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Don't be an accidental pirate! Follow these tips to prevent the use of illegal software.

Don't be an accidental pirate! Follow these tips to prevent the use of illegal software.

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A combination of bad planning, inadequate IT policies or a lack of awareness may cause businesses to unintentionally break the law.

Unlicensed software use where a business buys a single copy of software and installs it on multiple computers, to downloading and using unauthorised copies of software from the internet are all forms of software piracy.

There are many business risks associated with piracy whatever guise it takes, such as

- settlement and legal fees

- damage to your company reputation

- viruses leading to data loss, file corruption and downtime for your business critical and confidential information.

The following tips will help you to avoid piracy.

- Mergers and acquisitions. If merging with or acquiring another company, your software licensing requirements are likely to change. Take this opportunity to review all of your software assets and reassess whether you have enough licenses to legally cover your needs. You may even find that you have too many and so can scale back, saving your business money.

- Winning new business. If you win new business, or decide to start offering new services to your clients or customers, you may need to acquire different software, ensure you are purchasing legal copies from reputable sources that are fully traceable.

- Version control. Have you bought the right version of software license for your needs? If you have an education edition, but are using it for commercial purposes, you are acting illegally. If in doubt, check the software publisher's website for more information.

- Hiring more staff. When you are a growing business, with many pressures to deal with, it can be easy to overlook software licensing when you are hiring. Make sure that when you provide laptops and computers to new staff you have adequate software licenses for them.

- Don’t forget your fonts. Despite being used daily by every organisation in the world, many still do not realise that fonts are classed as Intellectual Property and need licensing just like any other piece of software. Font piracy can easily take place as fonts can be transmitted from user to user either as stand alone software or embedded within electronic documents. It can happen accidentally and there are simple steps that can be taken to license or delete fonts without incurring a fine. However, if you consciously choose to ignore font management, you leave yourself liable to an external audit and a potentially heavy fine.

Internet auction sites. Low prices for seemingly genuine software can be tempting when you are trying to keep your business costs down. But internet auction sites provide a perfect opportunity for people to create false identities and sell unlicensed or counterfeit software. Beware - if something seems too good to be true, it usually is.

- External suppliers. Even if you think that your software licensing is in order, it is worth making sure that your external suppliers take their responsibilities as seriously as you do. Only deal with reputable businesses with a good reputation, then you won’t unwittingly put your business at risk.

- Keep records. Keep a record of purchase for all of your software. This will make it much easier to run a software audit if you are required to, and means you can review what software assets you have and use on a regular basis.

Don’t assume. Don’t automatically assume that whoever looks after your IT systems will take responsibility for your software licensing. As a business owner, you are ultimately responsible for making sure that you are not acting illegally. The reputation of your business, and your personal reputation, could be on the line if you are caught out.

- Dangerous downloads. Having a policy or technical solution that prevents unauthorised software installations by your staff will help to avoid software piracy and make tracking your software much easier. With the advent of remote working, staff now have many more opportunities to download software from a variety of sources, without your knowledge. Don’t give them the opportunity to do so - you are responsible for the software that ends up on your computers, so have a clear company policy in place to mitigate any risks.


- Clearly counterfeit. Counterfeit software isn’t always the cheaper ‘too good to be true’ option. Some counterfeit software is of such high quality that it is very difficult to distinguish from the real thing, and may only be slightly cheaper. Always buy from reputable sources, and be aware that high quality fakes exist.

 To find out more please visit the licensing page

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  • A very good well thought out list. Very useful.