Laptops

Installing company software on employee laptops


While I was out of the office today, a Vice President walked into my assistant's office and demanded a copy of MS Office to install on his new laptop.  The laptop in question is not company property.  It is a recent purchase for home personal use, probably for his daughter.  The VP already has two laptops that are company property with Office installed.

My assistant had the sense of mind to not be buffaloed by the blustering Vice President and put him off, telling him that he had to check with me.  I ran it by the CEO, advising him that it would cost x dollars in soft money as it would consume one of our corporate licenses.  I suggested that the VP could get his own copy of home and student version for $150.

The VP was not happy.  Apparently my predecessor did not have a problem with him 'borrowing' company software in the past.  I've always tried to run a tight ship when it comes to legality on our software installs.  Every year I fork over more money to Microsoft or Symantec for the additional uses of corporate licenses during the year.

When I came on board I was advised by my boss that there are certain people you want to keep happy.  This particular VP was one of them. OK, so I pissed off a VP, but I kept us legal with Microsoft.  Was it worth it?  The chances of us ever being audited by Microsoft are slim to none but I still have to work with this VP and his staff.

What would you have done?  Is this a problem in your organization?

42 comments
lodrose
lodrose

This ought to be titled Installing company software on employee PERSONAL laptops. It is widespread amongst big organizations and yeah common sense dictates PERSONAL property is not covered. Asking you to do it is equivalent to pilfering company assets for personal gain. Like what most people do, CYA. Cheers.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

If you are using OEM copies of Office it's wrong to give away company property without consent as this is stealing. Doesn't matter who is taking it or with who's tacid consent or knowledge it's plain & simple stealing. But if th place is using Volume License product then under M$ Licensing it's perfectly acceptable and even wanted by M$. The fact that this guy currently has 2 company NB's with Company Copies of Office on them is immaterial. They are the companies and as such should have the full Company supplied load installed on them. The question here isn't about the rights or wrongs of this guy having 2 company NB's but if it's right for the company o supply a copy of Office for him or members of his family to use at home. If there is a Volume License it's Perfectly OK from M$ point of view and more than acceptable M$ wants this to be done to improve the way that their product is Integrated into Business. So if you are using Volume License there is no cost involved but if you are using OEM the company should pay for the copy though even still M$ most likely wouldn't consider this as important in a case like this. Much More important is how he got the 2 NB's and what is being done to make sure that these remain Company Property. Col

Thurston, RJ
Thurston, RJ

It depends on what you can live with. 1. Install the software. 2. Quote policy and not install the software. 3. Say that it's a copyright violation. 4. Refer the person to other sources. Compromise: I can't do X but I can do Y. VPs are still subject to company rules and although you might be disliked by the person, you will be respected for consistent integrity.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

It's just software,it hardly weighs anything.

fernando.morais
fernando.morais

With "non-technical" employees I abuse their "low knoledge" and say "Sorry, but I can't. The software was supplied already installed on the computer, withou any CD/DVD" :-)

eM DuBYaH
eM DuBYaH

Bigwigs amuse me/p1$$ me off. They think they can bend rules, and what applies to everyone else does not apply to them. HEY, kind of like your typical politician! In a previous job, I had a new plant controller come in, and he wanted me to put World of Warcraft up on the server. My response was "Hell NO!". Of course, later, I rethought my strategy in desire to avoid tragedy (since he was my boss's boss) and I held a Friday after work WOW lan party in my lab with the Plant controller and some of the engineering staff. More fun than golf!

kkernspa
kkernspa

I once dealt with a CEO who wanted me to make a copy of a bootleg version of Star Wars, Episode III. I informed him that what he is asking for is illegal and that I would prefer not to do it, but if he is resolute in having this done, I will do so under his authority and liability. He understood my position and rescinded the request. Perhaps something along these lines would be helpful in this situation.

sola_ajibodu
sola_ajibodu

In as much as the VP is top in the company, he should be made aware that underlicencing laws governed by (FAST) Federation Against Software Theft, he could be jailed for up to 20 years if a check is carried out on your licences. If software licenced for business or commercial use is installed on a private pc, then there has been a violation/ infringement of the licencing law govening the use of that software. faced with this situation, i will advice the CEO and VP on the implications and make them aware they will be held liable if an audit is carried out.

gkrew
gkrew

Aah someone else who feels the pain. I have worked in previous jobs where this was a norm and the legal side was just ignored.

rich_bailey77
rich_bailey77

I would create a software request form that includes where the software is installed that needs to be signed to install software (should include the serial number of the hardware and a space for the business purpose). This form will get the software installed if the VP has the huevos to actually fill it out thereby keeping the VP happy, back you up when you need to purchase additional software licenses keep your budget watcher (I assume the CEO), Microsoft and the law happy and track where those licenses are going and by who's direction (CYOA).

Tech Warrior
Tech Warrior

CYA is the best policy, not only do you also risk other people wanting to do it. But an audit from MS could cost the company alot in the long run. Always best to run by the book. Even it it makes people unhappy.

conrad0297
conrad0297

If the VP can do it (use it) why can't a rank & file do it? This is a typical scenario of BIAS or should I say unfair treatment. The VP can buy 10 of those with his salary!!! I think what you did is right!! i don't care who you are, if you come to my work place demanding to have something that belongs to the company for personal use YOU definitely won't get it right away, NO WAY!!! I'd do the same, but in a proper way.

Jaqui
Jaqui

all the software is open source. :D install away.

Stephen570
Stephen570

If the person is high enough up or connected enough to cause you grief, say you can do it but you need to know what cost center or budget to charge it to -- and then charge that cost center or budget.

kalboy2000
kalboy2000

You are doing the right thing, but just dealing with the wrong person.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I have the regional rep for software licensing on my team. He would have no problems telling the VP where to go, cause he could lose his job otherwise. We have very strict rules. We used to allow employees to log on to our networks if we bought them a license for the VPN client. Now you are not allowed to bring a non company computer in the workplace. And only company owned computers are allowed to VPN into the corporate net. James

jjd226
jjd226

I think you did the right thing. I would have done the same thing in your position. He is a VP, he makes plenty of money, and he already has two copies of what I am assuming is Microsoft Office 2007 on his machines, at the very least 2003, which is still a good piece of office software. Every time someone takes software that they don't need, or they do not have any business really using they are not only taking money out of your budget, they are taking money out of the company. There is plenty of Free software out there, but the stuff that you have isn't. If the CEO said that you did the right thing by not giving him a copy of office on his personal machine, than I don't think you have stepped on any toes. Software costs money, and in the case of Microsoft, and Symantec it costs a lot of money. I think that, that VP needs to realize that just because you cannot necessarily hold it in your hand doesn't me it is worthless. Simply put, that VP is stealing from the company. Accessing software that he has no right to be installing on personal machines is theft, regardless of whether it is being taken directly from a company like Microsoft, or your office.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Our license agreement allows employees to order Office from MS for the cost of media. I have only occasionally been put in this position and I had the backing of my supervisors to refuse the request. I would have installed OpenOffice.org and told him it was the newest version...

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

We have installed Office on a couple of exempt peoples personal PCs in the past. It was expected that they would be using office at home as well as at work. We have to jump through hoops and we keep up with the licenses either way. As a rule the answer is NO.

tim
tim

We get all the way to the end of the thread before someone points out the flaw in my title. Doh! It was misleading, wasn't it? It should have been 'employee-owned' laptops but that wouldn't fit.

tim
tim

Yep. When I told someone it would be $350 to buy an upgrade for MS Project. He said, "But it's just a box and a CD. How much could that cost to make? It hardly weighs anything!" What a flashback. Thanks Balthor. You made my day.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

Good thing that he didn't have the tech support guy that I worked with five years ago. He was like a drug dealer, cracked copies of anything you wanted. Management finally had enough and gave him his walking papers. Hate to think what would have happened if they had accepted his way of doing business.

I_Borg
I_Borg

And the wonderful relationship you had thereafter with the CEO led you to consulting?!? Or was it the lack of pay raises???

bill1960uk
bill1960uk

I am fortunate that the only person above me in the pecking order in matters of IT is the boss so what I says goes and if I refuse to install company software on to private laptops due to licencing constraints thats my desition

WTRTHS
WTRTHS

... it is the boss that wants to run a tight ship. If anyone comes asking for company software, I say I will do so if they get the blessing of the boss because my hands are tight. That's usually the last I hear from it.

peter
peter

Find a way to keep both your VP and MS happy. Buy him a copy...home/student version with 3 end user license only costs $150 retail. Let him know that you will buy him a copy rather than to break the law. He's a VP...should be smart enough to get the message. If he isn't, still worth keeping your job.

JustinF
JustinF

It's a simple problem: Say you will do it as soon as you get approval from the CEO & the cost center where the license will be charged to. Don't act as if it is anything other than a standard request. You don't want to appear to be the bad guy refusing to help, make it someone else's problem. Insist that company software needs to be installed on site and any external PC needs to be brought into the office to be configured with company software.

GSG
GSG

I bought Office 2003 for $19. It depends on the agreement that you have, but usually covers those products that your company has an agreement with Microsoft for. I can also get Visio for $19, Project, etc...

Daniel.Muzrall
Daniel.Muzrall

Palmetto is right...check with your MS rep. Your company's licensing agreement with MS may allow for the MS Home Use Program, allowing employees to purchase MS products for the cost of the media.

NMITGuy
NMITGuy

When I was the assistant for my company's IT Manager, he would freely distribute copies to the independent contractors (who comprise most of our company). So when he went out and I was chosen to head the department I began cleaning up our licensing SNAFU's. I was met with considerable resistance by many in the office. A little over a year now and I've got all of our licenses legit. Quite a pain, but a necessary step for the ethical values of any organization, in my opinion.

balfagi
balfagi

What I do is install a pirated copy of whatever software they ask for... easily available for $10. Does not have any update problem. My licenses are not used and they are also happy. I do make them realize first that I am not giving them company license but will be installing a pirated version of the same. If anything happens on a later stage they are solely responsible and I am not to blame. Please note that I don't deal with piracy or anywhere related to it. I just do this in order to find a middle ground with my management. Also, if I could find a way of getting BSA to know who all of my company's employees have pirated copies in their home computer, watching the raids happen would be real fun!

chris
chris

This is one of the situations where a good company computer policy helps. Our policy is signed and approved by the company owner. No one even a VP can override it. The policy clearly states that such requests have to be approved in writing by the owner. So if I had such a request I can simply say the company doesn't allow me to do that and point them to the owner's office. That way I don't seem like the bad guy. Of course if the owner says do it, I do it. He has to pay for the license so it's his decision.

brownjohn
brownjohn

I definitely agree with you. I always tell user's to check with their manager or boss, and I let them know how much the software will actually cost. Normally when they get the price, they'll pass, but occasionally they've ok'd it. I had to instally Symantec on three user's personal laptops because they occasionally bring them into work and they didn't want to pay for their own anti-virus.

I_Borg
I_Borg

Then you should slick load the laptop with the standard corporate load and add it to the IT inventory making sure that you put the Company Property sticker in a prominent place. I bet he never asks for help on a home PC again!

drsmith
drsmith

the License we buy for our college covers employee's home computers as long as it is used for work and removed upon there termination of employment. so it must just depend on the license type. i know i find it a total pain to install software on peoples home computers because 95% of them are so slow and loaded down with junk it takes forever for the 07 office to install.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

I have walked into roles where the previous person would freely give out Win2k volume licenses for people to rebuild their systems. After assuming the role, I must have, over a few months been asked to upgrade them to XP. However, I never actually performed an upgrade after asking them to get me the copy of XP to upgrade with. When they mumble on I just bring up licensing, company policy, etc. and they always have slinked away.

kevin.berry
kevin.berry

"I do make them realize first that I am not giving them company license but will be installing a pirated version of the same. If anything happens on a later stage they are solely responsible and I am not to blame." Except for the fact that you are the one in the original ownership of the pirated copy and further distributing it to others. Plus you are charging people which puts you in an even larger bind because now not only would you need to pay fines on top of fines but you are most likely going to suffer an audit of your personal assets along with your company in addition to putting your company in the crosshair's of the government and manufactures. In addition to that, you are more than likely in possession of numerous amounts of other pirated software. Lets see what type of things to look at here(1): -commercial software piracy a felony -willfully and without permission reproduces or distributes 10 or more copies of a package with a retail value exceeding $ 2,500, penalties include imprisonment of up to five years, fines of up to $ 250,000, or both -The publisher can collect statutory damages instead. That means that if found guilty, your fines can range from $500 to a whopping $100,000 -- for each pirated package -if the manufacturer registered a copyright within three months of publication, your IOU can also include attorneys' fees -most likely loss of job -places your personal and company assets into question Really quite pathetic if you ask me. Its people like you that make life much more difficult for computer admins along with further the annoying development of DRM material just so someone like yourself can save a dime. Source (1): http://techfirm.com/SoftwarePiracy.htm

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

"What I do is install a pirated copy of whatever software they ask for" So by your own admission YOU install pirated software... "but will be installing a pirated version of the same. If anything happens on a later stage they are solely responsible and I am not to blame." but consider yourself in the clear because you warn them it is pirated? "Please note that I don't deal with piracy or anywhere related to it. " How do you figure that you don't deal with piracy - being a pirate - or anywhere related to it - installing pirated software? Whatever drug you're on I want some... Watching the raids would be quite a blast - especially once they get to you as the instigator and installer of all that pirated software. Does your management know you are putting them in the position of implicating your company in software piracy and possibly adding them to the list of those liable to prosecution? What an ...hole.

seanferd
seanferd

Uhhhhh... You're legally responsible.

eric
eric

I agree with you 100%. Too bad it's so difficult to enforce laws/agreements/what have you in a different country.

kevin.berry
kevin.berry

Very true, but none the less still very disappointing and unlawful in my books. I am a software engineer and I do not take that type of stuff lightly. Although I dont agree with much of corporate pricing on software, I dont think it should be free for anyone, in any country, unless it was deemed to be free in the first place such as opensource which I am a big supporter of.

eric
eric

The real question is if this constitutes a felony or even a crime in the United Arab Emirates.