The Business Software Alliance (http://www.bsa.org), an organization made up of large software developers, has started publicizing up to $200,000 rewards for employees who turn in their companies for using pirated software. While I’m all for the legal and proper use of software, this latest initiative from the BSA should be of concern to all companies, whether they use pirated software or not.
The problem is that one allegation, if the BSA chooses to pursue it, requires a company to prove they are not pirating, even if they have legally purchased all their software. This can result in a lot of work for a company, as they scramble to look up software receipts, license codes, and CD keys. Additionally, the BSA may request they do an on-side audit, wasting even more of a company’s time and productivity. If a company can’t prove they aren’t pirating software, they face costly settlements, usually requiring the repurchasing of missing software licenses. This is the case even if the company simply couldn’t find the proper documentation, or if employees were the ones who brought in improperly licensed software.
Usually, the BSA likes to go after large companies. But they have been known to go after smaller companies, so don’t think you are safe if you have a small business. In order to protect themselves, companies must be diligent about keeping good records regarding their software purchases. They also must have policies and practices in place that disallow the installation of non-company purchased software by employees. However, these things have a cost as well, both in time and money. The larger the company, the more expensive software licensing compliance becomes.
One thing companies can do to eliminate the hassle and expense of software licensing compliance is to use open source software. Open source software is not owned by any particular company and is usually licensed freely. Since the software is free, there is no need to keep track of licenses or the risk of being audited by the “software police”.
There are not always open source options for every software in every business. However, there is a very good open source option for Microsoft Office. OpenOffice (http://www.openoffice.org) is an open source “office suite”, including a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation software, analogous to Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. Unlike many other competitors to Microsoft Office, OpenOffice reads and writes the Microsoft Office formats with nearly 100% compatibility. Without going into too many more details about OpenOffice, it is suffice to say that many companies can save a lot of money by using OpenOffice instead of Microsoft Office, not just in initial purchase price and the ongoing costs of upgrades, but also in the cost of staying in license compliance.
If you would like more help with software licensing, or are interested in saving money by using open source technologies, please contact Marcel.