You may not realize it, but I am willing to bet there is a good chance that you have made at least a few of mistakes on the list below. Read on to find out if you did, and how you can fix it before it is too late.

What I want to discuss here is software piracy. Don’t jump to conclusions yet – you may be a software pirate without even knowing it!

Let me explain: because there is a variety of  countries, people involved, and multiple laws, definition of piracy across is still vague enough (if you search for Software Piracy in Wikipedia, it takes you to Copyright Infringement page – and even that one is labeled “incomplete”). So, most people do not realize or do not believe that they are doing something criminal – or have a “so what” attitude. If you are one of those people, it can cost you  money, your business, your reputation, and even your freedom, and everything else that goes with it…

Here is just a quick hint:  if you have that awesome CD your colleague burned for you, or that nifty program that your “computer guy”, or a neighbor-friend brought home from his other job, and you figure he’d save you money if you let him tinker with your computer network… you, my friend, are in trouble, and here is why.

The laws are tightening up, and if you or your business gets audited, the penalties may put you out of business. All it would take is random audit, or a disgruntled employee reporting you to the BSA / The Software Alliance (www.bsa.org), the leading advocate for the global software industry before governments and in the international marketplace, or reporting you directly to the vendor.

What are the penalties for pirating software?

There is plenty of punishment to choose from. Let’s take a closer look at just one of them:

What are the penalties for having more software programs loaded onto company computers than the company has licenses?

According to BSA, the penalties for under-licensing are the same as those for software piracy. Under federal copyright law the company may be liable for up to $150,000 for each software program infringed – even if you were not aware of the infringement. The law also permits the software makers to recover court costs and legal fees spent to sue your business and costs to destroy all illegal software found in your case.

In cases of willful piracy, criminal penalties may also be assessed against the company. In addition, the government can criminally prosecute you for copyright infringement. If convicted, you can be fined up to $250,000, sentenced to jail for up to five years, or both.

Let’s not even talk into destroying your reputation, or what all of that can do to your immediate circles, too.

The key is – if you knowingly breaking the law, I am talking to the wrong person here… But if you are doing your best and not sure if you may be in trouble without knowing it, lets see what mistake you should avoid, starting now, to protect yourself and your organization?

Here are the 12 mistakes you may not realize you are making that turn you into a software pirate

Mistake #1. Acquiring your software through means other than the authorized dealer. That may also mean you are trusting the people who do it for you, assuming they have your best interest at heart. Some business owners are out of touch with IT – after all, they do something else for a living – and leave the software issues with their “IT guy”, who may or may not follow the rules in order to cut corners or save money.

Mistake #2. You do not keep up-to-date records of the software applications you have. That can lead to use of expired product, which may be a violation.

Mistake #3. You are not sure if you keep all the information carriers – CDs, DVDs, flash drives, USBs, books and documentation that came with your software, in a well-organized, safe place. Or you don’t keep them at all.

Mistake #4. You don’t regularly check to make sure your software and everything that came with it (see mistake #3) is still all there. Hey, it is great to be able to trust your employees, service staff, clients and other visitors… But its better to be paranoid, than be fined. You need to make sure it is there – if someone takes that stuff home, they become a pirate, and you are the enabler.

Mistake #5. You do not have a designated Anti-Piracy Compliance Officer within your organization.

Mistake #6. You use and reuse software for purposes that are outside of its Usage/License agreement. That includes copying – yes, even within the same organization – and exploiting software beyond expiration date, if such date is included in the agreement. Using CDs as coasters or pretty mirrors on your wall doesn’t count (Just trying to break the ice here…)

Mistake #7. You do not communicate with your employees about not installing unauthorized copies of software and/or using any of company’s software outside of your organization.

Mistake #8. You do not re-communicate your no-piracy policies on a regular, scheduled basis. People are forgetful.

Mistake #9. You forget to communicate your policies to all new hires. Don’t assume they know and follow the rules. Make sure they do.

Mistake #10. You do not actually enforcing policies that will protect your company against piracy.

Mistake #11. You accept “used software handouts” or copies, from others when the solution you need is out of your budget. (Did you know there is a way to cut costs legally? Turn to open-source options.)

Mistake #12. You do not have an adequate, reliable IT adviser or an authorized VAR company or Managed Services Provider you can turn to when in doubt, or who can handle it all for you.

 

In the nutshell – start a new leaf and make sure you are doing everything to avoid those mistakes.

 

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