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I am going to conduct a workshop on my research work and for that I need to show how it is done on the software. I want to know,

  • Is it ok to display the proprietary software (through TeamViewer) from my university?
  • or Should I use screenshots?
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    I think it will depend completely on whether the license of the proprietary software allows this. So you'll have to read it. But I'd be pretty surprised if it did not. – Nate Eldredge Aug 26 '14 at 4:44
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    Be aware that, depending on what exactly you do, such a demonstration can be seen as advertising the software, which can have advantages (as the software manufacturer usually likes this) and disadvantages (as you may not be supposed to advertise software in the workshop). – Wrzlprmft Aug 26 '14 at 8:05
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    The question here is why are you using proprietary software for research at all? – mirabilos Aug 26 '14 at 14:06
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    @mirabilos propietary software is very common in some areas (MATLAB) and unavoidable in others (vendor instruments is the most obvious, lack of open version is another). – Davidmh Aug 26 '14 at 20:24
  • @Davidmh a friend of mine just ported a Windows driver for some instrument to Linux, during his work on a Chemistry degree ;-) – mirabilos Aug 27 '14 at 10:47
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Generally speaking it is totally fine to use or demonstrate publicly (at a conference or elsewhere) some proprietary software. Many presenters use Microsoft Windows along with Microsoft PowerPoint, and nobody ever gets into trouble.

That said, if you want to be 100% sure you need to peruse the end-user license agreement (EULA), which is the contract that stipulates under which conditions the program might be used: this is the ultimate reference. For example, the EULA can prohibit researchers and scientists from explicitly using the names of their systems in a benchmark. (Oracle is notorious for that, they sued David DeWitt following some benchmarks he had published that mentioned Oracle, see the DeWitt Clause).

Beyond the EULA, one exception I can think of is if you have signed some confidentiality contract, which can happen when the software hasn't been released yet and the developers give you access to some pre-release version of it.

Another exception is that if by "show how it is done on the software" you mean reverse engineer the software, then you might want to be careful: reverse engineering is borderline. E.g. in the United States, EULA provisions can preempt the reverse engineering rights implied by fair use, c.f. Bowers v. Baystate Technologies.

The last exception I can think of is video games: they can be seen as art, both for the graphic and the music. Just like you can't show a movie or broadcast music publicly in the general case (e.g. Twitch mutes some screencasts), video game publishers might use some similar arguments in court. That's very theoretical.

All in all, if you're having some doubts, you might want to drop by the legal office in your University, because as any law 101 course says, the answer is always "it depends".

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    Note that EULAs (in particular, if they are shrink-wrap contracts) are disputed if not clearly void in many jurisdictions. – Wrzlprmft Aug 26 '14 at 8:00
  • A DeWitt clause does not forbid mentioning software names in an academic paper. It forbids publishing benchmark information, aka performance results, without approval by the software maker. – mkennedy Aug 26 '14 at 18:41
  • @mkennedy Yes a DeWitt clause restricts the mention of the program name in the context of a benchmark. Note that you can still publish benchmark information if you don't mention the name (and e.g. instead say "some main competitor"). – Franck Dernoncourt Aug 26 '14 at 18:47
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    @Wrzlprmft Yes, e.g. in France's legislation some EULAs' conditions can fall under the definition of abusive clauses. – Franck Dernoncourt Aug 26 '14 at 18:48
  • Hi Franck, the reason why I commented is that I don't think the distinction is clear in the answers that you're giving. – mkennedy Aug 26 '14 at 18:49
3

Screenshots are much better than a live demonstration.

Too many things can go wrong with a live demonstration: Problems with the Internet connectivity at the conference, at your university, or anywhere between the two points. Servers being down for maintenance. Software crashing unexpectedly. Embarrassing user errors during the presentation. You cannot connect your own laptop to the video projector at the conference, and you need to resort to another computer that does not have the right software installed. Yearly software license expiring the same morning as you are supposed to give the talk. Wrong screen resolution for the software. Etc., etc.

None of these reasons are related to copyrights. Of course if you can show screenshots you can also show the software itself.

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