Coping With Software Pirates

By Geoffrey James

Suppose you suspect one of your big corporate customers is copying your software illegally. On the one hand, you want your firm to get every software dollar that it deserves. On the other hand, you don’t want to damage your relationship with the customer by acting like the grand inquisitor. How do you handle this difficult situation? The Business Software Alliance, a trade organization of major software vendors, has some resources that can help you with this sticky situation.

First of all, don’t think you’re doing your customers any favors by letting them pirate software. Not only is pirating software illegal, but it also is frequently full of viruses, bugs and installation errors. There is a known relationship between pirated software and the vulnerability of a system to hackers, including those who use Trojan horse programs inside pirated software to gain access to a corporation’s computer network.

Second, don’t fool yourself into thinking that software piracy is going away. According to a recent survey conducted by Ipsos-Public Affairs, 32% of professional engineers believe that unlicensed commercial software is being used in their own workplaces.

The best way to get rid of software piracy at a customer’s site is to provide the customer’s IT manager with information and tools that, when distributed throughout the organization, will convince software engineers—the main offenders—to change their ways. The Website includes numerous tools to help you accomplish this, such as links to the following documents:

  • Guide to Software Management, which provides an overview of how and why companies can control software piracy
  • Software Piracy and the Law, a two-page summary that details dangers that are guaranteed to keep noncompliant IT managers awake at night
  • Ten Tips to Software Management, a short list designed to help IT managers understand what needs to be done to eliminate software piracy

The site also contains a link to free software management tools that can help IT managers locate and eliminate pirated software on their networks. Best of all, the site also features the Dilbert cartoon character, a great favorite with software engineers and IT managers. Notifying the offenders is easy—email the URL to your contacts at the customer site and tell them that it’s a funny Dilbert cartoon they ought to see. Unless they’re complete idiots, they’ll get the message.