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Tame Your SLAs

From time to time over the years, I've received ominous letters from the Business Software Alliance (BSA) questioning whether I had illegal software on my computers. I laughed all the way to the paper shredder, since all but two of the thousands of software products I've used over the years either arrived preinstalled on computers or were provided without charge by software vendors. I paid for the other two.

But legions of others aren't so lucky. Whether you're a large enterprise or a one-person business, software licensing agreement (SLA) goblins may be coming at you with a vengeance.

The Scope Of The Problem

Robert J. Scott of
Scott & Scott LLP

According to Robert J. Scott, managing partner in the law firm Scott & Scott LLP, companies typically have difficulty adequately proving the legitimacy of 10 to 90 percent of their installed software. The most common way a company violates software licenses and copyright laws, says Scott, is by failing to implement controls and procedures to prevent unauthorized installation of software.

"A typical large enterprise has 15,000 to 30,000 unique software titles installed, while only 800 may be necessary for business operations," says Scott. "Other problems include using software beyond the trial period, installing the wrong version of a product relative to what was purchased, failing to ensure no new products are installed that are not covered by the original agreement, and failing to maintain adequate procurement records."

Jose Negron,
technical director at Layton Technology

Jose Negron, technical director at IT auditing software developer Layton Technology, cites a global software piracy study conducted by the BSA in 2004. More than $59 billion was spent on commercial packaged PC software, yet more than $90 billion was installed, meaning that more than one-third of software in use on PCs worldwide is pirated (a term that includes intentional and unintentional alleged infringement). Other sources for this story suggest that pirated software is in the range of 23 to 33 percent, even disregarding unpublished settlements. "That is a lot of lost money at the expense of software providers," says Negron, "and beware...they are fighting back!"

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