Businesses that fail to keep their software legal run the risk of being ‘reported’ to the Business Software Alliance (BSA) by disgruntled (and typically former) employees.
The BSA is a powerful and well-funded organization formed in 1988 by leading software publishers to advocate for strong intellectual property protection for software (http://web.archive.org/web/*/www.bsa.org). Recently, this advocacy has taken the form of “grace periods” (http://web.archive.org/web/*/www.bsagrace.com) in targeted markets (including advertising and direct mail in those markets) that encourages businesses to legalize their software by buying more software from BSA members. Of course, you could also delete the illegal copies and replace them with free open-source software, but I digress. Here are ten ways that businesses (especially small businesses) can keep their software legal:
- Buy hardware and software separately since the software licenses that accompany bundled software typically make it difficult (if not impossible) to sell the software and hardware separately in the future.
- Buy only the software that you need and use open-source software when practical.
- Buy boxed software (as opposed to downloaded software) when possible and keep a copy of your receipt in the box.
- When you buy downloaded software, print a copy of your receipt and keep it with your other software.
- When you register software, print a copy of your registrations and keep those with your software receipts.
- Print a copy of each program’s “about” screen (which typically shows the software’s version number and serial/registration number) and keep those with your software receipts.
- Print receipts, registrations, and “about” screens whenever you update software.
- Establish, test, and maintain good backup policies and procedures for your computers. You should also backup any installers for downloaded software.
- Periodically audit your computers with tools such as Belarc Advisor (http://www.belarc.com/).
- Keep your employees happy.