Ontario schools settle software piracy disputes

Two Ontario technical colleges have learned their lesson about software piracy and settled claims with the Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft (CAAST) out of court.

The York

College of Information Technologies in Toronto paid $40,000.05 to CAAST and its partner the Business Software Alliance over illegal copies of Adobe and Microsoft software. The Connect Institute of Technology in St. Catherines, Ont., settled for $7,500.

York College’s technical manager, Ken Laas, maintains that the situation arose due a part-time employee’s practice of “”ghosting”” Oracle software from one machine to another. Ghosting refers to copying the contents of one computer’s hard drive onto another.

“”That pretty much gave us that problem,”” said Laas. “”There was a lot of software on the ghost that he chose to go onto the other machines. . . . All of a sudden, from having all of our software licensing ducks in a row, everything went crazy. It really destroyed a lot of the configurations.””

The employee concerned has since been fired and York College has stepped up its software auditing practices. “”I’ve started doing audits quite frequently and getting new technical staff to actually document what’s on each machine,”” said Laas.

Vice-president of administration for the Connect Institute Joe Arcaro said its troubles arose from a lack of diligence in deleting old copies of software. “”As computers get reformatted and software gets changed, somehow that software never got removed from the computers,”” he said. “”Even though people weren’t using that software, it wasn’t being erased.””

Like York College, Connect Institute has re-examined its software maintenance regime. “”We’re trying to have tighter scrutiny,”” said Arcaro. “”We’re checking from time to time to make sure that we only have the number of copies on each computer that we have licences for.””

Both institutions said that CAAST was probably tipped off by a former employee or former student with an axe to grind.

This is generally how software piracy organizations are apprised of illegal acts, said Bob Kruger, the BSA’s vice-president of enforcement. The BSA is based in Washington, D.C. but conducts anti-piracy campaigns in 65 countries, including Canada.

CAAST and the BSA received full cooperation from the two institutions involved, said Kruger. “”We would much prefer to be able to resolve these issues informally than end up having to spend more time and money on them by going to court,”” he said.

He added that colleges are “”definitely well represented”” in the number of tips that CAAST and the BSA receive, but should hold themselves to a higher standard than other businesses and organizations that make the tip list. “”They’re responsible to conduct their affairs in such a way that doesn’t teach students the wrong lesson,”” he said.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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