Lober Dobson & Desai LLC
Attorneys at Law
Atlanta | Macon
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
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.