It may not get the same attention as the number of illegal Game of Thrones downloads, but software piracy still isn’t something your business can take lightly. In fact, one little slip can cost you thousands or even millions of dollars in fines, and there’s a global agency dedicated to catching you out – even if the copyright breach wasn’t your fault
Maybe it was something an employee used once to solve a certain problem, grabbing a quick download instead of bothering you with a purchase request. Or maybe it’s an application you use every day and long since forgot how the license works. Or perhaps you actually own a legitimate license but are running it on 8 computers when you’re only supposed to run it on 1. Whether you set out to be a brazen ‘pirate’ or not, the Software Alliance (often called the BSA) and their associates would love to make an example of your business. They’re now expanding their reach in sneaky ways too, including advertising for paid whistle-blowers.
Here’s how it all came about: Back in the late 80s, Microsoft founded an external agency whose sole task it was to protect the intellectual property of member companies, by finding and prosecuting as many cases as possible. The protection laws already existed, they simply needed a means to implement them. Until recently, locating software pirates was very resource intensive. Now, they can simply create a Facebook ad, target it to ex/current employees of a business, and offer a reward up to $1million (depends on country) for information. Your business doesn’t even need to be actively using the illegal software, it simply needs to be installed or show traces. You can imagine how many calls they’re getting!
How to Protect Your Business
We recommend taking a zero-tolerance approach to unapproved software. This means locking down employee systems so that they’re unable to install software, even on their own workstation. Set permissions so that only management and above can install new programs, and create a known process for requesting new software. When a software need arises, you then have complete control over the selection, installation and licensing.
Maintaining your software license documentation and running annual audits is also important. On a day-to-day level, it ensures you’ve got records that can keep your business operating during bad luck circumstances, like when an employee leaves and you suddenly discover no-one knows a particular password and the resets go to a dead email address. Proper license documentation also makes sure you aren’t caught red-handed with illegal software, and if you are ever investigated, you have your innocence at the ready.