Software firms are taking a bite out of software piracy, and if you’re not careful, it could be your company that gets bit.

According to the November 2000 issue of Information Security, Microsoft, Symantec, and other companies are going on the offensive to stop piracy.

But they’re not just targeting the underground pirates. Software firms and the Business Software Alliance (BSA), an international alliance representing software and e-commerce developers, are also pursuing companies that use pirated software.

This summer, for example, the BSA performed an unannounced software audit at a St. Louis pharmaceutical company and discovered unlicensed software. The company paid $65,000 to settle the resulting claims, Information Security reported. A similar case in New Jersey resulted in a mortgage company paying $225,000 in claims.

Nationwide, software piracy costs the United States $3.2 billion in retail sales of business software applications and 106,000 jobs, according to the BSA.

What can you do to ensure your company doesn’t make headlines for software piracy? Here are four steps, taken from Information Security and the BSA Web site, to help IT executives discourage piracy:

  1. Develop a clear software policy statement for your company. The BSA suggests that the policy explain how employees can legally acquire software and that you provide a copy of the policy to every employee.
  2. Require employees to sign an anti-piracy statement. According to Information Security, you should include a provision for civil damages of up to $100,000 and a criminal penalty of $25,000.
  3. Require regular software inventories. Make sure your staff records the product name, version number, and serial number for each piece of software installed on every computer. You should also perform unannounced audits.
  4. Know what your software licenses allow. Keep all your licenses in one place and identify which licenses allow home use by employees and which do not. Also, compare the inventory to your license agreements and delete any illegal software.

The BSA offers a free online resource, “Software Management Guide,” as well as a free version of GASP, a suite of programs that will help you identify and track both licensed and unlicensed software installed on your network.
Do you have a policy in place to stop piracy? If so, we’d like to see it. E-mail us a copy of your policy or tell us your thoughts on the best way to stop piracy.