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Software Piracy At the Beijing Branch Office?

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the way-of-life dept.

Businesses 614

spirit_fingers writes "I'm the IT manager for a west coast design company that has a small branch office in Beijing with 5 employees, a few workstations and a couple of servers. Recently, it came to my attention that the Beijing office has been routinely installing and using pirated software on their computers — MS Office and Adobe Creative Suite, mostly. We're very buttoned up about being legal with our software here at the home office, and I consider it unprofessional and risky for our Beijing office to be engaging in this practice. When I called the local office manager on this, he shrugged and replied, 'Well, every other shop here does it.' So I was wondering if there are any IT manager Slashdotters here in the the US who may have experienced something similar with their colleagues in APAC, and how they handle a situation like this." Click the link for more of this reader's thoughts on the subject.
Up until now, the powers that be here in the States have had a relatively laissez faire attitude about what goes on at the Beijing office and our accounting department hadn't noticed that Beijing never submitted receipts for software, until I questioned them about it.

I have no doubt that "everyone else does it" in that environment. Frankly, I could care less what those guys do with their personal computers, but when it comes to company-owned gear my attitude is to stay legal no matter what anyone else is doing. And it's not like they need to do it to save money: the Beijing branch turns a tidy profit. It just seems to be an attitude so firmly ingrained in the culture over there that no one gives it a second thought.

My response (CC'd to our CFO) was to ask for copies of all receipts and serial numbers for the software they're using. and see what happens. This came down today, so I'll give them a day or two to come up with something.

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He's Right (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26721755)

EVERYONE in China massively pirates all software.

Seriously, the company I work for has facilities in China and everything we don't specifically buy and install is pirated over there.

Let the directors decide. (5, Insightful)

GrpA (691294) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721773)

Why make the decision yourself?

Send an email to the directors just confirming this is what they wish to do and that they don't want you to take any action on this matter.

Then it's not really your problem anymore.

Passing the buck works both ways :)

GrpA

Re:Let the directors decide. (1)

lordsid (629982) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721803)

Plausible deniability.

Re:Let the directors decide. (5, Informative)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721817)

If you want something to happen, try reporting the situation to the Beijing branch manager, and CC a higher-up of appropriate stature at the home office.

Speaking as a Chinese, and having much dealings with my kind, I can say that Chinese people will shit a brick when it comes to potentially pissing off a higher-up in the States.

Re:Let the directors decide. (5, Insightful)

Corbets (169101) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721829)

One could (and I would) argue the ethics of allowing someone else to decide whether an immoral or illegal act should continue. "Passing the buck" is for cowards, no matter the direction; I think this fella is doing the right thing in trying to solve the problem.

Besides which, proof that the directors of a company want something to happen is not absolution of your complicity. Suppose you know someone was cooking the books; do you suppose an email from the directors saying "it's ok" would be enough to absolve you when the IRS came in?

My 2 cents, at any rate.

I'd go the other way, personally (3, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721857)

I'd say trying to get some people in a third-world country to pay rich American monopolists extra money is an immoral act.

Re:I'd go the other way, personally (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26721887)

China is third world? you must be a stupid amelican.

Re:I'd go the other way, personally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26721989)

China's Communist, and therefore second-world by definition.

Re:I'd go the other way, personally (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26722039)

China is a Capitalist Authoritarian Dictatorship. You know, like the US tried in South America in the 70's/80's.

Re:I'd go the other way, personally (4, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722003)

I'd say trying to get some people in a third-world country to pay rich American monopolists extra money is an immoral act.

Maybe we should stop paying for Chinese goods? Because obviously some factory boss in China is getting rich off of his exploited workers.

Besides, besides Windows it's hard to argue that any software company has an absolute monopoly.

Re:I'd go the other way, personally (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26722021)

Normally I would agree with you, but you do realize that the US has this gigantic trade deficit with China, don't you? Maybe you could be more clear about who is the rich and who is the poor guy here.

Re:I'd go the other way, personally (4, Insightful)

xstonedogx (814876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722037)

Classifying Chinese working for a branch office of an American design company in Beijing as "some people in a third-world country" is more than a bit disingenuous. Also please consider that the money to be spent also belongs to another American corporation (design, so presumably a monopolist as well) not those people in China.

Re:I'd go the other way, personally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26722271)

Isn't China a 2nd world country?

Re:I'd go the other way, personally (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26722343)

And if the whole point of off-shoring work to an office in China is because it's cheaper, are these hidden costs factored in?

[Disclaimer: my project was recently off-shored to China.]

Re:I'd go the other way, personally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26722107)

Yes, just like China cant possibly have cyber criminals because their only a developing nation.

Re:I'd go the other way, personally (1)

Kleen13 (1006327) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722287)

And there he is folks.....

F.Y.I, It's now Immoral to pirate software.....

Oh well, eventually every pot gets a crack....

Re:Let the directors decide. (4, Insightful)

QuasiEvil (74356) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721895)

Okay, I'll argue those ethics.

IT guy probably doesn't have the power to force the Beijing branch to do anything. His responsibility is to make sure that his superiors, who do have the power as well as the responsibility, are informed about the situation. The corporation is their charge, and if they fail to act, it's the corporation that will incur the risk.

It'd be a whole different issue to me if the company was doing something that endangered people. In this situation, though, it's merely a calculated economic risk of decreased costs vs. the cost of getting caught.

Re:Let the directors decide. (2, Insightful)

djupedal (584558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721981)

The IT guy could always play the role of whistleblower...give you one guess where that leads.

I've spent years working around Asia and found the same thing, time and time again. Cracked software sits on servers and everyone helps themselves. Unless compliance officer is one of your titles, best tack is to stick to your specific job description.

I worked at one company that seemed puzzled why I didn't bring my own copies - turned out they didn't have any English versions. You'd be surprised how quickly you get used to software that isn't in your own language.

Re:Let the directors decide. (4, Insightful)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721913)

It's not necessarily a moral matter. That's debatable. What it is, is a business matter. And if you're not authorized to make decisions about that business matter, it's fine to pass the buck to those who are.

Re:Let the directors decide. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26722137)

I don't know a shit about how the legal system works, but as analogy if I witness an homicide and fail to report it I'm an accomplice of the killer (at least here). where is drawn the line between being an accomplice and safely passing the buck?

Re:Let the directors decide. (1)

patro (104336) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722041)

One could (and I would) argue the ethics of allowing someone else to decide whether an immoral or illegal act should continue.

The multinational companies do lots of immoral things themselves. Like providing software for dictators for financial gain.

I'd say they should clean up their act first and then demand their users to do the same.

Re:Let the directors decide. (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721881)

My response (CC'd to our CFO) was to ask for copies of all receipts and serial numbers for the software they're using. and see what happens.

Sounds like that's more or less what they did. Or at least, the decision has been made, with plenty of CYA, and, I suppose, an opportunity for the CFO to back out and make Chinese piracy a corporate policy.

Re:Let the directors decide. (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721961)

Why make the decision yourself?

Perhaps he has to. He said he's the IT manager of a small company.

Send an email to the directors just confirming this is what they wish to do and that they don't want you to take any action on this matter.

It seems, by simply putting it in writing that might just put this small company in a sudden legal dilemma it wouldn't be otherwise if he just put his head down, shut up, and let it be. Yes, he won't be in trouble now, but assuming that he no power in the Beijing branch to begin with, it's not a situation he can really win anything by bringing it up to his superiors in such a big corporate manner for a small company. I don't see how a verbal talk to the superiors isn't just as good or better without forcing a decision (and possibly monetary expediture).

Small companies are not like megacorps.

Re:Let the directors decide. (4, Funny)

DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722165)

First things first,

Make sure, that under no circumstances, that you post your situation to a popular internet site. That way you can be sure not to draw attention to your circumstances from the people who might investigate... ...oh wait one minute.

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil (1)

Nick Ives (317) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721779)

Bit late now you've already started investigating though.

Re:See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil (-1, Flamebait)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721925)

yeah, AND PUT IT ON THE SLASHDOT FRONT PAGE! If I wasn't so sure Slashdot was banned in China, I'd say they probably already got word and are quickly deleting all traces they did anything. Ugh, seriously, Chinese people have no morals when it comes to stealing something someone else made. You ever play an MMORPG with chinese players? I don't think I've met one that didn't try and scam someone or cheat the system to get money or just use a bot (that I'm sure they pirated...as well as the game)

Re:See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil (2, Informative)

B2382F29 (742174) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722031)

Reading slashdot from china at the moment I can verify it is definitely NOT banned. You might want to use another DNS server though (e.g. from OpenDNS) as the DNS requests tend to take longer if you use the DNS servers of the chinese providers.

Re:See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26721949)

Wilful ignorance is not a defense.

You're too small to be on their radar (1, Interesting)

stevejsmith (614145) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721793)

At least in Romania, where piracy is also widespread, the only companies at risk from these sorts of things are large companies owned by politically-involved people. Prosecutions for software piracy are often pretexts for some other political offense. If you're just a small design shop, I don't see how it would benefit any bureaucrat to come after you.

Ya know what else you should ask for? (-1, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721805)

Receipts for snow shovels from your Australia office. Never mind that it doesn't snow there. They *have* to be buying snow shovels or stealing them, or something.

Corporate dick.

Re:Ya know what else you should ask for? (2, Informative)

RodgerDodger (575834) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721863)

It snows in Australia. Some parts of Australia receive no snow, just like some parts of the US receive no snow. Some parts receive a lot. Those parts presumably like to stock up on snow shovels.

Re:Ya know what else you should ask for? (-1, Offtopic)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721947)

Ya, I meant *right now* being that it's summer here.

Re:Ya know what else you should ask for? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722009)

I have seen a patch of snow at the summit of Mount Bogong in February. I am pretty sure it survives most years.

But no, I doubt it snows this side of Australian Antarctic Territory at this time of year. Though it might snow on Heard Island.

Re:Ya know what else you should ask for? (1)

beav007 (746004) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722239)

I think it snowed in Tasmania in December...

It snows in AU only when Al Gore is in town (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26722061)

It snows in Australia.
Only when Al Gore is in town.
or at least that is what Tim Blair tells me. Link [news.com.au]

Two tiny areas of Oz get some snow. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26722327)

And those two areas get fuck all of it and not every year.

The rest of the country gets none.

Remember, Australia is simply a hot and barren wasteland, bordered by some hot and tropical rain forest.

Re:Ya know what else you should ask for? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721865)

Receipts for snow shovels from your Australia office. Never mind that it doesn't snow there.

But it does.

Re:Ya know what else you should ask for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26721869)

Actually it does snow in Australia.

Re:Ya know what else you should ask for? (0, Troll)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721909)

Receipts for snow shovels from your Australia office. Never mind that it doesn't snow there.

So, what, they don't write software in China? Or you're arguing that since they probably won't be caught or punished, they should do whatever they want?

Re:Ya know what else you should ask for? (0, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721979)

I'm saying it's a completely irrelevant concern. And you *know* that is what I'm saying.

Re:Ya know what else you should ask for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26722159)

No, you were saying that there was no need for what the Chinese are pirating, just like there's no need for snow-shovels in Australia.

You're a dumb ass on both points. The Chinese need commercial software, but they don't want to pay for it. The Australians need snow-shovels, and you don't know how to construct an analogy.

Re:Ya know what else you should ask for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26721933)

Just so you know IT DOES SNOW IN AFRICA AT CHRISTMAS TIME. Can you believe Band Aid didn't know about the Atlas Mountains?

A few things come to mind (3, Interesting)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721809)

1) you speak to someone who has the power to set things right educting them on the legal risks and possible get a cookie. 2) You do as above but use this as a chance to push open source software, it's free and legal so why not use it? 3) you keep your mouth shut and just hope no one ever tells on the company. 4) blackmail (for money if you want to be simple 5) keep it in mind if they threaten to lay you off due to budget issues. Nothing like having something on the boss (see above) All these are pretty sound options, well save maybe blackmail for cash.

Get Over It (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26721987)

Forget it ever happened lest you, and not the illegally copied software, are viewed as the problem. Keep complaining, and an H1-B visa with a job description curiously like your present position may soon appear.

Given it'smostly MS Office and PDF stuff.... (5, Insightful)

jkrise (535370) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721821)

You are better off suggesting Open Office and Free PDF software; rather than fighting piracy.

I used to work at a multi-national company; and I used to be amazed at the amount of self-imposed lock-ins created by IT staff in Western branches (I am based in India). Routine inter office correspondence happens using 'advanced' features in Exchange and Word which work only on the Windows platform. I always felt plain text and HTML suffices for any and all communication requirements.

Re:Given it'smostly MS Office and PDF stuff.... (0, Offtopic)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721939)

I always felt plain text and HTML suffices for any and all communication requirements.

I feel that way now, although I would either severely restrict the HTML (to facilitate WYSIWYG editing), or use ODF.

But I'm curious -- did you actually get that multi-national company to use any open standards, or are they still doing Exchange and Word? I'm going to guess that buying the Office licenses will be cheaper, for many organizations like this, at least in the short term.

Re:Given it'smostly MS Office and PDF stuff.... (4, Interesting)

jkrise (535370) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722099)

But I'm curious -- did you actually get that multi-national company to use any open standards, or are they still doing Exchange and Word?

I tried, but failed badly. I was with them from 1996 to 2002; and in late 2000, the MNC entered into an alliance with Microsoft globally, to use Windows and other Microsoft products. Initially I joined them to set up an SGI-based development network on IRIX and OGL; this was disbanded in 2002 and I quit.

My impression is that in many Western economies, the pricing for Microsoft products isn't that big a deal; so people tend to think of it as a problem that will disappear if they can throw some money at it. But on Server products, things got very expensive and complicated with Craptive Directory and Exchange 5.5; so many Directory Service Replication errors, and a nightmare for the sysadmins. It's like a treadmill... we need to keep running (upgrading) but seldom move forward.

It's not "PDF stuff" (2, Informative)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721971)

It's Adobe Creative Suite ... which includes stuff like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. You won't find free replacements for those. (And don't bother replying about the GIMP until it has proper CMYK support.)

Re:It's not "PDF stuff" (1)

PiSkyHi (1049584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722235)

I'm no expert on color spaces, I suspect its a bit like high quality mp3 versus FLAC. Color spaces for the sense gifted (maybe we need some double blind tests.)

CMYK support for GIMP [yellowmagic.info]

Re:It's not "PDF stuff" (1)

jkrise (535370) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722249)

It's Adobe Creative Suite ... which includes stuff like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. You won't find free replacements for those.

I've been using MS Office for more than 10 years now... and apart from a little bit of Word; a little more of Excel; I never used Access or PowerPoint or any of the other goodies that gets bundled.

Most people wrongly think they need to buy commercial software to create, email and print PDF documents... and buy the entire Adobe bundle.

Re:Given it'smostly MS Office and PDF stuff.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26722001)

"You are better off suggesting Open Office and Free PDF software; rather than fighting piracy."

Pretty much my policy, only I take it beyond suggestion and refuse to install unlicensed software on my own workstation as a matter of principle to send a message in the company. This matter is not just a topic for international offices either, it's commonplace in the States. Small companies on a tight budget would rather life $5K worth of software from a "friend" than shell out the capital expenditure because they can get away with it.

But I refuse. Open Office, Dia, Gimp, Thunderbird, putty and a handful of other Windows goodies are all I need to be productive, and it shows the senior executives that it is neither necessary to pirate software they think they need, nor even to pay for expensive commercial software with viable FOSS alternatives readily available.

Re:Given it'smostly MS Office and PDF stuff.... (1, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722069)

It seems that his Beijing offices are hell bent on using the MS software anyways as they no doubt already know of OSS products.

That being said, he should probably just nip this in the butt, buy the licenses needed and ship them to the office. It's only 5 systems and corporate can probably transfer the billing or invoice them anyways. Even if they don't, it's the same company so bitching about a branch office not doing something they aren't prepared to do is a little hypocritical.

It's really in the company's best interest this way anyways. Being the same company or operating as the same company (IE branch office), if there is an audit, the parent company can still be liable for their actions. 5 licenses to cover everything needed on the workstations shouldn't be too over costly or they aren't making enough money to use proprietary software in the first place.

Re:Given it'smostly MS Office and PDF stuff.... (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722153)

Nip in the bud [phrases.org.uk] . Sorry to correct you on this, but I thought you'd want to know that it wasn't "butt."

Nitpick (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722157)

...he should probably just nip this in the butt...

The phrase originates in gardening: to prevent a plant flowering you "nip it in the bud". I'm pretty sure he doesn't want to bite the arse that feeds him.

Re:Nitpick (1)

PiSkyHi (1049584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722243)

? I didn't know he worked at McDonalds.

Re:Nitpick (1)

beav007 (746004) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722261)

Something that bothers me about TFS is the phrase "I could care less". I'm hearing it a lot from people inside the USA these days, and I'd like to remind the general population there that the actual phrase is "I couldn't care less".

"I could care less" is at best completely useless to say, and more often, completely nonsensical, as the user means that they don't care, which is clearly the opposite of what it actually means.

Re:Nitpick (1)

MikeUW (999162) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722339)

Maybe I'm just a skeptic, but I doubt anyone wants to be fed by an arse either. If biting it is the solution to make it stop feeding you, you probably won't hesitate.

Re:Given it'smostly MS Office and PDF stuff.... (4, Interesting)

lokedhs (672255) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722155)

As an interesting side-note, the only time I receieved OpenOffice documents from a client was from an Indian customer.

I have to admit I smiled a bit with joy when that happened. :-)

The company's policy (4, Insightful)

tftp (111690) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721831)

My response (CC'd to our CFO) was to ask for copies of all receipts and serial numbers for the software they're using. and see what happens.

Can you request that from that branch only, and ask nothing from other branches? I'd think the manager would be seriously upset if you in such an open, unambiguous way declare him a pirate.

A better way, IMO, would be to set up a company-wide policy of keeping track of all software, all licenses and all computers. You need that anyway, just to know what you have, where, and what can be reused, and such. To implement that you, of course, need scans of receipts and licenses, serial numbers, codes or whatever is needed to install and use, along with some notes on what license governs the s/w (such as whether it can be moved from one box to another, etc.) This way when a computer is decommissioned you know what was on it and what can be salvaged. Tools like ManageSoft and HP CM do this, and there are other (free and not.) And when Boy Scouts of America kick the doors in you have all the receipts (that they insist upon!) to prove that you are not guilty, this time.

That assumes that your job makes you responsible for licensing compliance. If not, maybe you should not bother.

Counter Example (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26721833)

Well, I know for a fact people in china do occasionally buy software, but I work in an industry where you would be very hard pressed to pirate software.
Besides, even the Chinese don't want planes falling out of the sky, and it comes with a nice support contract.

I would ask, are they breaking any local laws and can it come back to byte you in the future.

Set a policy and enforce it (4, Interesting)

Matt Perry (793115) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721839)

Create a written IT policy for hardware and software. Make sure everyone knows what it is. Create a business ethics policy and ensure that components of it address using unlicensed software. Make sure that your employees are trained on these policies and that a record of training goes into their employee file. If the employees violate the policy, warn them in writing and file the notice in their HR record. If they violate the policy again, fire them. If they want to keep their job, they will fall into line and stop exposing the company to unnecessary legal risk.

Re:Set a policy and enforce it (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722195)

That solution is culturally as American as apple pie, and something like that is doomed to failure in a place like China. People don't even understand that you're supposed to buy software licenses, that you can't just copy and paste other websites onto your own, and so on.

why do you care? (4, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721847)

Unless your job is legal compliance or you own a lot of Microsoft stock, why bother with this?

Re:why do you care? (0, Flamebait)

powerspike (729889) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722035)

Because it's illegal to pirate software, maybe if you took it seriously there wouldn't be 5000 people out of jobs...
I know, how about we give them your phone number, and you can explain it to them?

Re:why do you care? (3, Informative)

daveime (1253762) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722103)

America != World.

In some developing countries, software piracy is not considered illegal. In Russia, which is not a signatory to the Berne Convention it is legal to copy any software as long as it is not in the Russian language.

So what strawman will you choose next I wonder ?

Re:why do you care? (4, Informative)

sw155kn1f3 (600118) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722207)

bullshit, it's illegal to copy any copyrighted software in russia.. the only question is will you get punished for doing this or not. this happens because copyright law can be enforced only by owner of such software registered within RU itself. so if say, adobe, has no representation in russian federation, then this just cannot be prosecuted by russian law (no intl treaties, correct, but this can and will change), because law clearly states that only copyright holder can protect their property.
IANAL, but this is how this works in RU.

more likely, there'd be more (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722115)

If it were 100% impossible to pirate Microsoft and Adobe products, it'd speed up their replacement with open-source software immensely.

Re:why do you care? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26722139)

That is like feeling sorry for Stormtroopers who work for the dark side. Slashdot is home of the Jedi Knights. You must be new here.

Re:why do you care? (5, Insightful)

cj1127 (1077329) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722223)

That "it's someone else's problem" attitude utterly stinks. My guess is that the guy actually *cares* about the reputation of his company and takes pride in its work, which might be a novel concept to some people. Like it or not, software piracy is illegal; the fact that you have an axe to grind about Microsoft doesn't detract from that

Let me go out on a limb . . . (2, Insightful)

lawnsprinkler (1012271) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721849)

. . . and suggest that you ask whoever is responsible for your company's legal affairs in China to address this. I'd assume that your company has an attorney that's familiar with the law there.

Considering the answer to your question obviously lies there, I'm prone to believe that this scenario is made up to promote an "anti-piracy" agenda on this site.

I suppose, when in Rome... (5, Insightful)

kkrajewski (1459331) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721851)

It's not like they're going to be caught and prosecuted. Although if possible, why not go for a FOSS solution? Personally I do tend to try to compensate people who write cool software that I use.

Ocassionally I get emails from Chinese users asking for a serial for one of our products. I asked one if there was not an accessible store from which to purchase it. He responded, basically, yeah, there's a couple, but no one buys software in China, they just download it. So there you have it!

Sadly we're not popular enough for anyone to have made a keygen that I can find.

Revoke install privs? (2, Informative)

magarity (164372) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721859)

It seems rather simple: just revoke their account privs for installing new software. I'm in China now and the piracy is not only rampant, the attitude is that only suckers pay. You'll have a near impossible task to try to enforce a no piracy rule by just asking nicely and for receipts. BTW, fake receipts are just as easy to get as pirated software so accepting those as proof will just get you fooled. The only way is to check product keys.

Re:Revoke install privs? (2, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722105)

The way they need to handle it if it is as you say would be to just buy the software, ship it to them and invoice it against their accounts.

I'm not sure why a single branch is allowed to make their own software decisions anyways. Granted, they are in a different country but if it's the same company and not a contracted company or some partner thing between several companies, then it only makes sense that the company has control over this regardless of what the local management say. It's not like they can refuse to report income or something or steer the branch in the opposite direction the company is aiming for and start selling car parts or anything, likewise, it isn't like they shouldn't be obligated to follow corporate policy.

Don't Stick Your Neck Out, But CYA & Pass the (4, Insightful)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721861)

It is admirable that you want to follow the law, but it is not your decision to make. First, decide if you are willing to go down to the mat on this issue. You may antagonize your superiors and be retaliated against. The threshold question is whether the risk of losing your job or getting your career stalled is acceptable to you. It's perfectly fine to let the matter lie if you feel your job may be at risk in this economy.

Whatever you decide to do, you should cover your ass. Write a formal memo detailing the foreign office's inability to demonstrate that its software is all legit. Call it to the attention of the Beijing folks and a US-based superior. But do not admit that the software is illegal. You do not know if it is. More to the point, it does not violate American law, which is mostly territorial. (The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act covers bribes, not copyright infringement but don't hold me to this.) Just say that you cannot prove the software is legitimate and leave it at that unless you have proof that it is illegal. File a copy of the memo away in a safe place and keep on trucking.

Should you decide to go on the warpath, make sure you have adequate backing. You do not want to be left alone, or be the problem-maker. Work up the numbers and see how much it would cost to go legit. See if you can use this as a selling point: "All our software is legit; the competitors use stolen software that may have trojans or be incompatible." Work on a consensus with your colleagues and superiors.

Lastly, be nice and tactful. Avoid being that douchebag who thinks he is better than everyone else. You cannot be effective if you are that dude. Be chill and try to make a win-win situation.

But if the company management is utterly unwilling to fix the problem, let it drop. Document your suspicions (and say that it is only a suspicion, not proof), send it to the Beijing folks, and save a copy of the memo.

Re:Don't Stick Your Neck Out, But CYA & Pass t (5, Insightful)

daveime (1253762) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721973)

Avoid being that douchebag who thinks he is better than everyone else

I'd say it's probably a bit late for that.

While the poster's motives might appear noble, I don't understand exactly what he's trying to achieve. A promotion, extra brownie points, getting someone in a foreign country fired, or at least severely embarrassed (and they set a lot of store on respect in Asia btw).

He's already approached the person responsible, and voiced his concerns. Just because said person didn't take the action he expected, instead of leaving it alone, he posts it on Slashdot for the world and his wife to comment on. And within a few days it'll be all indexed by Google for posterity.

To me he comes across as an anal retentive asshole who should be spending more time doing his job, rather than trying to shaft other people ... but that's just me, karma be damned.

Re:Don't Stick Your Neck Out, But CYA & Pass t (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721993)

You may antagonize your superiors and be retaliated against. The threshold question is whether the risk of losing your job or getting your career stalled is acceptable to you. It's perfectly fine to let the matter lie if you feel your job may be at risk in this economy.

Of course, if you have evidence of such things, you can always contact the Business Software Alliance [bsa.org] . Maybe you can get a piece of that million dollars to tide you over in your unemployment...

Re:Don't Stick Your Neck Out, But CYA & Pass t (1)

KyoMamoru (985449) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722145)

Just to throw it out there, since you are now known as 'KNOWING' that there is such an issue. You must at least report it to someone that is higher in the chain of command than you. Save the document that you send, and cover your ass. Essentially your e-mail/letter should have your professional recommendations, and that you are leaving it in their hands.

Re:Don't Stick Your Neck Out, But CYA & Pass t (1)

Wond696 (986470) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722211)

This is by far the wisest route on the issue. I would just add that you "could" notify your legal department of it and leave it to them to handle. It is their responsbility to deal with legal issues of all kinds. For your part you just need to make a reasonable attempt to resolve the situation through your appropriate chain of command. If they arean't interested document your findings and move on.

If you bring this up and the BSA comes callign when managment doesn't act your almost garanteed to experiance some kind of retaliation.

As someone who works with Asset software i garantee the effort of cleaning up your asset's and tracking everything is well worth it. You could always pitch the cost savings of such a system by reducing waste and overpurchasing.

Re:Don't Stick Your Neck Out, But CYA & Pass t (1)

tapanitarvainen (1155821) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722225)

It is admirable that you want to follow the law, but it is not your decision to make.

Yes it is. It is everybody's decision whether or not to follow the law or make a moral choice - which of course may not be the same thing.

You may decide the law is immoral or otherwise not worth obeying in any particular case, but it will be your decision, and you cannot shift the responsibility to your superiors or anyone else.

If you know your employer or indeed anyone is breaking a law, you share the responsibility - indeed in many jurisdictions you are legally obligated to turn them in.

You may decide the law is immoral or that the consequences of trying to follow it are not worth it, that the legal punishment is too harsh or simply that since your resources are limited, you must choose where and when you use them and when you just turn blind eye or make just a modest effort because you can't do everything or because you realistically assess you cannot win - but it's always your decision, and you should make it knowingly.

I know who you are (2, Insightful)

CuteSteveJobs (1343851) | more than 5 years ago | (#26721867)

Well, I don't. But Let's see...

* IT manager
* a US west coast design company
* a branch office in Beijing with 5 employees

Can't be that many of them... I reckon half an hour on Google and I can work out who you are...

> When I called the local office manager on this, he shrugged and replied, 'Well, every other shop here does it.' So I was wondering if there are any IT manager Slashdotters here in the the US

Oh he knows who you are already...

Good luck in your new career.

Hey in this economy... fuck it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26721931)

Why does the little man have to be moral and upstanding when the higher ups have been so currupt and and wasteful with us.

Pirate the shit out of software... Run up your credit debt and buy luxory items with it... and when the law comes knocking, just ask congress for a bail out and a handshake. Hey it works for the rich, so why not you?

Who really cares?

Obama isnt our savior, and the shit wheel keeps on rolling folks. We havent changed shit.

They can install software? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26721953)

Off the subject, but I'd pull admin rights. No need to be installing the latest and greatest malware (legally obtained)

spongE (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26721967)

to t4is. For mechanics. So I'm = 36440 FreeBSD Has brought upon

Not about moral high ground but smart CYA folks (1)

ACK!! (10229) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722015)

If you inform the office and cc'ed the boss when you know something illegal is going down, your covered. If you don't, and there is a stink they fire you and put you up as the scapegoat. The guys in the China office were following local tradition but that states-side IT manager knew and did nothing. So he is fired. But if you are the good employee in all the news reports that told the higher-ups in that-stereotypical-memo-dated-whenever that the office in China was going to fuck up the works for everyone. And they did not listen. No one is going to give you a medal but you reported what you knew via the proper channels and they don't fire you.

woah boy woah (1)

karearea (234997) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722023)

Let's not get carried away.

As far as I have known, APAC refers to Asia Pacific .. which includes place like NZ.

Probably best to refer to Bejing / China as China or maybe at a pinch Asia. But please not Asia Pacific.

What is with all the posts advocating open source (2, Insightful)

ragethehotey (1304253) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722025)

When the fact that he has stated they are a design firm makes it pretty clear that at least one of the pirated pieces of software is Adobe Photoshop?

Nobody would actually be so naive to claim that GIMP is a legitimate and complete open source alternative for Photoshop for a design firm at this point in time? Right? (Although I obviously hope that it will be at some point in the future and GIMP currently is great to give to friends that are learning photo manipulation software for the first time)

Re:What is with all the posts advocating open sour (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722301)

With respect, gimp now is a huge improvement on what photoshop was a few years ago when those versions of photoshop were being used by design firms. Now I wouldn't recommend gimp to a professional graphics designer - that would just be like recommending they use the MS Windows platform instead of Macs - but it still does a pretty good job for a lot of stuff. It's really designed for web graphics so the escalating "gimp can't do 768bit color" argument may still be dragged out in the far future and is still utterly ridiculous even today when people are complaining it can't do 16 bits per channel. Not many people really need 16 bits for each of three colors plus 16 bits of transparency.

Isn't China just great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26722027)

"Everyone else does it."
If you can use it to justify female infanticide, then surely it can work for software piracy too.

Call the BSA. (4, Insightful)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722065)

http://www.bsa.org/ [bsa.org] It is completely anonymous.

Why would I - an open source advocate - suggest such a thing? Simple; Forcing people to use and learn from Linux (and thereby allowing Linux to learn from them in turn) is better than passively letting them steal MicroSoft products they can't afford which only improves MicroSoft's ability to leverage their installation base in illegally (in the US at least) anti-competitive practices. This will force MicroSoft to price their software at what its worth or make it worth what they charge.

Why would I claim to be a benevolent person who cares for the good of humanity with such apparently cruel intentions as forcing users to use Linux unwillingly? That answer is also simple but if you don't already know it then it is pointless for me to state it.

Don't fight it, go behind their backs (1)

PhireN (916388) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722079)

Your never going to get them to cooperate with you, so Instead just go along with them. Then think up some bogus excuse to find out what software is installed, and assume any software you haven't given them is pirated.

Then go to all the affected companies and buy the licences from them. Keep all the licences Locked up at the head office. Just leave the branch offices with the pirated software installed.
That way you have the moral high ground (and probably legal immunity), the companies get their money and the branch office doesn't get angry with you.

Re:Don't fight it, go behind their backs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26722167)

That's my vote. Either ask them what they're running or do an audit, then purchase the appropriate licenses and ship them copies of the discs and keys (keep the origs. at corp.)

Isn't it corp's responsibility to provide for their offices? It's not an affiliate or franchise or something, it's the same company. You don't tell the secretaries in the US office to buy their own copies of word do you? no, it's the company's responsibility to provide sw, for their employees.

Sure create suite seems expensive, but if you compare it to the value your employees create for the company with it, it's minor. just do it.

this is usual... (3, Interesting)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722127)

atleast here in india. every computer that has not been bought from dell, hp or some other international company has pirate windows and office on it. recently microsoft complained to a big company here and guess what they switched completely to ubuntu.

Seen it time and time again with Asian offices... (4, Informative)

Taelron (1046946) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722151)

I'm an I.T. consultant in Silicon Valley and several of my clients over the years have had manufacturing offices in Hong Kong and China.

I've had to deal with this situation more times than I care for in the last 10 years. Its a very big legal hassle for your company, and their are raids every few years. Not enough to scare the Asian work force into compliance, but its enough of a game of corporate Russian roulette that the risk just isn't worth it.

Not only are many of the Asian offices using pirated software, but are not running any antivirus software. I've routinely tracked down about 80% of all infections at my client offices to their e-mails with their overseas counterparts or from when they are traveling in Asia on business.

Also, much of the pirated versions of the software are riddled with trojans, spyware, and security holes galore. Allowing them to use that software further opens up your entire company up to a breach or leak of information.

I've also seen more than one company fold or nearly go under because one disgruntled person called in an anonymous tip that their current or former companies software was not legit.

In a corporate environment, getting the documentation and legal software is definitely the IT managers job, and an obvious C.Y.A. for anyone in the I.T. department and the company officers... Its those heads that will roll if the B.S.A. shows up with the authorities to audit you.

Russia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26722163)

I experienced a similar situation with an office in Moscow and I came to the conclusion that we can police these things, but we cannot prosecute AND execute sanctions, that is for someone else in the organisation to do.

An IT department is there to serve its customer base, protect the corporate assets and present evidence to others in the case of wrong doing. Let someone else deal with the headache of dealing with people, the machines are more than enough to cope with.

This is a sad reality (1)

code4fun (739014) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722173)

Unfortunately, there will always be software piracy. Software makers spend a lot protecting their IP. This goes back to copy protection (a total PITA). And, there will always be crackers who break the copy protection. It's an endless cycle. If software is priced properly, I believe people will pay for it regardless of the software being proprietary. Or, just make the switch to open source where you are free to use and modify the software. Cheers.

APAC? (1)

apadula (23193) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722183)

Personally, my colleagues from APAC all have licensed software, although none of our offices are in China.

You see, APAC is a very large place, with quite a few countries, some of which are mostly law abiding.

This is how they treat "IP" in China (1)

Technomancer (51963) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722187)

Get over it.
You real problem is that your company "IP" (designs, whatever) will show up at those every other shops,

No cross-culture training in your company, eh? (3, Insightful)

dbc (135354) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722227)

Of course this will happen with APAC shops unless the APAC employees get training in US buisiness culture, and the US employees get training in Chinese buisiness culture. Bootleg software is the *least* surprise your exectutives will receive unless they get out in front of this issue.

The APAC employees need the "this is how we do things here" speech. They will think you are nuts. If you repeat the speech enough, they will get it.

Standard practice in the Solomon Islands (1)

capt_mulch (642870) | more than 5 years ago | (#26722313)

This level of software piracy is standard in the Solomon Islands, and I assume much of the rest of the Pacific.
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