Physics Computing Policy

It is the policy of the FSU Physics Department to abide by all State and Federal laws and all University policies regarding the use of copyrighted software.

Proprietary software is almost never sold outright, but is normally licensed for use only under very specific conditions. Since ownership of the software is retained by the software company, it is up the user to demonstrate a right to utilize the software. Conditions of permitted usage vary, and the license agreement should be consulted to determine how the software may be used and copied. Normally, you are allowed to make one archival copy for backup purposes. In some cases the Department or University has obtained special site licenses that allow software to be copied and distributed, and only under such agreements should proprietary software be freely copied and distributed, and then only for use on University computers.

When illegal use of software is discovered, the offender is subject to substantial fines under State and Federal law. According to the US Copyright Law, illegal reproduction of software can subject the offender to civil damages of as much as $100,000 per work copied, and also to criminal penalties consisting of fines and/or imprisonment.

The FSU Physics Department does not condone the illegal use or copying of software. Departmental staff members will not install nor assist in the installation of any software about whose legality they harbor any doubts. Computer users (or the supervisor of users in the case of multiuser computers or multiuser network) requesting a member of the technical staff to install software for their use (or to assist in such an installation) will be required to sign a statement certifying that the software will be used only in accordance with the license agreement of the software. Technical staff members will not install any software not owned by the University, nor will they install any software on any personally-owned computer. FSU employees who become aware of any illegal use of software within the University should notify the Department Chair or FSU's Office of the Inspector General.

The University has the right to conduct an audit of all computer hard disks or other storage media which it owns. In some case there may be personally-owned computers or storage media present in Departmental offices or laboratories. Such computers or media should be plainly labeled "Personal property of ... " in order to preserve the rights of the owner against an inadvertant unconstitutional search. In the case of personally-owned computing equipment or storage media being used to conduct University business, or in the case of personally-owned software on a Departmental machine, you should have the software licenses available for inspection.

Here is what you are advised to do:

(a) Periodically audit your own computer hard disks and other storage media in order to locate and remove any software requiring a license but for which you cannot produce reasonable evidence of a license being purchased. If you cannot produce the license itself, look for the original documentation and diskettes (or CD ROM) and/or locate the purchase order for the item.

(b) Once you have your machine cleaned up, run the Spaudit program (or the Macintosh version) and save the Spaudit.log file as a reference file. From time to time, run the Spaudit program to generate a new Spaudit.log file. Compare the old and new files to detect any unwanted executable and licensable software which someone may have inadvertently left on your machine. The Spaudit files are small and could be conveniently left on your hard disk. (c) Alert all users of your machines that you do not permit installation of any software which is not accompanied by a legal license to be left in your possession.

(d) Encourage FSU students and employees to honor intellectual property rights in the same way they would honor any other property rights. After all, we in the universities are most vulnerable to being damaged by callous disregard of intellectual property rights.

Academic Computing and Network Services (ACNS) coordinates and administers several site licenses which allow popular software to be obtained for use on University machines at a greatly reduced price. Details can be found on the Physics Department Web Page.

Since computers in the Physics Department change hands fairly frequently due to student graduation and staff turnover, it is not practical or efficient to maintain a file of licenses at the location of each computer. Maintainence of proof-of-purchase records for software licenses is best handled by the particular fiscal office in the Department which purchases the license and is, consequently, in a unique position to document the purchase. Each fiscal office in the Department (i.e. 2'nd, 4'th, 5'th, and 3'rd floor fiscal offices, consisting of research area offices and Departmental office) will generate a license file (labeled with the computer's FSU number) for each computer in its purview. Existing proof-of-purchase records for software licenses gathered in the present audit will be placed in these files. When additional software is purchased, a copy of the purchase order will be placed in the file for the particular computer1) on which it is to be used. Since the terms of usage of the software are delineated in the license, it very desirable that a copy of the license be available in the file. Therefore, when additional software is purchased, either the original or a copy of the license is to be turned over to the appropriate fiscal office for filing. When users move software between machines, or make other changes, they are required to inform the appropriate fiscal office so that files can be adjusted.

If a fiscal office director does not choose to maintain such computer files due to lack of resources or other reasons, then it will be up to the computer users who purchase software through that fiscal office to maintain a software license file (including copies of software purchase orders) at each computer or at another appropriate site.

From time to time it will be necessary to carry out software audits in order to remove any illegal software which may have inadvertently found its way onto any of our computers. Approximately once each year, the Chair of the Information Resources Committee will call for a software audit. The actual machine checking will need to be coordinated by qualified technical personnel associated with each research area, or the Electronics Engineering Group in the case of Departmental computers. Audit forms generated in these audits are to be turned over to the appropriate fiscal offices for filing and record updating. Research areas may choose not to participate in these audits, but to conduct their audits at their own convenience at intervals not exceeding one year.


  1. Obviously, some cross-filing will be necessary. Several copies of software for use on several computers may be purchased on one purchase order or included on a single (multiuser, or multimachine) license, and a record in each file should list where the other copies are in use. Networking software clearly necessitates cross-filing.
  2. Some license serial numbers are printed on the covers of the documentation, so the cover should be copied and filed. The terms of the license may be simply printed on the paper envelope containing the diskettes or CD ROM, or may be on the first page of the documentation. In each case a copy should be made and submitted for filing. Upon receipt of software, the user should search the material received for the terms of license, license serial number, and any additional proof of purchase beyond the purchase order. All these should be copied and submitted for filing along with pertinent notes.
  3. When a new computer is purchased with software included ("bundled"), all software which comes with the machine should be listed on the purchase order for purposes of documentation.
  4. It is suggested that the requisition forms used in the various areas of the department have a "software" box added which can be checked whenever a purchase involving software is requested. Next to the box should be a space in which to enter the FSU number and location of the computer for which the software is to be purchased (or an indication that it is a new computer with software). This will allow the purchase to the flagged so that when a copy of the purchase order comes back from purchasing a copy can be placed in the appropriate software file. Purchases under blanket purchase orders will pose a problem, and will require a special effort.