SMB Owners Often Unwittingly Double as Modern Day Software Pirates
Written by Rodger Correa, Business Software Alliance
Organizations of all sizes, industries and locations use technology to manage their day-to-day operations, streamline costs and to stay competitive. While access to technology helps organizations in all facets ranging from communications to HR to sales, an estimated 28 per cent of organizations in Canada don’t actually pay for the software they use. According to a recent Ipsos Public Affairs study commissioned by the Business Software Alliance, these organizations are contributing to a $1.1 billion dollar problem in Canada. The study also suggests these organizations may not be aware that they are doing anything illegal, and they value and respect copyright laws and believe the IP industry ultimately creates jobs and strengthens the economy.
Software piracy is the unauthorized copying or distribution of copyrighted software. Since this is an illegal activity, software piracy can negatively impact a business’ reputation and legitimacy. In addition, pirating software can end up costing companies more than if they purchased legal software in the first place; it can open up doors to viruses and malware which can leave a system and person susceptible to threats such as identity theft and fraud. The use of pirated software can even result in lawsuits against the infringing company, among other serious problems. It’s part of a global phenomenon where up to 42 per cent of software is acquired illegally throughout the world, representing a record commercial value of $59 billion. This year in Canada there have been fines amounting to over $1 million to private companies as a result of under-licensing.
As these numbers tell us, PC users appear to lack a clear understanding of whether common ways of acquiring software, such as buying a single program license for multiple computers or downloading a program from peer-to-peer networks, are likely to be legal or illegal. In Canada, a majority of respondents said that peer-to-peer sites, lending software and purchasing via street markets are illegal, but 59 per cent believe that auction sites provide legal software when in fact they don’t. Also, almost two-thirds of respondents said installing multiple copies at home is legal, which again just isn’t the case. It can all seem confusing and even overwhelming for busy business owners who ultimately feel the strain to be experts at everything: from accounting to human resources to information technology for starters.
But it doesn’t have to be complicated. There are best practices, tips and free resources available to businesses to ensure they use software safely and legally. Some of the most important include:
1. Establish office policies for purchasing software and respecting intellectual property rights.
- Make sure to clearly identify procedures for acquiring needed software as well as the individuals who are responsible for all software installations.
2. Explain to employees the importance of protecting computers from unlicensed software.
- Ensure employees are aware of office policies and offer them opportunities to ask questions.
3. Make use of free software audit tools to help implement safe software practices.
- Assess your business needs and then install audit software on your computers that map back to your own specifications. It’s also recommended that you collect licensing and purchase documents in a safe and easy to access location.
4. Obtain any licenses needed for compliance.
- Once you have assessed your business needs it’s advised that you remove any unneeded software from your computers. Then you can purchase licenses for any necessary but perhaps unlicensed software that might be on your system.
5. Educate yourself with self-learning Software Asset Management programs, such as SAM Advantage, available from the BSA to guard against piracy at www.samadvantage.org
- Your business needs evolve as does your use of software. It’s important to run software audits on a regular basis to ensure you’re keeping up-to-date on all your licenses and that your software is delivering the value you need.
Canadian organizations of all sizes can protect themselves from the legal, financial, and technical consequences of using unlicensed software through a better understanding of their role in the software piracy industry and creating the software management processes necessary to ensure they haven’t unwittingly become a modern-day pirate.
About the author: Rodger Correa is a compliance marketing director for the Business Software Alliance where he is responsible for the development and implementation of strategic and tactical marketing plans to educate and build awareness of intellectual property enforcement. The Business Software Alliance’s goal is to act as a global advocate for the software industry. For additional information, Rodger Correa can be reached at RodgerC@bsa.org.
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