I work for a company that has bought a licence for a windows client software that allows only 20 running clients per company. I am trying to find a way around this 20 user restriction by programming a PHP web front end that connects to the existing database. This will allow unlimited users to access the database.

The problem I have is that the licence states that no CRM type interface is allowed to be used with the package.

Since I will not be using the windows binary in any way, what is to stop me from studying the database schema and developing my own front end? I would have thought that a schema that uses common tables, for example, customer addresses, materials, parts, orders etc could not be copyrighted by law otherwise a single company could have a monopoly over it.

What makes a database general or distinct enough to warrant copyright?

Any thoughts on this?

  • 4
    You really need to ask a lawyer. The answer could have many localised variations. It could be argued that a database schema is an API and not copyrightable. On the other hand if you have signed a contract saying you will not directly connect to the database, copyright may not come into it. – Jaydee Jun 3 '13 at 14:18
  • If you're going to make a new front end, you might as well go all the way and make your own db schema, and get rid of that other app entirely. – GrandmasterB Jun 3 '13 at 19:17

The easiest, cheapest, safest, most ethically defensible way around the 20 client limit is to contact the vendor and pay them more money.

Your employer is (most likely) going to spend a LOT more time and money trying to program around the limit than they'd spend by buying more licenses.

You can always shop around for another product/vendor or write your own solution from scratch.

If you choose to write your own solution but base it on the current vendor's database structure, you'll need to find a local lawyer who can address your particular situation.

I strongly suspect the amount the lawyer would have to charge to provide a well-reasoned answer may be more than what it would cost to come up with your own database schema from scratch.

You may even come up with a better design.


First and foremost, get a lawyer to review any license/contract you have with the software provider, as there can be (and I would expect) limitations on usage.

IANAL, but I think copyright is the wrong issue to investigate. The schema is likely to be considered intellectual property and while maybe not copyrightable, certainly covered by any licensing or contract. The database design, including schema, stored procedures, etc., is as much a part of the application as the Windows UI. You have a usage license for 20 users that may very well include usage of the database in any form (if it was my company I certainly would). If that is the case, writing your own front end expressly to get more than 20 users will likely provide cause for the company to void your license entirely. This would cause much more hardship to your company than the cost of a new license with a higher user count.

  • Thanks for all the answers, very much appreciated. To replicate the entire package to the functionality of the existing windows client would be a huge undertaking. And all that just to create a new database schema that I would own the copyright of. There is no option to expand the number of users per licence as a competing company to ours has part ownership of the package unfortunately. I think its time to reconsider our options! – Martin Robins Jun 5 '13 at 8:22
  • Unfortunately, I've been through the same situation, with a competitor acquiring the vendor of a software package my company uses. All the more reason not to try to get around the license, you really don't need more issues with your competitor. – cdkMoose Jun 5 '13 at 15:02
  • Sorry to hear that. In fact it could be viewed as an anti-competitive move by the other company, a stealth tactic. No wonder open source software is getting more popular! – Martin Robins Jun 6 '13 at 8:47

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