally don’t think so). Fact? Definitely.

Spotify is a common request from teachers in my school in particular, their brains addled by the promise of ‘free’ music without having to download MP3s from peer-to-peer any more. I’ve not been helped by the fact that the previous network manager allowed it, also having never read the licence terms. Spotify is licensed only for personal use, even if you have a paid subscription. Using it on a school computer to have background music in your lessons does not count. Fact.

The proliferation of good quality free software is a great thing, and that people realise there are good alternatives to paying money is better. However, it would be better still if some of these people could use their brains and realise that many of the people behind this software have to make their money somewhere, and that somewhere is often through business use. The MP3 and BitTorrent generation take too bloody much for granted in my opinion, to the point that most people I know don’t even consider they’ve done anything wrong by amassing their pirated MP3 collection. Wake up, and stop being so bloody greedy. It’s immoral, and it’s illegal. It is NOT free. Fact.

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About The Angry Technician

The Angry Technician is an experienced IT professional in the UK education sector. Normally found in various states of annoyance on his blog. All views are those of his imaginary pet dog, Howard.

9 responses to ““But it’s free…””

  1. Dale says :

    I run into the “free” argument fairly often when crafting a new operating system install.
    Here’s an example from some years ago:
    There was a piece of FTP software which was free for school use, but not for education department head office use (I suspect it was WS-FTP LE, but it was a while ago).
    Head Office manager “it’s free”
    Me: ‘No, it’s free for educational facilities. Read the license. Head Office is not a educational facility’*’

    Why I refuse to turn a blind eye to these requests? Because every organisation I have worked for has had an “ethics” cause. Break the ethics and be sacked (in theory). Ignoring the software license is akin to stealing. And that would get me sacked.

    * one could argue, that head office activity discourages any sort of learning. “Work would be a lot better without students”, as one wag said.

  2. MusicMan says :

    Use http://listen.grooveshark.com/ a webservice for listening to any song, just like Spotify or try http://www.radiotuna.com/ to find a good radio station. Or if you want to be mean block them :-)

  3. enjay says :

    Grooveshark says it is for personal use, which doesn’t include the classroom (same as for Spotify).

  4. markbezza says :

    MS Forefront (the corporate version of Security Essentials) is free if you have Enterprise CALs as part of your agreement with MS. This has just saved me a pretty penny this year.

    • AngryTechnician says :

      I am actually strongly considering switching to Forefront when the AV is up this year. Would have done it last year but 2010 wasn’t out and the 2007 server component wasn’t supported on Server 2008 R2.

  5. markbezza says :

    We’ve installed Forefront client and Forefront for Exchange. Planning to do Forefront for Sharepoint in the Summer.
    It’s an awesome product and has picked up loads of stuff which wasn’t picked up by our previous AV products. It’s also made our Exchange Server run a lot better as it filters connections before they can send mail to the server rather than just spotting SPAM after it has hit the server.
    Well worth installing.

  6. Dan says :

    Ha, you think that’s bad? The other day we pointed out that it was illegal to rip a DVD and show it in more than one location at a time. The response we got was “Does copyright still apply if you’re just watching the odd clip?”

    I was flabbergasted. It was essentially saying “Is it still rape if you only put it in a little bit?”

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