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It would be easy to assume that illegal copying of softwareonly occurs in the domestic sector. Sadly this is far from the truth and the corporate users are equally guilty.

There are of course very different circumstances to consider, on the one hand lots of individuals who "borrow" software from friends, while on the other hand a company is in effect one customer with many users. It gets more complicated in practice because of the various sizes of companies, some with multiple sites, others internationally distributed. It is inevitable that a range of licensing arrangements are in force.This difficult situation is made even worse by the refusal of the major software suppliers to adopt a common licensing policy! I suspect that Open Source Software is going to complicate matters further.
Concentrating on the corporate world, there are (at least) two reasons why a company is using software that they have not paid for, deliberate avoidance (theft) or lack of control (incompetence?). While PC software is the major problem, it not the only one, database software, mail and groupware servers and other shared facilities can "acquire" more users than have been licensed. Mainframe software also needs attention but is less of a problem than distributed software because in general there are fewer, higher priced licences to control.
The PCs, those interconnected by Lans, are the major problems, some historic, but now an inherent problem due to the proliferation. It is amazing but many otherwise respectable companies have far more PC users than they have paid-up licenses. It is difficult to control because some departments can buy their own PCs, some are scrapped and there is always the extra problem created by laptops. It is probably impossible for a large company to have an exact register of all PCs and relevant software, and in any case it is a moving target, but some investment must be made in asset management software, which can semi-automatically probe around the network to check the attached machines. This and any other system for tracking software inventory and usage is time consuming and unproductive, and so it sometimes doesn't get done.
This "casual" situation is not good enough for Microsoft, Lotus, Adobe, etc. and nor is it for all of us. The software vendors need their income and if some are not paying, then the price to others must go up. In other words the legally compliant companies are subsidising the lax ones. It is important that this point is recognised and accepted because there is a tendency to perceive any punitive action taken by the software vendors as bullying, but it is in all our interests. The key is to make sure that you are not one of those breaking the law!
What should be done then? Purchasing an asset management product is a step in the right direction, but it is nowhere near enough. Few organisations will be big enough to justify employing an expert on a full time basis. This is one of those cases where it is essential to go outside and to employ a specialist, legally aware, consultant to guide the in-house IT staff. This needs to be repeated annually. In the first instance other consultants will probably also be needed to help rectify problems.
Finally it would be very desirable to finish with an independent audit of the IT systems, conducted by someone other than the consultants involved in detecting and correcting problems. It will be far more cost effective than paying fines!< BR>
Martin Healey, pioneer development Intel-based computers en c/s-architecture. Director of a number of IT specialist companies and an Emeritus Professor of the University of Wales.


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