Pirates are still a hot topic these days, and we’re not talking about the kind roaming in open waters. Microsoft software piracy, especially in business circles, could end up costing your company in name, reputation and big money.
In the United States, more than a quarter of software programs used by businesses are illegal copies, according to the Business Software Alliance (BSA). Their statistics show that for U.S. small businesses, including those with 100 or fewer employees, the piracy rate exceeds 40 percent. Including Canada, the global piracy rate hovered at 42 percent in 2011, and the value of software piracy in Canada totalled just more than $1.1 billion, according to the last published study by the BSA.
Working to protect its intellectual property, the tech giant Microsoft settled more than 3,200 counterfeiting suits worldwide during the past year. That number included 35 cases in the U.S., in 19 different states; and 3,230 were international places that reached more than 42 different countries.
Why Businesses Use Pirated Software and the Risks
Many times, business owners will buy counterfeit software at dirt-cheap prices, distribute unlicensed software to employees and license that same software to multiple computers – all in the name of making it through tough times or shaving costs off the bottom line. But what they don’t realize are the downsides of using pirated or counterfeit software:
- Microsoft Support is unavailable for pirated software when a problem occurs
- No upgrade information will be made available for unlicensed software, and no updates can be made.
- Pirated software sometimes contains viruses or malware, or stops functioning due to broken or incomplete code.
So is Your Company at Risk of a $150,000 Fine from Microsoft?
That dollar amount could be less or more, depending on agreements hashed out by lawyers rather than going through a costly court battle. Microsoft's website says fines can be "$150,000 or more" and notes the BSA has previously offered cash in return for qualifying reports of illegal software use.
Microsoft has aggressively pursued anyone that pirates its software, no matter the country the counterfeiters are in. In fact, the the company recently made headlines by bringing together security engineers, digital forensics experts and lawyers to combat software pirates at its new Cybercrime Centre.
Overall, Microsoft has a continuous, meticulous and extremely aggressive program to go after both individuals and businesses. And while they certainly don’t have the authorization to levy an enforceable fine, penalties are offered in settlement to avoid litigation that could cost a business hundreds of thousands of dollars.
What to Do If You Think Your Software is Illegal
If you think your business may have pirated software installed, there are a few easy steps to take.
1.Pull all financial records of IT purchases to see what proof you have;
2.Have an IT partner provide a full software inventory of all Microsoft and other programs installed on your network;
3.Look for any signs of software piracy such as Microsoft Genuine messages and machines where updates don't work.
4.Purchase software to cover any deficiencies. The fastest way to cover MS Office licensing is to subscribe to Office 365.
If you don't have an IT partner to help you do this, we can help. Click below to get a FREE network audit and take the first step to identifying pirated software.