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Microsoft Product Use Rights (PUR)

The Devil is in the details

The Devil is in the details

This article has been contributed by Sean Robinson of License Dashboard.

Microsoft Product Use Rights Document – the hidden font of Microsoft licensing knowledge!

As any Software Asset Manager should know, a license is actually the right to use a piece of software, and the ways in which a license can be used are governed by the terms and conditions of the contract which creates the license.

The terms and conditions of Microsoft licenses are found in a variety of different documents, including documents such as Master Business and Services Agreements, Enterprise or Select Plus Agreements, and Enterprise or Select Plus Enrolments.

However most of these documents are designed to govern the relationship between Microsoft and the company or organisation that is using the licenses. They don’t actually contain most of the detailed provisions that dictate how licenses can actually be used. They do, however, reference another document, Microsoft’s Product Use Rights (PUR) document, which can be downloaded from the Microsoft’s Product Licensing web page, and it is possible to download both the current PUR and past PURs.

The PUR document contains the detailed terms and conditions for every Microsoft application and product sold through Microsoft Volume Licensing. It is updated regularly by Microsoft, and in conjunction with your Master Agreement, Select Plus and / or Enterprise Agreements and the Enrolments, it is one of the key documents governing your relationship with Microsoft.

Despite its importance, many Software Asset Managers have barely heard of the PUR, let alone read it or ever used it to understand how to license particular products and applications. It is also helpful when validating information received from the SAM support network, eg resellers, licensing consultants and Microsoft themselves!

Given that accountability for correctly interpreting the terms and conditions of licenses always rests with the end user organisation, all Software Asset Managers should be able to use the PUR to at least satisfy themselves that advice they have received from licensing consultants is correct.

Using the PUR

The PUR contains three sets of license terms – Universal License Terms, which apply to all volume licenses, General License Terms, which apply to all products licensed under a particular licensing model, and Product-Specific License Terms, which apply only to a specific application or product.

There are also appendices, which is where you will find the license terms applying to Software Assurance

The PUR is updated on a monthly basis, and always includes the terms and conditions of the current version of software. Older versions of the PUR are also available for download, and it is vital that Software Asset Managers are always referring to the correct version of the PUR for the product that you are licensing.

But bear in mind if you are taking advantage of downgrades rights that it is the T&Cs of the actual license you purchase that apply, not the version actually installed. So for instance if you purchase SQL 2012 to cover a SQL 2008 installation, the T&Cs of the 2012 version will be the ones you need to refer to.

Universal License Terms

The Universal License Terms are where you will find key licensing principles such as ‘Rights to use other versions’ (which includes downgrade rights) and ‘No Commercial Hosting’ which prohibits use of the products for commercial hosted services, which might happen if your IT department provides services to a 3rd party as part of a commercial contract eg a facilities management contract.

It is also in this section that Microsoft details its ‘License Reassignment’ terms – Microsoft specifically specifies that licenses may not be reassigned on a short term basis (less than 90 days) and that if a license is reassigned the software must be uninstalled or blocked from use. Microsoft also lists some exceptions to this rule eg CALs and license mobility (more on that later).

General License Terms

Microsoft defines 10 license models, each of which has a set of General License Terms associated with it. The document is structured so that the Product Specific Terms for each individual application are listed in a section devoted to each License Model. This can make finding Product Specific Terms challenging to locate – the find function (Cntrl + F) is particularly helpful, as is the product index at the end of the document (if you are crazy enough to read past the appendices and realise it’s there!).

The 10 license models are:

  1. Desktop Applications
  2. Desktop Operating Systems
  3. Servers: Processor/CAL
  4. Servers: Server/CAL
  5. Servers: Per Processor
  6. Servers: Per Core
  7. Management Servers
  8. Specialty Servers
  9. Developer Tools
  10. Online Services

It is in the General License Terms for Desktop Applications that you will find the reason why publishing Microsoft products on a Citrix server can lead to nasty surprises (see Citrix Licensing Quick Guide). It is a combination of the following two terms:

1. You must assign each license to a single device; and

9. Remote use of the software running a network Servicer is permitted for any user from a licensed device.

Product Specific License Terms

After the General License Terms for each License Model, the PUR lists the Product Specific License Terms for each application that uses that particular license model. So for instance, the Product Specific License Terms for MS Office Pro Plus, MS Visio Std and MS MapPoint are all listed in the ‘Desktop Applications’ Section, while SQL Standard 2012 is listed twice, both in the ‘Servers: Server / CAL’ section and also in the ‘Server: Per Core’ section.

The Product Specific License Terms are the ones which change the most frequently, being updated with every new version of software that is released. Sometimes the changes can be quite dramatic. For instance in the Oct 09 version of the PUR there is a specific term which allows certain Server / CAL licenses, including SQL Enterprise 2008, to be reallocated to servers within a server farm as needed (license mobility):

SOFTWARE AND EXTERNAL CONNECTOR LICENSE REASSIGNMENT: Within a server farm. You may reassign software and external connector licenses to any of your servers located within the same server farm as often as needed. The prohibition against short-term reassignment does not apply to software and external connector licenses assigned to servers located within the same server farm.

However the Product Specific Terms for SQL Std 2012 are quite different – although License Mobility within server farms is allowed, the Product Specific Term specifies that this right only applies to licenses with active Software Assurance.

LICENSE MOBILITY — ASSIGNING SERVER LICENSES AND USING SOFTWARE WITHIN AND ACROSS SERVER FARMS: You have the right to reassign server licenses as described in “License Mobility – Assigning Server and External Connector Licenses and Using Software within and across Server Farms” only for licenses with active Software Assurance.


There are also 3 Appendices, Notices, Software Assurance and Additional Software. Of the three, it is the Software Assurance Appendix that will be most useful to Software Asset Managers. In particular, the ‘Roaming Rights’,  ‘Servers – ‘Cold’ Disaster Recovery Rights’ and ‘SQL Server Enterprise 2012 Unlimited Virtualisation’ sections provide significant additional benefits for some applications over and above those outlined in the rest of the document.

This is also where the T&Cs for Windows 8 Enterprise are provided, including rules around Windows Virtual Desktop (VDA) and Companion Device Liceses (CDL) as strictly speaking Windows 8 Enterprise is a Software Assurance Benefit.

As you can see, the PUR document contains the terms and conditions which underpin some of the most basic principles of Microsoft licenses, for instance that desktop applications are licensed per device, as well as some of the newest and most complex license terms, for instance those governing desktop virtualisation and how to license user owned devices accessing a corporate network.

Software Licensing consultants working for Microsoft Accredited organisations eg a LAR, receive intensive training on each new licensing model as well as how to interpret the PUR. Unfortunately this isn’t available for Software Asset Managers working at the coal face of software licensing, however familiarity with the PUR at least gives Software Asset Managers a way of ‘sanity checking’ the advice they receive from external sources such as their LAR.

This article has been contributed by Sean Robinson of License Dashboard.

About Sean Robinson

Sean has over 12 years’ experience of delivering SAM consultancy to organizations worldwide and is a founding director of specialist tools vendor, License Dashboard.

One Comment

  1. Thanks Sean, I find this very helpful. At my former employer we ran into the Citrix surprise. Costly surprise I might add! Cheers, Marc

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