It is common practice in many organisations for users of subscription resources to ‘borrow’ other people’s log-in details and, indeed, many licensing agreements are based on ‘average number of user’ or ‘maximum number of user’ agreements to prevent losses to the software supplier from this practice.
However, many subscription agreements are user-specific and, in such a case, lending one’s log-in details is likely to breach the licensing agreement and the software supplier will have a right of action to recover damages. This is actually relatively easy to police, as each different machine that is used to log into the relevant website will have a different ‘digital signature’.
Recently, the Financial Times commenced just such an action, alleging in a US court that a large international asset management group had breached its licensing agreement, accessing thousands of articles improperly over several years. Interestingly, the individual licence cost which is the subject matter of the claim is only $299.
In these straitened times, it is likely that many more suppliers of web-based resources will be looking for evidence of breaches of licensing agreements and will be seeking damages for the breaches and possibly also for breaches of copyright. Taking a lax attitude to adherence to legal agreements can bring significant problems: you should consider reviewing your legal agreements and making sure you comply with them.
Reported in Out-Law, 6 February 2009.