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SAP's new and old licensing model for "indirect" use

Have you ever asked yourself whether you are really using your SAP software for its intended purpose? We're not talking about whether you're managing, shipping and invoicing marijuana plants instead of tropical fruit. What is meant here is the "indirect" use invented by SAP.
Peter M. Färbinger, E3 Magazine
October 16, 2018
SAP's new and old licensing model for "indirect" use
This text has been automatically translated from German to English.

At the DSAG Annual Congress 2017 in Bremen, Munich-based lawyer Dr. Michael Karger got to the heart of the matter in his highly acclaimed presentation: Access to add-ons and third-party software via interfaces is part of the intended use of every SAP application purchased and the interoperability of programs must not be restricted.

He thus destroyed - at least legally - "indirect" use with Section 69d of the Copyright Act. And Michael Karger emphasized it again in his presentation: The core principle of software copyright law is interoperability!

Accordingly, the EU Software Directive 2009/24 also states: "The function of computer programs is to interface and operate with the other components of a computer system and the users.

To this end, logical and, when appropriate, physical connection and interaction is necessary to ensure that software and users can function as intended.

The parts of the program that are intended to enable such connection and interaction between the elements of software and hardware are commonly known as the 'interface'.

This functional connection and interaction is commonly known as interoperability; this interoperability can be defined as the ability to exchange information and to mutually use the information exchanged."

Digital Core

While interoperability between software components represents their intended existence, SAP is trying to make it clear to the IT world that communication and data exchange outside of SAP's sovereign territory means "indirect use" and is subject to licensing.

On the one hand, "indirect use" is borderline anyway due to the legal definition of "interoperability"; on the other hand, the division of the SAP universe into the two halves of the realm "SAP Application Access" (blue) and "Indirect/Digital Access" (green) is purely arbitrary (see circle diagram).

According to SAP, SAP Application Access (blue) is exempt from supplementary license payments and "indirect" use. These include: Ariba, Concur, SuccessFactors, Fieldglass and Hybris. It is interesting to note in this context that SAP's Hana Cloud Platform (HCP) is not exempt from "indirect use" (highlighted in green and red).

Entire documents and item lines that have a write function using an HCP app in the Digital Core (Create Scheduling Agreements, see graphic below, point 2) must pay license attribute to SAP for this "indirect" use.

Digital Core Example
Assuming that you develop an app on the HCP (Hana Cloud Platform) and operate this portal via a smartphone (example 2 of the SAP graphic shown), you will be subject to a license in the sense of the new regulation for "indirect use". Why? Because in the new license rules, SAP has not allocated HCP to Hybris, Ariba, Concur etc., but has moved it to the chargeable "Indirect/Digital Access" section (see circle graphic).

The "problem" with the intended use of SAP software is therefore neither business nor organizational, nor is it technical. The challenge lies in understanding SAP's license arbitrariness.

In business life, only a monopolist can afford this arbitrariness if it keeps changing the rules of the game. This request is also part of a current complaint against SAP at the Berlin antitrust authority.

At the event License know-how on September 18 in Heidelberg, this point will also be discussed. Ultimately, this will turn SAP into its own enemy. After all, who will still want to use the Hana Cloud Platform?

Peter M. Färbinger, E3 Magazine

Peter M. Färbinger, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief E3 Magazine DE, US and ES (, AG, Freilassing (DE), E-Mail: and Tel. +49(0)8654/77130-21

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