The ITAM Review

News, reviews and resources for worldwide ITAM, SAM and Licensing professionals.

The Barium Manifesto

Barium: with clear visibility and transparency of the insides of the patient, the Doctor can make an informed prognosis.

The Mega-Vendor Arab Spring

In my experience the vast majority of businesses are enthusiastic about technology and are happy to pay a fair price for it.

However, software licensing is complex. Software licensing is a hindrance to the adoption of new transformative technology and innovation.

Software licensing is a blocker rather than an enabler.

Software publishers abuse it as a mechanism for extracting the most revenue from a customer once they are committed to a technology platform. Shouldn’t it be used as an enabler to adapt technology to their requirements?

Many terms within license agreements are either unclear, unmanageable or simply move too quickly for the customer to keep up.

I wrote back in October “…the software licensing industry desperately needs to have an ‘Emperor’s New Clothes‘ moment of clarity and recognize the absurd behavior of mega-vendors.”

Software Licensing Market Pivot

It is time to pivot the software licensing market and tip the balance in favour of customers.

Several trade bodies exist within the software licensing market such as the BSA, SIIA and FAST. These organizations are squarely focused at intellectual property protection and raising the profile of software as an asset.

Where is the trade body speaking and acting on behalf of business customers? Who is making sure that software publishers are not unfairly manipulating business users of software?

Ba 56

Why Barium? Barium is used in medicine when a Doctor needs to examine the digestive system.

“Barium is a white liquid that shows up clearly on an X-ray. Once it is inside the body, it coats the inside of the gullet, stomach or bowel. And so it shows up the outline of the organs on the X-ray.” source

With clear visibility and transparency of the insides of the patient, the Doctor can make an informed prognosis.

I’d like to perform a similar analysis on the software industry.

IT and software in particular is an enormous part of business today, and software licensing is the vehicle for transacting business with customers. I’d like to shine a light on the guts of software licensing and expose the inner workings.

Project Barium – The Manifesto

In short, I propose a new not-for-profit regulator for the software licensing industry.


This licensing regulator will provide:

  • Clarity to the software licensing market
  • Highlight absurd, confusing or unrealistic licensing terms
  • Promote and reward clear licensing terms

Guiding Principles:

  • Not for profit organization
  • Publisher independent
  • Supported by commercial sponsorships and accreditations

Key Deliverables:

  • Provide an anonymous ‘whistleblowing’ mechanism for customers to highlight software publisher malpractice
  • Openly highlight bad licensing practices and suggest acceptable legal workarounds in the absence of clarity from publishers
  • Proactively lobby software publishers to clarify their licensing programs
  • Provide a code of conduct for vendor audits, licensing programs, SAM technology and software management
  • Recognize and reward clear licensing programs
  • Proactively seek the support and endorsement of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other central government agencies responsible for fair play in competitive markets.
  • Proactively support and promote the adoption of measures to increase competitiveness in the software licensing market such as secondary use and cooperative agreements.
  • Support the software licensing industry in exploring new platforms and devices.

Who’s with me?

After four years commentating on licensing and SAM I thought it was about time I started taking action. This is my effort to start changing the status quo. It starts here. From humble beginnings in a blog article, maybe we can make a positive difference.

YOUR CALL TO ACTION: This article proposes a new not-for-profit regulator for the software industry. If you support the idea in principle please lend your support for the project by leaving a comment below.

About Martin Thompson

Martin is owner and founder of The ITAM Review, an online resource for worldwide ITAM professionals. The ITAM Review is best known for its weekly newsletter of all the latest industry updates, LISA training platform, Excellence Awards and conferences in UK, USA and Australia.

Martin is also the founder of ITAM Forum, a not-for-profit trade body for the ITAM industry created to raise the profile of the profession and bring an organisational certification to market. On a voluntary basis Martin is a contributor to ISO WG21 which develops the ITAM International Standard ISO/IEC 19770.

He is also the author of the book "Practical ITAM - The essential guide for IT Asset Managers", a book that describes how to get started and make a difference in the field of IT Asset Management. In addition, Martin developed the PITAM training course and certification.

Prior to founding the ITAM Review in 2008 Martin worked for Centennial Software (Ivanti), Silicon Graphics, CA Technologies and Computer 2000 (Tech Data).

When not working, Martin likes to Ski, Hike, Motorbike and spend time with his young family.

Connect with Martin on LinkedIn.


  1. Rich Gibbons says:

    Hi Martin,
    This seems like a great idea to me! It’s something that is definitely needed and would be welcomed by customers and (most) vendors too.
    I’d be more than happy to support & be involved in this – let me know!

  2. Matt Fisher says:

    Hi Martin – yup; we at License Dashboard are with you. What you’re calling for above makes sense and should ultimately benefit all stakeholders in the SAM and licensing communities.

  3. Rory Canavan says:

    This initiative gets whole-hearted support from SAM Charter – Considering that IT is supposed to facilitate communication I am dismayed that this hasn’t happened sooner

  4. Jim Tudor says:

    The Manifesto is laudable and hits a nerve. The name of it might not pass the marketing snicker test, but hopefully that observation is either incorrect or won’t hinder progress. Barium certainly is an apt description of the movement (no pun intended), but it may be a quick way to dismiss a very serious need. I hope it succeeds, wish for same, will support and thanks for the efforts.

  5. Matt ward says:

    Sounds like a good idea! Softcat will support you.

  6. Tina Fruhauf - Computacenter says:

    I agree, it would be great to see vendors help their end users to use their products without the smoke and mirrors. The fast changing way that users are accessing apps and data can have far reaching cost implications in terms of licensing.

  7. Bruce McDowell says:

    Excellent idea! I’m just a small fish, but 100% with you.

  8. Marc Neele says:

    Hi Martin, I’m interested, great initiative, let me know if you need another license ‘chiropractor’. Regards, Marc

  9. Andy Oliver says:


    Great idea. Count me in. Would you want to go as far as endorsing the ISO/IEC 19770-2 Software Tagging standard? Because, how can you know if you are in compliance with the license, if you have no standard way to identify what is installed in your environment.

  10. David Lubert says:

    Hi Martin:

    This is very much needed! Objectivity! Might suggest another term than Barium since this is a somewhat outdated method for transparency with gastrointestinal problems, but will leave that to the marketing gurus!

  11. Jacobo Senior says:

    Fully agree and outstanding idea. Something needs to be done ASAP to help customers be compliant and help them navigate the rough waters of many vendors T&Cs and SAM engagements (led / funded by publisher) where the ultimate goal is to find new revenue. I recall a recent blog article by Net net where they talk about the Stockholm Syndrome in the SW market – customers not doing the due diligence and seeking unbiased advice – and just trusting what the publisher argues.

  12. John boisvenue says:

    A brilliant way to ensure objectivity and identify the greedy culprits who would rather increase complexity to get rich rather than work with their partners to improve technology and goodwill.

  13. Miguel M-H says:

    Great idea…so many places to start and a much needed resource for all. What are the next steps?

  14. itsmreview says:

    Also a LinkedIn Discussion here:

  15. itsmreview says:

    Thanks Jim, it’s just a working title. I agree it needs a proper title. Something obvious like ‘Fair Licensing’ which is what we are trying to achieve.

  16. itsmreview says:

    Hi Andy, thanks for your support. Agreed. Pushing vendors to adopt -2 is a no-brainer.

  17. itsmreview says:

    Thanks Jacobo. Here it is: “the Software Hostage needs to realize that they have the ability to escape”

  18. itsmreview says:

    Thanks Miguel. Further details to follow, I’ll issue updates via the ITAM Review newsletter.

  19. Excellent idea…I’ve been wondering when an “equalizer” was going to rise up against unfair licensing tactics. Leave it to The ITAM Review :-). Looking forward to see what will happen next.

  20. John Springall says:

    Great idea Martin! Other organisations such as BSA, SIIA and FAST all lobby on behalf of the software publishers. Yes, the consumers need a voice too!
    Not only are current software licence models antiquated (including those of major publishers) but they are open to sharp practice and abuse by sales teams. These practices need to be exposed, the culprits named and shamed!
    Unfortunately the publishers haven’t woken up to the fact that their poor licensing is pushing users towards Open Source products too.

    Count me in!

  21. Andrea Perrot says:

    Excellent idea Martin. will you be mentioning it tomorrow night as a discussion point?

  22. D.Foxen says:

    Hi Martin,
    I think that this is a brilliant idea, and something that is needed in the current SAM environment. I am only just starting my career in SAM, but I would be behind it 100% and happy to help out as best I can.
    Kind Regards

  23. bryantcaldwell says:

    Through the course of history the “people” have always had need for representation and SAM is no different. Charge on!

  24. Mauro Gario says:

    Hi Martin.

    Very good initiative, mainly in these times of crisis where Licensors are becoming more and more aggressive without any good proposal to support compliance.

    I would propose to include European Commission work groups as part of the targets to proactively seek for support and endorsement.

    They already made good efforts and had good results with Industry bigs and should fully understand customer requirements in this corner.

  25. Noel says:

    At last, a customer rather than vendor orientated Trade Body for the Software Industry – something that has been sadly lacking in recent years within both the conventional and pre-owned / secondary software markets…

  26. Mark says:

    It would be good to have a “peoples champion” rather than the good cop/bad cop stance of some of these bodies. Being told, read line 23, para 94 of the 400 page EULA, which requires a whole raft of legal wizards to understand, is not what we want.

    I would also like to have some ask the question of why do we have ISO 19770 parts 1-3, and then the Publishers fail to follow them….

  27. itsmreview says:

    Mauro – Agreed. I would welcome any intelligence or contacts you have in this area. Thanks, Martin

  28. itsmreview says:

    Mark – A good point. Adoption of the appropriate ISO/IEC 19770 dashes should be integral to this effort.

  29. itsmreview says:

    A quick update on this. Response has been overwhelmingly positive publicly and privately to this idea. The project is likely to be called “The Campaign for Clear Licensing” thoughts?

  30. itsmreview says:

    Nice analysis from our friends at Express Metrix here: “Will it have teeth?”

  31. Martin, this is a great idea that’s long overdue. Count Express Metrix in as a wholehearted supporter. Looking forward to learning how we can help!

  32. Berlin says:

    Great idea Martin!

    Publishers that do not comply to ISO/IEC 19770 should not be allowed to carry out audit as they themselves does not comply to standards.

    This initiative will require people from Legal, ITAM, support from authorities and even from Publishers. Good place to start would be publishers who are already complying to ISO 19770.

  33. James Moy says:

    Agreed. Manufacturers need to make licensing easy and simple…not like the US tax law

  34. Andrey Stepenko says:

    Martin, I’m in.


  35. Anne Watsin says:

    Agreed. One of the biggest challenges in SAM is finding the appropriate markers to validate a legitimate install and working through the nuances of the licensing model. Some software publishers rely upon that as a gotcha.

  36. itsmreview says:

    Thank you for your support. Not-for-profit company and website set up here: – please download and provide your feedback on the manifesto.

Leave a Comment