Indirect Access: Legal Gray Area
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Indirect Access: Legal Gray Area

Eventually, the question of whether SAP’s Indirect Access is legal will be determined by the evaluation of interoperability. To what extent do IT programs have to communicate and collaborate through APIs?

Whatever the reason, SAP has been pushing its licensing model Indirect Access for three years now, and it is unreasonable to expect it to stop anytime soon. However, one question remains: is SAP even entitled to collect money for “indirect” access?

Juergen Beckers is the owner of a German law firm called BDH, specializing in software and IT law. He is familiar with the licensing topic. Beckers even goes one step further and asks: is SAP’s Indirect Access against the law?

He explains, “While EU Software Directive 2009/24/EC protects free interoperability of devices and computer programs, customers of SAP shall pay additional license fees just for the data exchange between SAP ERP software and a third-party application. Such a licensing policy is not only a big nuisance for SAP customers, it also limits competition in the SAP eco system as third-party applications become so tremendously expensive for SAP customers that they won’t buy them anymore.”

Indirect access: irritating customers

With Indirect Access, SAP is irritating many loyal customers and partners. According to a study focusing on the topic of Indirect Access, 43 percent of respondents have been SAP customers for 20 years or more. This means that they have a lot of experience dealing with SAP and its licensing models. However, only 66 percent know about the financial consequences of Indirect Access. This, in turn, confirms the suspicions of many German lawyers that the practice might be against the law.

Indirect Access can affect anybody, and the legal gray area is vast and nearly unmanageable. There are solutions like Yambs.Avise by Software4Professionals to help combat the licensing model, but even these companies don’t know exactly if they are operating in a legal gray area themselves.

Many business processes are currently orchestrated using numerous systems. The number of applications and technologies in use is increasing rather than decreasing. Consequently, the organizational integration under licensing regulations is key.

Steffen Pietsch, CTO of DSAG (German-speaking SAP user group), demands an “API (Application Programming Interface) First” strategy of SAP. This would make all features and data of an application accessible through public, standardized, and documented interfaces.

While this idea is great, there is still one thing missing, however. Customers need SAP to draw up an adequate licensing model which is transparently informing customers about costs and legal security.

E-3 Magazine March 2019 (German)

About the author

Peter M. Färbinger, Editor-in-Chief

Peter M. Färbinger is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher at E-3 Magazine, AG, Munich, Germany. He can be reached at

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