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Beware of the Software License Police

Robert J. Scott, The Advocate, 2008

Shrinking IT budgetsts, fierce competition and a mature software market have increased the motivation for software publishers (such as Microsoft Corp., Adobe Systems Inc., Oracle) to conduct software licensing audits – demanding that their customers demonstrate ownership of licenses for all software installed on their computers. Software audits can either be initiated by the software publishers themselves or via their trade associations, such as the Business Software Alliance or the Software and Information Industry Association. Although these groups have no independent regulatory or enforcement authority, publishers have granted them a power of attorney to pursue copyright infringement claims on their behalf. The most common impetus for a software audit is the report of software piracy received from an informant, usually a disgruntled employee. Companies are not required to cooperate, but avoiding litigation is highly unlikely without an agreement to participate in a voluntary audit. The legal and financial implications of software audits can be enormous.