Reprinting my Message from the CTO from the twelfth newsletter so that you may comment on my thoughts. Am I prescient or just nuts?
Recently, I published a blog post about our licensing policies, and it turned out to be well received and widely read. But there was one question I did not cover: why licensing in the first place? In particular, why have this sentence in the EULA at all? "All SOFTWARE COMPONENT PRODUCT(S) is licensed, not sold." Why don't you own our software product after purchase?
The easy way out is to say we do it because everyone else does, but that doesn't get to the nub of the problem. In essence, it's a legal requirement. When you purchase a washing machine, say, the laws of your country or state determine what you can expect from your purchase: that is does what it's supposed to, that it has a warranty, that the warranty covers certain things for a certain time, etc. Indeed, the credit card you used to make the purchase also comes with laws and expectations governing its use.
The same goes for software; however, with software (mainly because of the ease of duplication and distribution and because of its flexibility) there must be a legal document to which you must agree that defines what you can do with it. This legal document is usually known as the EULA (End-User License Agreement) and covers your usage of the software, where and how often you can install it, whether you can distribute it or not, any warranty you may get (almost certainly none at all), the support policies, the responsibilities of the supplier and the user, definitions of intellectual property (IP) rights and copyright, and so on, so forth.
Because of the IP/copyright angle, even free open source software has a license to which you must agree (for example, I use the MIT license for my own code I make available for free). Caveat downloader.
In essence, without a license, software would be so expensive no one would be able to afford it.
We all work in the software industry, and so I doubt we even think any more about the fact we never own the software we buy, so I was surprised when I actually got this question by email one day (and this message text is roughly the answer I gave).
(Aside: I must thank Odi Kosmatos of Xceed Software for the "so expensive" quote he sent as a tweet. Thanks, Odi.)