Corporate Software Piracy: What You Should Know About The Dangers

Is there really any harm in burning an extra copy of your company's Microsoft's Office software for your home computer? If the company budget is a little tight, does it really hurt anyone if you run three copies of Photoshop when you only have one license? Is buying a cheap—but maybe illegitimate—copy of Windows online that big of a problem? Absolutely, and it can cost your company far more than you save if you. This is what you should know.

It's called corporate software piracy.

Copying corporate software and running it on your private computer is considered corporate software piracy the same way that downloading a copy on a person-to-person file-sharing site is. So are a number of other behaviors:

  • installing software on a company server and giving unrestricted access to it while only paying for one copy
  • under-reporting the number of computers running software under a volume purchase agreement
  • allowing employees to make copies of software for their personal use
  • allowing employees to install unauthorized copies of pirated software onto company computers
  • loaning software discs or making copies for business associates, friends, relatives, or neighbors

Businesses can also get into trouble simply by being duped. While current figures are unknown, in 2008 it was estimated that at least 90% of software being auctioned on one online site was pirated. Companies think they're getting a great deal, but when the price is too-good-to-be-true, it usually indicates illegitimate copies are being sold.

Your company faces significant risks.

Pirated business software can cost your company in several ways. Legal consequences are severe if you get caught, and there's growing incentive for someone to turn you in. In 2010, the use of unlicensed business software had a commercial value of $9.5 billion. That sort of value is enough to provoke The Business Software Alliance, a trade group representing Adobe, Apple, and Microsoft, into offering rewards to people willing to turn in their coworkers or bosses for using pirated software. Civil penalties can be as high as $100,000 per infringement. Criminal penalties can be $250,000 and five years in jail.

Your company faces other risks as well. Unlicensed products are unreliable and you automatically lack technical support and access to upgrades. A software failure could wipe out company records and disrupt your entire operation. Depending on where the software came from, you could be exposing your company, your employees, your business accounts, and your clients to viruses or other manipulative software that's hidden in the illegal copies by data thieves who intend to mine your business for information later.

An attorney can help you get your business back on track.

If your company hasn't seriously addressed the issue of corporate software piracy and you already suspect (or know) that it's happening, it's time to contact an attorney. An attorney can help you work through any legal entanglements in order to get licensing issues straightened out, hopefully without incurring any penalties. Your attorney, such as one from Colver Law, LLC, can also help you draft the necessary policies to protect your company from similar problems in the future.