ARTICLE

Lober Dobson & Desai LLC
Attorneys at Law
Atlanta | Macon

Email: info@lddlawyers.com

SOFTWARE LICENSING VIOLATIONS

Whether you are an owner of a small business or you are the CEO of a large corporation, when was the last time you checked to make sure your company was not violating any software licenses? This could mean anything from an employee giving his buddy a copy of the latest Office XP© or an employee installing the same software on a laptop and desktop – both of which the employee uses at work.

Software piracy has increased over the years as it has become extremely easy to duplicate software. By some estimates, one in four copies of software is pirated. At the same time, fortunately or unfortunately depending on what side you are on, groups that keep track of such activities have developed. Groups like Business Software Alliance and Software and Information Industry Alliance assist many software developers in enforcing their license agreements by going after corporations that infringe their copyrights. They usually track down possible violators through tips from disgruntled employees who are often offered as much as $200,000.00 if their report leads to violations.

So many of us are in the habit of quickly hitting “OKAY”, “AGREE” and “YES” to a series of questions regarding software licenses for a new product we have installed on our laptop or desktop. Yet, when was the last time you read the fine print indicating that it was illegal to distribute or use an unauthorized copy of the software? Did you have any idea that such a violation could cost your business over $150,000.00 in fines?

During a software audit, your company will be asked to provide proof of all the licensed software installed on your computers. Trying to purchase additional software or alter software installed on computers after the audit has commenced will not help you. The organizations conducting the audit accept only dated proofs-of-purchase and keep track of the date the audit begins. In fact, by making changes to your computers and networks in an effort to cheat the audit may land you with sanctions for “spoliation of evidence.”

If your company is audited, it is usually much more cost effective to submit to a voluntary audit in order to avoid litigation. However, the way to prevent or prevail against a software audit is to proactively develop a software asset management process in your company. To start, keep dated proofs-of-purchase for all the software that you have installed on all of your computers in a place where they can be located if needed. Additionally, monitor your networks, educate your staff and continuously maintain licensing protocols within the company at all levels. Finally, equip your IT department or staff with assistance with legal counsel who can help interpret software license agreements and help develop a way for your company to stay compliant.

 

 

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