Are You Using Unlicensed Software?

Are you aware of BSA-THE SOFTWARE ALLIANCE?  I wasn’t, until I was asked to represent businesses that had been threatened with legal action. The Software Alliance has a mandate to take action against persons with counterfeit or unlicensed software.   Members of the Software Alliance include Adobe, Apple, AutoDesk, IBM, Intuit, Microsoft and a number of less familiar names in the software realm.  More information and a full list of their members can be viewed at their website bsa.org.  The Software Alliance investigates approximately 15,000 complaints a year.  The public is invited to report instances of counterfeit or unlicensed software at the website nopiracy.ca.  The Software Alliance then investigates the matter.  As a pre-condition to any settlement discussions, the Software Alliance demands a list of all of the software on your computers, along with the serial numbers for the software and (where possible) particulars of purchase.   Where there is a discrepancy identified, payment is expected of infringement and software licences purchased to bring the business into good standing.   The handful of businesses that I represented all had unlicensed software.  In one case, my client had 20 computers running Adobe and only had 10 licenses.  There were also problems with upgrades, as the business had only upgraded 3 of those licenses to a newer version of Adobe, but were using the newer version on all 20 computers.   As part of the terms of settlement, the Software Alliance reserves the right to publish details of the settlement to deter other businesses.  Published on their website at the time of writing is a settlement by an Ontario nursery business (identified by name) that paid $54,613.00 to conclude their settlement.    Frequently, businesses get “sloppy” regarding keeping track of software.   New computers are purchased and necessary software is simply copied onto the new machine.   If you feel that your business could be using unlicensed software, I recommend that you conduct a “self audit” to check your potential exposure should the Software Alliance knock on your door.  I also urge you to assign someone in your office with the task of monitoring software installations and keeping records of software purchases.