The December installment of our monthly education series is perhaps the most poignant of all those we have published thus far. Civil lawsuits for software piracy are becoming an increasingly popular problem for small- to mid-sized companies, and many times, business executives are unaware of the copyright infringements that occur within their own companies. With this publication, we aim to provide an overview of software piracy and how it can have a monumental affect on your business. By highlighting some of the best ways to avoid illegal technologies in your company, we would like to both inform and assist you in making sure your software programs are properly procured, licensed, and managed.
Small business owners, beware. Privately appointed authorities like the Business Software Alliance (BSA) are cracking down on software copyrights worldwide. The BSA seeks punitive reimbursements for pirated technologies through civil lawsuits, and small- to mid-sized businesses have become their number one targets. A recent issue of the Daily Herald reported that the owner of a small architectural firm in Texas with no more than a dozen employees was forced to settle a lawsuit brought against his company by the BSA. The settlement cost the firm $40,000, which was only a little over half of the total amount of the initial petition. Last year, the BSA recovered $13 million in software violation settlements within North America alone, and according to the AP, over 90% of those cases were against small businesses.
It is important to understand that there are many ways in which software copyrights can be breached, and piracy is not necessarily an overtly intentional act. In fact, many businesses are unaware of the necessary procedures for proper software licensing and installation. As the tech market continues to exponentially expand, and technological systems become increasingly intricate and advanced, it is quite easy to overlook the illegal use of copyrighted technologies in the workplace. The following are some simple precautionary measures you can take to ensure that your software systems are properly acquired and utilized within your company:
- Check Before You Purchase and Install – A majority of pirated technology issues arise with purchasing and installation. Software is easily acquired from unauthorized sources (most often unbeknownst to the buyer), and it is even easier to misinterpret the procedures and laws that govern proper software licensing and use. For example, the intricate licensing stipulations which accompany many software systems are easily misunderstood, and so companies can easily misuse a system by over-installing it (setting it up on too many workstations), or by granting access to too many users. Hence, it is imperative to understand the formal procedures that accompany new technologies in order to ensure that you are within the legal parameters of software procurement and usage. If you don’t have the proper understanding or background with these types of issues, it is most beneficial to seek the help of those who have significant experience and knowledge. By purchasing and installing your technologies with the assistance of an expert staff who knows the vendors, the technologies, and the laws, your technologies will be guaranteed safe.
- Keep A Close Watch – You need to be sure that you are consistently aware of what’s happing with your technologies. Not only is the proper monitoring and assessment imperative for the overall health of your systems, but keeping a close watch on your IT is another way to ensure that your technologies are properly utilized throughout your company.
- Educate Yourself and Your People – Make sure you and your employees understand that downloading software from the internet without the proper experience or expertise can lead to catastrophic problems for the company. Pirated technologies can threaten your business and its success, but illicit installation and use of software can also threaten the livelihoods and employment of all those involved in the process.
- Install and Maintain Proper Securities – Firewalls and virus protection are imperative. Not only can illegal technologies cost you incredible sums of money in the courtroom, but pirated software can also threaten the health of your entire network and IT investment. We can help you maintain the latest spam filters, spyware, firewalls and anti-virus software to ensure that only safe and secure data are allowed on your systems.
- Enforce A Technologies Usage Policy with Your Staff – It would be beneficial to include a policy on internet and technology usage as part of an employee’s contract. This will ensure that downloads will be held to a minimum amongst all of your staff, which will protect against both intentionally or inadvertently pirated technologies. Black|Line Consulting can also assist in this process of limiting download.
To conclude, always keep a close eye on the software you install and how you are obtaining it. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask Chicago’s IT Experts, Black Line Consulting at 630.388.1700 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Weill and Jeanne W. Ross, IT Governance: How Top Performers Manage IT Decision Rights for Superior Results (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2004) 2.