Is your software licensing in compliance? How do you know if it is? You may be surprised in the consequences if it is not. The common belief is that the target of software compliance investigations are only large companies. In reality any individual or any company, large and small, can end up paying large settlements for inappropriately used software.
Itâ€™s the eleventh hour, the press is waiting, that big job weâ€™ve been waiting for on overtime has arrived â€“ and we donâ€™t have the font, or we canâ€™t open the file because we donâ€™t have the correct version of the application. The job has to get done. Somehow the solution appears, we resolve that we will correct the indiscretion as soon as we can. We turn a blind eye and complete the task at hand. The next thing you know, six months have past and we forgotten all about it. â€œWeâ€™ve all been thereâ€, says a representative from a major software company.
The major software companies formed an alliance several years ago to educate and investigate these indiscretions, which are less commonly referred to as software theft or piracy. There’s nothing wrong with what the Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft, CAAST, or the Business Software Alliance, BSA are trying to do. They are protecting their intellectual property, which they worked hard to produce and which we need to conduct business. Statistically there is a 40% chance that at least some of your software is illegal, according to CAAST (www.caast.org). In 2003 software theft constituted $419 million in lost sales and 32,000 lost jobs.
The owner of the company is liable for the action of employees, and enticing rewards are offered to those who report piracy. Getting a letter from a company working on behalf of the BSA will come as an unwelcome wake up call. Fines of up to $20,000 per infraction can cripple and in some cases bankrupt a company. Software manufacturers have instituted complex activation schemes that seem to hamper their use but ultimately they aim to prevent software piracy. Many have also allowed the use of their software for 30 days without activation so that you can try the software before you buy it. You could conceivably use Adobe, Quark and some Microsoft products for a month â€“ before having to pay for them.
How does illegal software end up on our computers you ask? You can be given or borrow a copy of an application, you could have bought the software at a great price from an online auction or â€œgasp!â€, download it with a â€œpeer to peer sharingâ€ software. You may have the same license installed on two computers because the installer allows it. An employee may have brought it in â€œfrom homeâ€ or it may have come with a used computer you bought. Fonts are often traded but should be owned by anyone who creates original content.
Look at that license agreement that you â€œagreedâ€ to when the software was installed. Simply stated, the license is intended to be installed on one computer that is used by one user. A common misconception is that you are buying the software when in fact you are buying that ability to use the software. When Adobe bought Macromedia for $3.4 billion â€“ they bought the software. A license for Dreamweaver CS3 costs a mere $399 or less and by comparison is quite a bargain.
While you can put the app on your desktop computer and your portable laptop it cannot be used concurrently. For example if you install Acrobat Distiller on one machine and have everyone on your network send PostScript files to that single machine to produce PDFs you are contravening the â€œsingle useâ€ license agreement.
Be aware that online auctioneers may be providing counterfeit software. Some resellers may be â€œhard drive loadingâ€ software, or you may have bought a DVD with many the application installers on it . You should also be leery of â€œgreat dealsâ€ â€“ if it sounds to good to be true, it usually is. If you buy a used computer with licensed applications you may not have bought the license. You also cannot use educational versions of software in a business application.
What can you do? Start by taking inventory or hire a consultant to audit your software assets. Make sure itâ€™s being used correctly. Next check your licenses and verify the ownership. You should have a license agreement and a bill of sale to match. Create a database of your software licenses and obtain licenses for your unauthorized software. You can find out more by visiting our web site http://www.it-guy.com .
We are also working with the Piracy Protection Agency. Let us know if you’d like some help or some information on evaluating your software licenses. Yes, it can happen to you…