Matlab student/research problem

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DaveD on 5 Jan 2013
Commented: Walter Roberson on 16 Nov 2016
If I have matlab student installed on my computer, is it illegal to develop any code for research on that computer, if I run the final analyses on a machine which has the research license? It would be nice to develop matlab code when I can't SSH into our linux machine.
I know that the FAQ says that you cannot use the student version for research, but in this case, I would only be using it to develop code, the final data analysis would be done on a machine that has MATLAB installed.
Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 16 Nov 2016
John Kulpa:
"Could you point out to me where it says [...]"
When you get to that level, you should be contacting Mathworks for their final word on the matter. I would not imagine that many lawyers are reading and responding to these questions; we non-lawyers who volunteer here can only go by the ordinary meaning of words, and are likely not to know details of laws and case laws about what various terms mean when used in licenses.
In R2016b, you can find a copy of your license agreement at
fullfile(matlabroot, 'license_agreement.txt')
You will find there, at roughly line 765
"2.1. Academic Internal Operations. The installation and use of the Programs by Licensed Users, in accordance with the Academic License Option acquired, for the purpose of (i) in the case of employees (faculty and academic staff), performing software administration, teaching, and noncommercial, academic research in their ordinary course as Licensee's employees; and (ii) in the case of enrolled students, meeting classroom requirements of courses and study offered by the Licensee. Any other use is expressly prohibited."
Notice this does not allow students to undertake academic research using Academic licenses, not unless that research is a classroom requirement. Therefore for the original question here of whether a student could use a Student license to develop code for research as long as the student transferred the code to an academic license for the final analysis, the answer is NO, even if only on the grounds that a student is not permitted to use an academic license for research outside their course requirements.
Yes, hypothetically a student could do the development and transfer the developed software to academic staff who would push the "enter" key to launch the final analysis, but historically Mathworks has not looked favorably upon that kind of proxy execution, and might (for example) point out that in such a case it would not be the research of the person who pressed the button.
Around line 980 of the license file you will find, in the Student and Home addendum:
"5. ELIGIBILITY, INSTALLATION, AND USE. Licensee agrees to the following eligibility and use restrictions of the Student License and the Home License: a Licensee of a Student License must be a student enrolled in a degree-granting educational institution or participating in a continuing education program at a degree-granting educational institution and may use the license only for student activities that are not commercial, for profit, professional, or revenue generating activities for the period of such student use;"
We are then led to the question of whether student research is a "student activity" at all, and if it is whether it is "commercial, for profit, professional, or revenue generating".
I think it would be unlikely that Mathworks would consider a student doing "research" to be a permitted activity if the student is getting compensated for doing the research. For example if the student is receiving a grant or bursary or reduced tuition in respect of the student assisting with the research, then my opinion is that such an activity would certainly be disallowed under a student license.
If a student were to engage in (for example) writing a paper or presenting a poster for the purpose of furthering their career, increasing their chances of getting a grad position or to look better to potential post-doc employers, then that would, I suspect, be considered to be "professional" activities not permitted. I am not saying that this interpretation is "fair" and encouraging to students, but the wording is there. There does appear to be a gap in the licensing, no provision for such things in anything other than a Standard / Professional license.
Now, if a student were to do research as a complete volunteer, with no paper or academic credit or funding at all, then that might escape the list of prohibited uses, but it is not entirely clear to me that it would be considered a "student activity".
The section I quoted just above continues,
"a Licensee of a Home License must be an individual and may use the license only for personal use and not for professional, academic, or commercial use, including for profit or revenue generating activities, and only for the period of such personal use."
I think this would be a better fit for what might be essentially "self-study" from someone who is a keen volunteer with no expectations of publishing and so on, but who might happen to find an academic mentor. A lot depends on the interpretation of what "academic" work is.
When someone offered to more or less lend me some toolboxes so I could better answer questions here as a volunteer, I sought and obtained special permission from Mathworks for that, as it is fuzzy as to whether my volunteer work can be considered "personal use" since I am answering questions with respect to other people's student or academic or commercial use. I did not engage in "Could you point out to me where it says": I wrote to them and made sure that they were okay with it.
I recommend to anyone who is unsure whether their proposed behavior would be in-bounds, that they write to Mathworks and describe the situation and ask.

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Answers (1)

Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 5 Jan 2013
My reading of the license terms is that it would be a license violation. License violations are a gray area as to whether they are civil or criminal matters.
Student Version is strictly for doing class work and learning how to use MATLAB and related tools. "Research" work can be done with a Student Version license only to the extent that the Research is part of your degree requirements.
The Academic Institution can authenticate you against an Academic Network License they hold; that might involve a small VPN into the university network to communicate with the license server.
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Jan on 5 Jan 2013
I want to stress, that the license conditions are a gray field. E.g. imagine that you open one research license by VPN and a locally installed student version simultaneously. Would developing in the research version's editor and running from the student version for learning be ok?!
Therefore I suggest to ask your admin, who should ask the local Matlab distributor, to get solid instructions in written form.

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