Protect Your Business From Liability for Software Piracy
According to a study commissioned by the Business Software Alliance
(BSA) and the Software Publishers Association, as many as 4 out of 10
software applications now in use are pirated. If your company—or
firm—can’t document the license for every copy of each program
installed on its computers, it is violating the law. The BSA maintains
over 50 telephone hot lines around the world (888–NO-PIRACY or
888–667–4722 in the United States) and a Web site ( www.nopiracy.com ) to facilitate
whistleblowing. On behalf of its members—including Microsoft, Novell,
Adobe and others, the association actively pursues credible tips.
Under U.S. copyright law, people or companies caught with unlicensed
software are liable for damages either up to $100,000 per program or
all profits dependent on the pirated software or both.
According to Bob Kruger, the BSA’s vice-president of enforcement,
“Most companies that we investigate are well-managed. They obey the
law when it comes to taxes, OSHA and EPA regulations, but they have a
better idea about how many paper clips they have than about how many
copies of which software are on their computers.” Here’s what your
firm should do to make sure it’s complying with the law:
- Appoint a manager
to be responsible for software planning and management.
- Create a well-documented software usage policy
confirming your organization’s commitment to ongoing
compliance with copyright law. Clearly communicate it to
- Periodically remind employees of their obligations under
the copyright laws and company policy—and the consequences
of violating either.
- Establish procedures for obtaining and recording new
- Conduct an “audit” of all computers on a regular basis,
at least yearly. That means counting how many computers
the company has, determining what software is installed on
each and matching a license to every installed program.
- Schedule periodic spot checks of the software installed
on the company’s computers. Investigate any unlicensed
software found, determine who installed it and discipline
the offender in accordance with company policy.
- Institute a policy and procedures for removing software
from computers being disposed of.
- Be familiar with the licensing agreements for all the
programs your company uses. Use software metering and
monitoring components on your network.
- Recognize software as an asset rather than an expense.
Make sure that your company’s software budget is
sufficient to allow employees to get their work done
without stretching copyright law.