The cost of illegal software

Illegal software has many tempting features. Fully purchased programmes, particularly those in specialist niches, can cost an incendiary fee and licensing agreements may not cater for the amount of IT equipment a purchaser may have wished to install the software on. However, the cost of being caught far outweighs this; the result could be civil or even criminal proceedings from the company who owns the software’s copyrights. This is worrying as, a lot of the time, a company may not be aware if they are in accidental breach of their software license and may accidentally, and perhaps unjustly, end up with huge fines or criminal charges against them.

The chances of being caught using illegal software can be quite high too as one of the most diligent watchdogs currently operating is the Business Software Alliance (BSA); their members include Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, Macromedia, Symantec, Veritos, Dell, IBM and more. It probably takes little imagination to conceive how powerful this alliance is and how seriously it takes licensing breaches.

The BSA, as an organization, regularly communicates with corporations, governments and other important bodies but, as well as an obvious degree of influence, they also spend a fair amount of time collating data and information regarding suspected pirates. The BSA regularly performs audits on companies and administers fines where necessary. If a company are unable to provide correct licensing proof they are susceptible to fines even though in many instances they would have to actively volunteer information for the auditors who may not be legally entitled to see it.

If, for whatever reason, a company has found themselves in breach of the law, intentionally or otherwise, there are some actions that can be undertaken to combat any potential trouble they may find themselves in. The first is retrospective purchases of the appropriate licensing which will keep away any legal problems in the future. However, it may be wise, instead of doing this, to undertake some pre-emptive action to make sure a business never finds itself on the wrong side of the law.

One way of doing this is through an Asset Management service which is designed to carry out audits on all computers connected to a network. For obvious reasons it is better that the audit is carried out by such a service rather than the BSA. Although it may cost a reasonable fee to have a specialist consultant carry out this task, and then to implement all suggested changes, this cost is by some degree better than receiving a criminal or civil offense warning. Similarly, savings could be made as a consultant would be able to review all existing agreements, their value for money and recommend perhaps better options.

Due to the huge fines that can be accrued it is imperative to have an effective Software Asset Management scheme in place. The development of such a scheme allows for companies to develop and implement procedures and policies which will help optimize software assets as well as monitoring when a company’s agreement may expire and when they are eligible for new upgrades. The scheme also helps maximize money invested by highlighting the costs and benefits that come with the software utilized.

The benefits include being able to see when software is being paid for but not used, allows for a more solid business base as business functions will not be undertook by unlicensed or illegal software, and ensures that there is no accidental duplication of software.

Kieron Casey

Kieron Casey is a BA (Hons) Journalism graduate who blogs regularly on the environment, education and technology. He is writing on behalf of IRIS.

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  1. Kit Singleton says:

    Thanks for the info Kieron. I remember years ago when the P2P music sharing was so popular. Many newbies had no clue that it was illegal so they just kept downloading music and software. Then the stories about people being fined started hitting the news. The sad thing is that some people, even today, download things and think they have a legal right to use the items but they don’t. The buyers have no idea that they purchased a pirated copy.

    Thanks for keeping us up to date on illegal software!