A system and method for managing the distribution of licensed application programs stored on a server over a distributed computer system maintains control over the program even after the program has been distributed to a client computer from a provider on an information server. Protection may include license expiration date verification, authorized user ID verification, and protection against decompilation and reverse engineering by maintaining the program in an encrypted form until verification of the expiration date and user identity are complete and the program is ready for decoding, loading into the client computer CPU, and execution. A user identifies a program for trial use by any conventional means such as by using a network browser on the World Wide Web. The server recognizes a user request to access the application program. The server may have an agent on the client computer for performing certain predetermined administrative tasks. This agent may take the form of an application builder program module, provided by the trial application provider, which is resident on the client computer. The server (including the agent) determines whether program access conditions are satisfied, and if satisfied transmits a version of the program to the client. The transmitted file includes an encrypted portion. The server and agent also verify that the user is currently entitled to execute the application program including that the trial license has not expired at the time the user initiates execution, and generates an executable version of the application program.