Software Acceptable Use Fact Sheet


Fact Sheet – Acceptable Use of IT Resources

This Fact Sheet is offered as a summary of some important issues related to the University’s institutional software license agreements. It contains generalizations to illustrate your rights and responsibilities under those agreements, and the acceptable use of the University’s computing resources. There is no way to address each specific issue or question that might arise; therefore, please note that this Fact Sheet is not exhaustive and should not be read as separate or inconsistent with applicable University Policies, which are linked below.



Institutional Use

Members of the University community are provided with access to certain software, databases, and electronic publications (referred to as “Electronic Resources”) through institutional license agreements. Electronic Resources serve as scholarly and/or work-related tools. In other words, they are meant to be used in the course and scope of your employment with the University.

Most notably, the University’s license agreements typically prohibit the use of Electronic Resources for commercial purposes. Your use of Electronic Resources is limited to the non-profit academic mission of the University.

Common Elements of Acceptable Use

As a general rule, if a product is used as intended (i.e. according to its design, functionality, and purpose), there should be no risk of violating a license agreement. Your use of Electronic Resources must always comply with the applicable terms of service for the specific product. While these terms vary broadly – and it would be impossible to summarize them here – the following will provide a general roadmap for acceptable academic use of Electronic Resources.

  • Academic Use. Electronic Resources are intended for educational purposes and to carry out the legitimate business of the University. Examples of appropriate academic use typically include course instruction, authorized research, and internal operations of the University’s various business units. Academic use is never commercial in nature.
  • “As-is” Licensing. Electronic Resource providers offer their services on an “as-is” basis. The Electronic Resources are covered by certain warranties and other commercial protections, but only if they are used as-provided and as-intended. Users may not tamper with or make unauthorized changes to the Electronic Resources.
  • Authorized Users. Your access to Electronic Resources is based on your personal affiliation with the University and its academic mission. License agreements typically define authorized users to include faculty, staff, and students. You may not transfer or extend your access to anyone outside the University without prior authorization. Requests for authorization and any questions about Authorized Users should be addressed to your designated IT representative.
  • Commercial Use. Remember that most license agreements are for academic use in the course of your employment with the University. Electronic Resources may not be used for commercial purposes or personal gain. This includes work performed outside of your employment with the University and for which you receive compensation.
  • Home Use. Some Electronic Resources include home use rights, as defined in their terms of service. This allows you to install the product on a personally-owned computer in addition to University-owned computers. Home use licenses are user-specific and not transferable. In other words, home use does not extend the license to other users or create new Authorized Users simply because the product is being used off campus. Further, the elements of Academic Use vs. Commercial use still apply when the product is used off campus. If you have any questions about whether a specific product carries a home use license, contact your designated IT representative.

For more information about the proper use of the University’s Electronic Resources, please visit: Acceptable Computing Access and Use | Information Technology | University of Pittsburgh.

A Note on Intellectual Property Rights

A license is essentially a permission slip to use the product for a set period of time. The provider continues to own the product, including the underlying source code, data, know-how, etc. The University and the Authorized Users continue to own all of their respective materials that are shared while using the product, including their own data, information, methodologies, etc. In other words, if a user owned the materials before using the product, they do not lose ownership in the materials simply by using the product.

Interfering with the provider’s ownership rights is a breach of the license agreement. The conditions and restrictions of each license agreement vary from program to program, but most contain some combination of the following:

  • The product is covered by copyright
  • The product may not be copied
  • The product may not be modified in any way (see “As-is” License above)
  • The product – including the source code – may not be decompiled or reverse engineered
  • You may not add to or build upon the product to create new works (i.e. derivative works)

A Note on Confidentiality

Some Electronic Resources are used to collect and store information that is otherwise protected by state and federal confidentiality laws. For instance, protected health information (PHI) is protected under HIPAA, and student records are protected under FERPA.

The University’s standard confidentiality provisions require the provider to comply with all applicable data protection laws. The provider may not share or sell confidential information, including users’ personal information, and may only access the information in order to provide the service to the University. Providers are legally required to maintain Privacy Policies that define the types of user information that is being collected and how it is being protected. If a provider violates the confidentiality provisions or their own Privacy Policy, license agreements provide for significant legal recovery by the University and end users.

Even with those protections in place, individual users should exercise caution when sharing personal information when using any Electronic Resource.


Related Information

Links to Additional IT Policies

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Article ID: 517
Wed 11/1/23 6:08 PM
Wed 5/8/24 2:46 PM

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SOFTWARE AND APPLICATIONS DISTRIBUTION Pitt IT provides a wide variety of software titles through the University's agreements with software vendors.