Vendors: Poor asset management could lead to piracy

In an era where anti-piracy groups are proving that their bites are just as potent as their barks, enterprises are being told they need to take sober second looks at asset management tools.

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) in the U.S. and the Canadian

Alliance Against Software Theft (CAAST) are bent on reducing the software piracy problem, said Randy Britton, spokesperson for New Hampshire-based Tally Systems. If businesses want to avoid the possible humiliation, large fines and jail sentences stemming from licensing violations, they should know at all times what software they have, where the applications are installed and how often the applications are used.

“”Everybody has the entire Microsoft Word suite on their desktops,”” said Britton, explaining how something as simple as underutilization can be costly. “”Everybody uses Word, half use Excel and very few use Access. Yet companies are spending for multiple copies of full Word suites. You find that maybe one-third of applications being bought are being used.””

Earlier this month the BSA and Tally Systems announced an expanded partnership through which the BSA will enable organizations to register via its Web site for a free one-month trial of the TS.Census License Compliance Suite.

While the Government of Nunavut still uses an older version of TS.Census, Curtis Kayfish, an IT administrator with the government, said it will upgrade within four to six months, partly because it wants to take advantage of the automated update feature.

One of the original reasons for selecting the product, he said, was the need to locate hackers and other malicious software on the network.

“”Then we realized other benefits in software compliance,”” said Kayfish. “”We realized we could use it for its other intended purposes…Especially if you can’t get out to see all the computers, you never know what’s installed out there…We’re legally required to pay for what we’re using.””

An annual study on software piracy released last year by CAAST and BSA shows that some have no scruples about illegally using software. According to the study, 35 per cent of software programs in Canada were pirated in 2003, translating into $990 million in lost retail sales of software. (Open source proponents, however, have argued that CAAST’s numbers don’t take into account non-proprietary software and are based largely on estimates of shipments.)

Allan Steel, CAAST spokesperson, said the importance of knowing what’s happening on corporate networks was highlighted late last year when CAAST released the results of a Decima Research survey revealing that one in 10 employees is installing software from outside sources without notifying their IT departments.

Viruses and spyware programs aren’t the only concerns, he said, because Canadian copyright law stipulates businesses can be made to pay up to $20,000 for each software application infringed. And firms can be held responsible for their workers’ wrongdoings.

“”It’s easy to get out of compliance unless you have good policies and procedures in place,”” said Steel. “”Good software will help you do that.””

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