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Pay Now, or Pay Big Later

Pay Now, or Pay Big Later

Using software without having a license for it can get you and your company in big trouble. How big? Read on as attorney Kruger explains the problem and consequences of software piracy.

Just what is software piracy? Most people picture it as someone selling software at a flea market or downloading it from the Internet. But the biggest problem is people or businesses making more copies of software on their office computers than they have licenses for. That activity accounts for most of the $12 billion in lost revenue to software companies globally every year.

Do people know that when they do that they're breaking the law? It varies. Some people make a conscious decision to copy software and save money. Some companies that are growing fast copy software from one computer to another to meet customer demands. In any case, the common denominator is a lack of a software-management program. There's no accountability, no effort within the company to check if they have sufficient licenses for the copies of software they use.

What kind of software is pirated most often? A lot of it is office software, such as Access, Word, and Excel. But, there's a lot of pirating of engineering software too. That's why Autodesk and Bentley are among our members. Some engineering firms copy engineering software. Some graphics firms copy graphics packages. The more popular a product is-the more people like it-the more likely it will be pirated.

Is this at all similar to what teenagers and others do downloading music illegally from the Internet? Yes, and it's been a problem with software longer. When music was on cassette tapes it wasn't so much of a problem. The current problems are a result of music being made in a digital format. Software has always been digital. Some of the young people downloading music today may eventually become adult engineers working in one of the manufacturing industries and think they can do the same with engineering software.

What is the Business Software Alliance doing about it? We have education programs and a strong enforcement effort. We have the power of attorney to take legal action on behalf of our members.

What's the penalty for someone found guilty? This is not a traffic ticket. It's a big violation of federal law. Violators can be liable for up to $150,000 for each copyrighted work they infringe.

How do you find out about software pirating? We get hundreds of reports every month from current and former employees of companies. Some of those employees may be disgruntled, but they know what they are talking about. We evaluate information and if we think we have a case we'll ask the company to cooperate. Most do. And mostly, we settle out of court, but some awards have been over a half-million dollars.

What's your advice to companies for avoiding the problem? Manage your software. There's plenty of resources and help to draw upon. If you don't know if you have a software problem, you probably do.

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