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How Do You Deal With Pirated Programs At Work?

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the make-them-walk-the-plank dept.

Software 958

LoneAdminOK writes "I started working for a small company in the middle of January as their IT Manager. I am the first actual 'IT Guy' that they have had; before me it was someone that performed another job within the company and just handled the IT on the side. The problem that I am running into is that most of the software I am finding on the network and on people's computers isn't owned by the company. The person before me would just get it from 'somewhere' and install it on the computers as needed. This is putting me in a bad position when I have to reinstall the program or find it to install on someone else's computer. Often, I am telling people that we don't have it or we have to buy another license, and they get mad at me because the other guy said that we had it. I can't even tell where the versions of Windows Server that they are running came from. The only one I know is legit is the one that is installed on an HP server with the OEM sticker on it. How have any of you handled a situation like this? I don't install 'borrowed programs' in a production environment because I know that if the BSA got wind of this, it would all fall on me when they stormed in."

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Your choice (4, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#27312963)

All you can do is go to the higher ups and lay out the entire situation. If they don't care about the consequences, have them put it in writing to CYA, and then decide whether you want to trust that YA is truly C'd, and whether you want to add "Installer of Illegal Software" on to your CV. That's all you can do.

In my experience, the smaller the company, the more pirated software you find. If it's one guy working out of his house, it'll be lucky if he's actually using his own internet connection, more less software that he actually owns.

Now queue 500 posts saying, "ZOMG, replace it all with OSS."

Re:Your choice (5, Funny)

KyleTheDarkOne (1034046) | more than 5 years ago | (#27312999)

ZOMG, replace it all with OSS.

How we deal with pirated programs? (5, Funny)

kdawson (3715) (1344097) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313133)

Easy! Keygens.

Re:Your choice (4, Insightful)

Akido37 (1473009) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313001)

All you can do is go to the higher ups and lay out the entire situation. If they don't care about the consequences, have them put it in writing to CYA, and then decide whether you want to trust that YA is truly C'd, and whether you want to add "Installer of Illegal Software" on to your CV. That's all you can do.

In my experience, the smaller the company, the more pirated software you find. If it's one guy working out of his house, it'll be lucky if he's actually using his own internet connection, more less software that he actually owns.

Now queue 500 posts saying, "ZOMG, replace it all with OSS."

In summary, you're screwed.

Re:Your choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27313061)

I call the new Copyright Czar - I have him on speed dial.

CYA = cover your ass (5, Informative)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313127)

CYA = cover your ass

in case some of our international readers missed it ;)

Re:CYA = cover your ass (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27313231)

tks. Thought it meant Caramel Yak Association and I was getting all confuzed.

Re:CYA = cover your ass (4, Funny)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313307)

Caramel Yak Association


Re:Your choice (2, Insightful)

HalifaxRage (640242) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313149)

Good advice. I'd add that if you don't think your boss/manager would stick up for you if it ever came to that I'd say get the ok from their boss too. If everyone up the chain says "screw it, we're not paying that much for photoshop, my cousin gave me a cracked cd" just make sure that they know what you're doing and that they know that you know. And of course not to make the point to which you imply but there *are* a significant amount of free and almost-free software packages available for many uses. If they *have* to have photoshop then make sure they know what Photoshop costs and that the cost can be paid by the employee, the company, or in bad karma.

Re:Your choice (1)

mr_musan (1075927) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313181)

"Installer of Illegal Software"

heheh i was once told that would be a good thing to have on my CV

Re:Your choice (5, Interesting)

Toreo asesino (951231) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313217)

I actually remember being told by management in a much previouser place to hook up our internet to the unsecured cafe wireless below us because no one could work until the ISP reconnected us (didn't pay the bills). They must've got one hell of a shock as 20 or so machines all started connecting out to the mail server through their wireless via one tablet PC dangling down below through an office window via the Ethernet to get the best connection possible.

And yeah, "management" (far too classy a word for these people) knew exactly what they were doing.

Happy days :)

Re:Your choice (5, Informative)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313227)

I was in a similar situation long ago... I wrote up a memo outlining the software we had installed, an estimated budget to get everyone legal with what they needed, and an approval to go ahead. (At the time there was no FOSS...)

I got my ass chewed for putting it in writing, but it got their attention. We ended up getting legal in most of the larger packages.

Today I would also do the homework and add "direct FOSS replacements" for the software in question as much as possible. MS server -> CentOS + Samba; MS OFfice -> OpenOffice, and so on. I would create a roadmap to get everyone legal and ask for approval.

Above all, be professional, curteous, and politically astute. It won't do to create a "fear reflex" where you get shitcanned and blackballed. You may want to have a closed-door conversation first and ask to see if management would like to see the roadmap you've prepared.

Re:Your choice (5, Insightful)

BitwiseX (300405) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313299)

I agree 100%. I've seen this a million time at smaller companies, that I've gone into as a contractor. As a contractor I've had to refuse requests to install software. It was usually one copy of Office '97 that a husband brought in to install on 10 or so PCs.

The sad part is MOST small business don't even realize what they are doing is illegal. Then when you analyze what they have and what the cost of going legit is, they say "Thanks!" and show you the door.

In your case I would hope asking for a CYA letter from the higher powers would at least throw up a red flag and make them realize the seriousness of the situation. I'd be interested to know what legal position that puts you in however, since you know what you are doing is illegal, CYA letter or not. If your boss said to shoot his secretary and gave you a letter saying he told you to do it... I don't think it would hold up in court (A little extreme, but still..)

Re:Your choice (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27313475)

If you're a contractor and pointing out that their software is not legally licensed leads to being shown the door, I'm sure a call to the BSA would get their attention. Depending on how you feel about burning rickety bridges.

Re:Your choice (4, Informative)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313301)

Surprisingly, those 500 FOSS-supporting slashdotters might be right. Apparently, the economic poo we are wading through has a lot of businesses (esp smaller ones) considering FOSS. I don't know if Microsoft will ever again resort to auditing and suing its own install base en masse like it did years ago, but with their balance sheets sliding south just like everyone else, they might start looking to maximise the revenue from their unofficial install base, as it were. I sure wouldn't want to chance it. There are more FOSS equivalents now than ever for proprietary software. Now might be the perfect time to switch.

Re:Your choice (3, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313445)

Well, I managed to convince my management that OpenOffice was more than adequate for certain departments. We still (sadly) have to use Outlook and Exchange in a number of areas, but I'm already looking at dispensing with that and going with some open source groupware, as well as contact management software. Still, it's a move forward. Right now the phrase "no licensing costs" is like magic.

Re:Your choice (1)

SpicyLemon (803639) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313367)

I agree completely.

Step 1: CYA

From there, educate yourself and others on free alternatives if cost is a factor. If it's a small enough company, you should have no problem going to the owner or manager or whoever the head person is and explaining the repricussions of getting caught pirating software. It often leads to loosing the company. However, make sure not to be threatening. You don't want to imply blackmail here.

I ran into a similar situation at my old job. The company had about 50 people and I was the head IT guy. I was sometimes even instructed (usually by sales-folk) to install software that I knew was illegal. I refused every time and stated my reasons. It didn't make me the most popular IT guy, and I know that there was at least one other that would install the illegal software, but it at least kept my conscience clear and my ass covered.

I think the biggest thing is to find free alternatives if possible. If not, make your displeasure well known. If instructed to break the law.... well, that's up to you but I'd probably start looking for another job if my current employer knowingly told me to break the law.

Re:Your choice (3, Informative)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313431)

I agree. I'd go one step further though. I'd go to the big boss head honcho guy, and explain the options as far as you know as follows.

1) You are a professional, and take professional pride in your work. This means that you will not install or support pirating.

2) As professional, you'll recommend free and open source alternatives to replace all the pirated versions as quickly as you can.

3) Any software that is necessary that has been pirated will be replaced with legitimate versions ASAP, with the understanding that it is a high priority for you.

4) The cost of getting caught by the BSA holding pirated versions is much more costly than actually purchasing the software. And it only takes one disgruntled employee to make that call.

I'd present him with the scenario where someone offered to sell the business a bunch of whatevers that happened to "fall off the truck" what the boss would do. If he doesn't care, then you know exactly who you are dealing with and the kind of company you work for.

Lastly, I would DOCUMENT everything, and let the Bossman know you are documenting everything, including the conversations you have regarding your findings and the solutions you're offering. That is professional.

Education is a long hard process. And sometimes the best education is pain. But there are a few people out there that will never learn.

ZOMG (3, Funny)

XanC (644172) | more than 5 years ago | (#27312985)

Replace it all with OSS.

Re:ZOMG (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313085)

I think what you really mean is free (as in beer) software.

Not all free-as-in-beer software is open source,

Not all open source software is free-as-in-beer.

Though of course the vast majority of OSS is also free as in both beer and speech.

Re:ZOMG (2, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313257)

Well, you say that jokingly but depending on the types of software we are talking about it might be an option. I'm not really an OSS evangilist but I would still recommend it in this case because the company isn't willing or isn't able to purchase the software legally. For technical users, there shouldn't be any problem moving people over to Linux, OpenOffice (I'm not talking about the accounting guys or anything, just the people that it makes sense to move over), and svn. The problem is if the software being pirated is software without good free alternatives.

Unless I'm missing something the options are 1) put your ass on the line and install the software illegally, 2) look for free alternatives, or 3) quit. Personally I'm not loyal enough to my company for #1 and with the job market today I wouldn't want to do #3.

Not Redundant. (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313277)

(Parent had the second post, mods. NOT redundant.)

The OSS thing is something that I hear a lot, and I have a certain amount of sympathy for...I use a lot of OSS myself, and my primary skillz are of the *nix variety. Where it fits, you should absolutely put it in. You might be able to ditch your windows servers, and remove part of your headache at least.

But it's really unlikely you'll be able to convince people to give up their desktop apps, especially once they've had time to learn them. Licenses there will have to be obtained, or not as the case may be.

Re:Not Redundant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27313395)

(Parent had the second post, mods. NOT redundant.)

Shh, you'll only confuse and infuriate them.

Yarr... (5, Funny)

nacturation (646836) | more than 5 years ago | (#27312995)

I'd just keep me head down and swab the deck, me hearty!

We will audit it for you (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27313015)

Don't worry, just post your company's name and address and we will perform a free audit on all your software for you.

BSA Auditors

Don't be a pussy (5, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313017)

Everyone is doing it. What are you afraid of?

Don't be a baby! Go on, do it!

Re:Don't be a pussy (2, Funny)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313083)

Flamebait? Oh come on, that's a Funny for sure.

Re:Don't be a pussy (2, Funny)

FSWKU (551325) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313439)

Come on, McFly! What are you, chicken????

It doesn't have to be production to be piracy... (5, Insightful)

omkhar (167195) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313033)

>I don't install 'borrowed programs' in a production environment

'borrowed programs' shouldn't be installed anywhere - prod, test, uat whatever. Non-production piracy is still piracy.

Re:It doesn't have to be production to be piracy.. (1)

lumenistan (1165199) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313179)

You're absolutely right. I have prod, dev, and UAT instances of Captain Morgan, and they all seem equally potent.

Re:It doesn't have to be production to be piracy.. (3, Funny)

Kirth (183) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313203)

Non-production piracy is still piracy.

Yes, and you still be hanged for it. Yarr!

Re:It doesn't have to be production to be piracy.. (5, Interesting)

profplump (309017) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313467)

I realize that's true from a pure copyright standpoint, but in the real world it's sometimes useful to say, install a copy of a tool for evaluation in your workflow before deciding to spend $600 on a license for that tool.

Or do you know of a merchant that will accept opened software package for return, should I decide that $600 isn't worth the cost for deployment, or doesn't do what I need? Because I'd be happy buy a license if I had the right to terminate the license and return the product for refund, and even to pay some reasonable fee for my trial usage -- I'm just not willing to pay full price with no opportunity for refund for a product that I've never had the opportunity to test. I wouldn't do it for a car or a DVD player and I won't do it for software either.

Nuke... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27313053)

Nuke the site from orbit. It is the only way to be sure.

Where are you located? (5, Funny)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313067)

For what company do you work?
I'm sure we can figure something out.

Your friend,

Replace with Open Source (5, Interesting)

Foofoobar (318279) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313079)

Jeff Bezos once said to me 'you can't take something away from someone without giving something back of equivalent value without them being pissed off'. Obviously you have to take the software away but try to give them an open source equivalent for the time being. They may actually even start using it longterm and save the company money from having to purhcase licenses of the other software.

Re:Replace with Open Source (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313125)

That would be a perfect solution if OSS alternatives existed for all software, or even all software without a learning curve. But it simply doesn't. The only alternative is to buy licenses for the software.

Re:Replace with Open Source (2)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313177)

The only alternative is to buy licenses for the software.

Clearly there is another alternative...

Re:Replace with Open Source (2, Insightful)

dave420 (699308) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313281)

Yes, but then you have to retrain people or expect them to muddle through learning new software. That will negatively affect the productivity, appearance to the client, and the bottom line. Buying licenses doesn't - it affects the bottom line only - the rest of the company works exactly 100% as it did before.

Re:Replace with Open Source (1)

Murpster (1274988) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313341)

This is the only solution I'd recommend, really. For most of the stuff office drones need, a managed Linux box with OpenOffice, Firefox and an email client is plenty. If you really really can't find some specialized program you need in open source, at least that limits the number of people who'll need commercial software licensed. I've worked at companies where pirating was actively encouraged by upper management. Approach your bosses and see what they think.

Re:Replace with Open Source (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313371)

They could keep the whole system up and running, get a seatcount, and just pay for the licenses. But yeah, using open source software would have made more sense from the beginning if licensing costs were an issue. I hope that they resolve the problem before the BSA kicks their doors down and jackboots their heads at gunpoint.

Re:Replace with Open Source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27313407)

You might piss off the bosses when you tell them they need to dump $20,000 into valid software licenses, but that is you doing your job, and it happens in a meeting, not as a surprise.

On the other hand, if everyone comes in on Monday morning to new operating systems and software that they need to learn, someone is going to poop in your shoes.

And yes, I'm sure for the slashdot crowd we can just say that anyone that can't adapt is not computer savvy enough to deserve the breath that fills their lungs and is collateral damage/addition by subtraction, but the non-slashdot crowd can also make the point that the slashdot crowd is a bunch of neckbeards and can get stuffed, and then poop in your tech savvy shoes :)

Turn them in. (5, Funny)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313087)

Collect the reward.

Re:Turn them in. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27313241)

Good luck with that. It's been my understanding that the reward amount is questionable, and it certainly won't make up for the lost income.

Re:Turn them in. (1)

geekmansworld (950281) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313331)

Not to mention the fact that you'll never work in IT again.

ZOMG (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27313089)

Replace it all with OSS.

What the hell? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27313099)

Why the hell have you taken the time to "Ask Slashdot" when your first duty should have been to call an urgent meeting with the board to explain the situation? If the shit hits the fan you will be the one responsible, so get it in order!

Start with auditing your network (use automatic auditing software) and then work out:
  1. What licenses can I reclaim from users who do not need the software they have?
  2. What licensed software do we use for which we require more licenses?
  3. What unlicensed software do we have?
  4. How much will this all cost to fix?

You should have already done this. Then you take it all to the board and get them to stump up the cash to fix it.

If you can't/won't do this, go find another job.

Re:What the hell? (5, Funny)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313279)

So, do you know where I can "borrow" this automatic auditing software of which you speak???

Re:What the hell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27313411)

Nagios, Spiceworks, etc...

That's not your fault (3, Funny)

rob1980 (941751) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313103)

Often, I am telling people that we don't have it or we have to buy another license, and they get mad at me because the other guy said that we had it.

That's not your fault, tell them to be mad at the other guy. As far as you're concerned, either the company can cough up the money for non-pirated copies of software, or you can ZOMG, replace it all with OSS.

Re:That's not your fault (2, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313479)

Yea, I'll second this. Don't be a pussy and cave just because someone says, "The other guy installed it!" The other guy broke the law. Not being willing to break the law doesn't make you less skilled than teh pirate.

It's very tempting to just install the stuff anyway: you look like a can-do guy, with it, always got the stuff we need, a real team player. But if you do get audited they will sell you out so fast your head will spin. And if you get audited after you've fixed the license issue, they will worship you, yea, as unto a god.

Early retirement (1)

jargoone (166102) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313107)

if the BSA got wind of this, it would all fall on me when they stormed in

But if you're not there, it won't. Hooray for blackmail!

Re:Early retirement (3, Funny)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313453)

Hooray for blackmail!

I prefer extortion. The X makes it sound cool.

2nd incidence is cause for employee termination (2, Insightful)

peter303 (12292) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313113)

Every employee reads and signs a conduct statement when joining and annually. Its spelled out in there. I believe company had some problems and fines in the past.

Call the BSA (1)

ndunnuck (833465) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313115)

Call the BSA hotline and get your fat $25 bounty.

Are you mad? (4, Insightful)

drolli (522659) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313131)

Rules for dealing with that

1) *Never states the existence of pirated software as a fact to outside you company*.!!!

2) Ask your Boss at a cup of tea outside his office

3) Depending on your bosses answer and your morality
    a) Boss says: hunt down priated software -> you do that
    b) Boss says: dont touch the issue and you are not too worried about the moral/legal issues: close your eyes
    c) Boss says: dont touch the issue and you are worried about the moral/legal issues AND you are brave: state is explicictely in an e-mail to your boss with somebody else in the company in the CC
    d) Boss says: dont touch the issue and you are worried about the moral/legal issues AND you are reasonable: leave.

Figure out how big the problem is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27313143)

I'd probably do an audit and figure out how big the problem really is. Then present it to the bosses with your recommendations. At that point they'll decide what to do. Then you have to decide whether you want to be a part of what they'll do.

Tell the truth, plainly (2, Informative)

MBAslug (184293) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313159)

Gather the details of what is installed by using belarc's survey software. Summarize the number of computers, the unlicensed software and the steps necessary to move forward. Go to the executive privately first. This will allow him to evaluate and consider the path without cornering him.

The next step is going to be an evaluation by the managers to determine what software their people really need.

In the end, they need to get proper licenses, and no executive is going to wantonly commit federal fraud.

Play the game (3, Informative)

masonc (125950) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313161)

I had this situation with a company I was contracting to. Knowing that the IT guys were installing pirated software, I wrote the management of that company and recommended that the company established a policy that all software was legally obtained and licensed. At that point, management had only two choices, acknowledge the issue and agree, or document that they approved of piracy. Armed with the policy, I could point to that when anyone asked me to install non-legal software without fear of retribution.

Re:Play the game (1)

hal9000(jr) (316943) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313393)

Armed with the policy, I could point to that when anyone asked me to install non-legal software without fear of retribution.

Um, I wouldn't stake my career on that. IANAL, but you are never obligated to commit a crime and you can't commit a crime and later claim you are innocent because committing the crime was a matter of company policy or not your responsibility.

Arrrrrrr! Pirates! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27313165)

I make them walk the plank!

Oh yeah? (5, Funny)

qoncept (599709) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313169)

I know that if the BSA got wind of this, it would all fall on me when they stormed in.

And those Boy Scouts are rotten little bastards.

Collect the Bounty! (2, Insightful)

wsanders (114993) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313187)

Do what any decent pirate would do, turn 'em in to the Navy (or whoever is in charge of pirated software), collect yer bounty, and, arrr, off to more plunder matey!

If I need it, I install it (2, Interesting)

i_ate_god (899684) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313189)

It's not my responsibility. I'm not paid enough to care. If I need software on my computer, and the IT guy gives me that software, then I will install it and use it and not ask questions.

ask some questions (5, Informative)

uglyduckling (103926) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313193)

Rather than presuming that it's all pirated, start by presuming that everything as it stands is legitimate. Write a memo to whoever does the accounting and ask for copies of the invoices for all of the software purchased over the past five years "so that I know what licenses we currently possess and don't end up paying for software twice over when someone asks me to install something".

When/if the accounting person/dept comes back with nothing, then take it to the bosses and explain how surprised you were when accounting were unable to find any invoices. Stress the safety issues of illegitimate software (viruses, trojans etc.) and discuss the options. Make it look like you are a contentious employee doing your best for the company and avoid looking like a self-righteous jobsworth.

Yes, it's a horrible situation I've faced too (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27313197)

1. Grab everything "IT" (install disks, licences, purchase invoices etc.) for hardware and software and get them to a single secure location.

2. Thoroughly audit the whole lot.

3. Refuse point blank to (re-)install stuff you're not sure about. You'd be surprised how much influence you have as the first (only) "real" IT guy.

4. Push FOSS as a solution.

ZOMG (2, Insightful)

jtev (133871) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313199)

Actually, it's not a ZOMG, just explain to the owner that you have certain ethical standards, and that you will not break the law for your job. Then put together an itemised list of licences needed to bring the company into compliance, with prices. If they are unwilling to pay, provide itemised list 2, which has FOSS options that can be migrated to, with an estimate of how long it would take you to do so, and how much downtime would be involved. If they are unwilling to go with either option, "You don't want to sell him death sticks. You want to go home and rethink your life."

Reap the rewards (3, Insightful)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313219)

Today in pretty much every American school from Kindergarden through 12th grade there is free training in piracy of anything digital. Want a song? Someone will show you where to download it from for free. Same for software.

After being subjected to 13 years of this sort of training we can move on to college where there is another four years of honing the art. Everyone knows how to do it by then.

Now they enter the business world and you find it odd that your fellow employees can't understand why they just can't have evertything they want? Sorry, but you are seeing the result of a nationwide (if not worldwide) program. If the people in charge at your workplace don't see anything wrong with everyone just having what they want, I think I'd run for the door. There will be consequences, someday. Someone will find out that rewards are paid to people that turn companies that pirate.

Ethics? If there are no ethics preventing people from pirating, there will be no ethics preventing them from trying to get a reward turning people in.

If someone high up at your company can't see the problem, you don't need to be working there. You will find out your bosses will see to it that it is all pinned on your predcessor and you.

Same as you deal with pirated music (4, Insightful)

kiwimate (458274) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313221)

I'm bound to get modded a troll or flamebait or off-topic or something for this, but how is this different from pirating music? /. group-think says it's not theft and trots out a whole bunch of other self-justification about the evil RIAA and so forth, because you're "not depriving anyone of something physical", etc. It's the same, right?

Is it different in this case because it's a small company doing it rather than a whole bunch of individuals? Does that mean it's okay if it's just me, but wrong if my company is doing it?

So to answer the question at hand: go the CYA route suggested by the very first poster, and make sure you point out (nicely as you need to, given this economy and how sure you are of being able to find another job) that this is illegal.*

* Just like music piracy. Even if you want to claim it's not theft.

Tell mgmt or run (1)

hal9000(jr) (316943) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313239)

You have to tell mgmt what is going on and tell them they need to purchase licensees. If they don't, they are liable for all sorts of headaches. If they don't want to believe you, then ask them to talk to your lawyers.

Under no circumstances should you continue to support or install pirated software. That puts you at legal risk and you can't CYA with a letter stating that mgmt is OK with breaking the law. If you do it, then you are liable.

If mgmt doesn't want to pay for licenses. Leave. Cause if they get caught, you will be the one to pay the price as the IT manager.

Re:Tell mgmt or run (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313375)

If mgmt doesn't want to pay for licenses. Leave.

You should sic the BSA on them after you leave. If there is a CYA letter from management, send that to the BSA guys as well. Enjoy the results. If management tries to finger you, point out that: (a) you raised the concern to management and was told to stuff it, and (b) you were the informant to the BSA.

steps (1)

capoccia (312092) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313267)

first step should be cataloging what you have: properly documented license, cracked/definitely illegal and uncertain legality (owner claims it's legal but can't find the license or the purchase receipt). everything without a properly documented license should be elevated along the proper management chain, but you should probably treat the uncertain legality cases different than the definitely illegal. maybe for the uncertain cases, you should give a deadline to produce proper documentation or some signed letter from the appropriate level of management that the software is legal even though they can't document it.

Piracy (2, Informative)

ledow (319597) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313269)

Ask for an indemnity in writing from your employer saying that everything they use is legitimate and legal. If they refuse to provide it, you *have* to go somewhere else, because they will blame YOU when they are reported for it (in actual fact, walking and reporting them yourself wouldn't be too bad an idea if you don't want to be party to the charges, plus it covers you if they decide to pin it on you as you walk out the door). If they provide an indemnity (which they won't, but keep reading), you have a piece of paper that says you were assured it was all genuine. The person who signed it gets the blame.

What *will* happen, if you do it right, is that when they are asked to sign a bit of paper, they will get incredibly stroppy and either get rid of you in time anyway (and you should be LONG GONE by then, if that's the case), or they will wake up and say "Okay, well, I suppose we have to do something about that, then", even if they end up hating you. It's nice earning money, and all, but they don't care about you so when the penny drops and someone does come in and audit you, at least you won't get caught up it in - short term unemployment versus police record for failing to do your job legally.

And, I *have* done this exact thing to my employers, in order to ensure that they are, and that they stay compliant with the law. Fortunately, it was somewhere where they did have all the right licenses, but were just careless about recording them - they actually bought 10% more than they needed most of the time because they knew their record-keeping was poor. They were able to chase up 99% of the licenses, or get the seller to put it in writing, or similar, and a few extra licenses they either bought or didn't care about (because they weren't using them any more). The legitimate companies will see it as an hassle, but they will happily do it if it means legal compliance. If your place won't do this, you have to ask what *else* they are doing... Not enough money in the pension fund? Spying on staff? Fiddling the accounts? Mis-selling? Sending out false references about their ex-staff? Who knows?

Ya heard me? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27313283)

"I know that if the BSA got wind of this, it would all fall on me when they stormed in."

Not if you're the one to turn them in.

In other news, STOP SNITCHING.

users... (1, Insightful)

pootypeople (212497) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313285)

Try telling a user who has had a pirated application on their computer you can't provide it -- that's no fun at all. They've gotten used to using it and most won't accept another program in its place. Even worse you'll get nonsensical crap about free/open-source software not providing appropriate output.

And management isn't always helpful. You'd think telling them "you are breaking license agreements and exposing yourself to legal liability" would be enough, but sometimes that isn't enough. At least in this case you have someone (old fake IT guy) to blame -- that's more or less all you can do.

And let me chime in on the ZOMG install FOSS tip -- this is a great opportunity. You've already got a tailor-made excuse. "X user is using X software and we do not have a license. We can either pay X dollars for a license or use this freely available alternative that will provide the same functionality." In this economic climate, they won't even consider the pay software in most cases.

I refused. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27313287)

I refused to install pirated copies of Word Perfect, etc on clone PCs we sold in the 80's-90's,

I got fired.

But frankly I'd do it again.

Common Problem (3, Insightful)

geekmansworld (950281) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313293)

This is a totally unsurprising situation to find at many small businesses. When a business consists of just a handful of people, it is cost prohibitive to actually BUY software.

There is a point, however, that a business has to bite the bullet and "go legit". At certain sizes, businesses show up on Microsoft's anti-piracy radar, and your business can find itself on the receiving end of a software audit. At that point, the business will be liable for not only the costs of any software installed but also fines.

This is a good way to present the situation to your bosses: It's a matter of cost-benefit analysis.

Don't ask, don't tell (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313311)

Here is my policy : Don't ask, don't tell, but be sure that you got your ass covered by not being responsible of software installations (don't put your name as the user in the installs).

However, whenever possible, use OSS software. And when asked why you use Blender or Open Office instead of the standard installation everyone uses in the burrowed shared directory of the obscure internal server, answer, simply, as if it were non important and self-evident "well, it is the legal way". Observe and savor the uncomfortable silence after that, go back to the meeting's main subject. Observe after that, in the next days, your colleagues coming discreetly to you, asking where they can get this legal alternative.

My company does this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27313319)

My company does this, much to my annoyance. Every single copy of Windows we have either came with the computer we bought, or is a pirated copy. Every single copy of Microsoft Office we have is pirated. The IT shop we contact to gives us even more pirated software, such as a pirated copy of Norton Anti-Virus, a pirated copy of Adobe PDF creator, etc. All of this software is pirated without a second thought to the moral and legal issues.

Keep in mind I'm not in the USA; I'm an ex-pat living in Mexico. I don't think people would be this flagrant about it up in the states; the only time this would be an issue is if some corrupt bureaucrat wants to use it as an excuse to get a bribe from us.

The issue is that I can't update the software with security updates; the other issue (which I know isn't something popular with some in the Slashdot crowd) is that it goes against my sense of morals to use software without compensating people who did the hard work to make, and test, and add polish to the software in question.

The year a fool-proof way to stop all software piracy is implemented will be the year of the Linux desktop.

And yes, the copy of Windows XP on my machine is illegal (I bought a Linux laptop and later on decided to put Windows on it), but I plan on fixing that this summer when I go back to the US to visit my family. And, yes, I do want to get back to the states, but in this economy it's nay-to-impossible to get a decent job.

Write a report (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313323)

Document all of the unlicensed software and the cost of buying licenses. Include the cost of alternatives (F/OSS or proprietary, where appropriate) when they are cheaper. Present copies of this to management, and ideally lodge a copy with a lawyer in case management ignores it and later claims never to have seen it.

Above all, try to be constructive. Don't just say 'we need to spend $n'. Say 'we currently have $n of liability, we can reduce this to $0 by spending $m and migrating these systems to these products'.

Seems obvious (1)

ndunnuck (833465) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313327)

You have two choices:

1) Get yourself an executive champion - someone with authority who understands the potential liability of deploying pirated software. Offer to audit and document all the company software, including applications that people need/use without a license. Work together with management to develop a strategy from there. BTW, this is great for your resume.

2) Quit. If your moral scruples are in jeopardy, explain to your management chain that you can't work in an environment that is exposed to these legal liabilities. Either they'll change or they won't

Most importantly, don't be a wuss. Lay it out straight for people, level the threat of resignation if it gets to that, and be prepared to follow through. There's nothing worse than that guy who bluffed about quitting and got called out.

Seems pretty clear cut (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313329)

There aren't a lot of options - you have to be up front about it. When someone complains because you tell them "we don't have a license", tell them matter-of-factly that the copies on the company computers appear to be illegal/pirated. Explain to them what kind of trouble the company could get into regarding this.

But first - go to the boss IMMEDIATELY, and make sure he/she understands the kind of trouble this could cause.

If there are legitimate, usable open-source applications that'll do the job well (not half-arsed), why not have some of the employees try them out (after you've become familiar with the software, of course)?

Come clean, forcefully if needed (1)

ThePyro (645161) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313333)

As the 'IT Guy' it is your responsibility to make sure all the machines you manage are properly licensed. Any software that is used for the business is your responsibility, and you're likely to take the blame if someone reports the unlicensed software to a vendor.

I recommend that you immediately inform management of the problem. If they are hesitant to buy proper licenses, inform them that you need to start uninstalling the unlicensed software (and be sure to follow through on this if you have to). That will help motivate them to do the right thing.

Do not leave yourself in a position in which you might end up being the scapegoat, especially if management is aware of the problem and complicit. This sort of thing could potentially ruin your career. While it may cost you your job if you do the right thing, at least there won't be a black mark on your record that could harm your entire career.

This is not your issue. (1)

awjr (1248008) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313335)

Simply put, you arrived into a company and have determined they are using software illegally. The buck stops with the director of the company.

1) Inform director/upper management of the situation in writing explaining the seriousness of the issue (i.e. Fines, Prison etc.).
2) Perform a software audit.
3) Present findings to the upper management.
4) Buy required software licences.

If budget is an issue, then suggest ways to mitigate costs (e.g. Move everyone to Open Office)

As long as you legally cover yourself, it is not your responsibility. The responsibility is with the company director/board.

Been there...done that... (2, Insightful)

duplicate-nickname (87112) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313343)

Your first step is to dig through all of the documentation you have to find any and all software purchases. This included going through the previous guy's email (hopefully it's still available) and digging out the license cards from those boxes stashed in the corner. If you are lucky, someone in accounting can start pulling invoices from you. Also, go to the resellers your company has been using to see if they can pull a purchase history or license report (CDW is great for this). Don't forget to try sites like Microsoft's eOpen ( or Adobe's license site (

The next step is to audit your workstations and servers to see exactly what commercial software they are running. Try to match that up with what documentation you found to start with. My rule of thumb is that if I don't have a PO/invoice, license key or box, then I don't own the software. Then go and get quotes from your favorite reseller to see what the costs are to "true-up".

Take all of this to your manager (or the owner) and show them the situation. Be sure to explain the consequences of not licensing the software you are using, and leave the decision up to him whether to true-up, stop using the software, or use it unlicensed. I would personally document this meeting just to cover your own ass, especially if the last option is chosen.

In order to prevent this situation in the future, make sure all software purchases come through your department. Then keep all license documentation in a single physical or electronic location. Be prepared to dig your heels in when someone tries to bypass IT to install illegal/unlicense software.

Most Slashdotters (-1, Troll)

bonch (38532) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313349)

You're asking Slashdot how they deal with piracy? Slashdotters HATE creators' rights. Most will be fully in favor of piracy and consider it a "cultural revolution" or "free advertising" or whatever ridiculous excuse they've concocted that week to make themselves not feel guilty.

You see, most Slashdotters downloaded Linux one day for free and suddenly decided all things should be for free. I know, it's not logical, but that's how Slashdotters think. If they got one thing for free, they should get all things for free! It's likely that the IT guy who installed the pirated software reads Slashdot religiously and posts in response to every anti-RIAA article about how wonderful and unstoppable piracy is. On Slashdot, creators are slaves to pirates.

BSA (5, Informative)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313351)

I know that if the BSA got wind of this, it would all fall on me when they stormed in.

They can't. They love to pretend they can, or they try to strongarm people into letting them do surveys. It's all just evidence gathering for when they sue you later, or use it to extort you into paying massive fines.

If they show up, tell reception not to let them past the waiting room. Call the cops IMMEDIATELY if they won't follow your instructions or requests (your business is private property.) Fetch the highest person in the company, preferably an officer, and tell them the BSA has no legal ability to search without a warrant or court order (which requires a lawsuit) and they need to shoo them away. The BSA should get nothing but the phone number of your lawyer.

Now, on the second part of your question: what to do? It's very simple. Ask your boss. Explain the risk. Include some sort of plan for inventorying and an estimate of how long it'll take. OCS Inventory is a pretty good way to do this if you have more than a dozen or so systems. Possibly include some (qualified) estimates of what it is going to cost to come back in line (remember there are significant volume discounts for things like Office) based on what you've seen before; stick to the facts. Include alternatives such as OpenOffice, but don't get too crazy (ie, don't list "convert to linux" for unlicensed servers as $cost_of_MS_Server in "savings"...factor in some healthy labor estimates AND you have the time to take on such tasks. Don't forget that there is opportunity cost too.)

Lastly: you need to make sure you have BOTH purchase records (receipts/packing slips) and the license files (ie those thingies with the holograms and barcodes) for EVERY PIECE OF SOFTWARE YOU HAVE. The company accountants / office manager can help with part of that. It's going to mean going through a lot of boxes- get a big filing cabinet. If you get any electronically, PRINT THEM IMMEDIATELY, and keep them in a safe place.

Rob (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27313361)

I actually ran into a similar situation when I started at my job. The bad thing was they had just got audited by the BSA and got hit with over $100k worth of fines, so when I came aboard they had most of the licenses caught up. Now when I tell the CFO we have to purchase an additional license each time we hire a new employee or whatever, he doesn't give me to much crap. Its still hard though with issues like this, small companies see a new computer for $400-$500 and then see $1500 worth of licenses such as Office Pro, Adobe Acrobat, and our management software license. (Not to mention $1000+ for AutoCAD. I would stress to make sure you get up-to-date with licenses and maybe even pull some BSA audits examples and stress the point of being under compliance with BSA. If you have proof that you made a strong effort to get under compliance and the CFO or whomever didn't see this necessary, then you can always go back and show that you tried. I have come under situations where people try to get me to load the software for "a short time" or "while I'm taking a class on it" but either way, you have to get the license. As an IT professional, you have to make the right decision each time you load the software and make sure that you are under compliance with BSA. It sucks but you need to make sure the higher ups know that this is a serious matter.

Another thing I try when people want me to load something for a home computer or whatever. I just tell them about OpenOffice. For most home users or even small businesses, this can fill the void of office. If your working in an environment like mine (people are not every computer literate) they might not even notice that its OpenOffice.

On the last note: The IT Manager before me that got audited fell into the same situation as you, he loaded software without licenses. He tried to get licenses but his manager just said get the computer up and running and we will get the licenses later. Then when the crap hit the fan the president went after him, and he tried to show all the e-mails and other letters showing that he tried getting the licenses. Either way the president is going to pin the blame on you, so make sure your protected, and do the right thing.

Get it to Management (1)

cycler (31440) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313369)

As many will point out, you have to get it to the top.

No CEO would like to be in power when BSA knocks on the door.
Also explain that the cost of software should be in the business plan of the company.

Don't trash talk the former guy since he could still be a friend of someone in Management but do explain what the person did wrong and how much it will cost to repair his mistakes.


Let me add to what others have said (1)

KGBear (71109) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313381)

Replace with FOSS. No, really. I've done this, literally, hundreds of times when I was consulting. This is what I suggest:

- Do your homework. Inventory all the software in use, figure out how much it would cost to legitimize it.

- Do your homework. Write a plan to implement FOSS solutions. Figure out what can be replaced and what can't. Maximize productivity, try to go with drop-in replacements when possible, try to avoid retraining costs if possible.

- Go to the higher-ups with both homeworks. Give them the options. Don't be a rabid supporter of FOSS, don't be a MS yes man. Explain that the third way, keeping things as they are, is a huge potential risk. It's not hard to find information online about companies that have been audited and had to settle for all their illegal software.

- If you manage to sell the project, be thorough and plan ahead (or hire someone like me as a consultant).

Do this right and you'll be a hero. But be careful, do this wrong and you're out of a job... Great opportunity comes with great risk usually.

Prison time (1)

spd1001 (1206386) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313383)

If you seriously want to continue in this job, do some research. If you're in the UK the directors of the company are liable for up to two years in jail for pirating software. I'm not suggesting that you put them there, but in my experience it tends to focus their minds in a quite amazing way...

Another problem you wouldn't deal with (0, Redundant)

Peaker (72084) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313389)

If you had used strictly free (libre) software only.

Audit first, go from there (2, Informative)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313397)

Get a concise audit of the software your company has installed, where it's installed, and just how much pirated software you're dealing with. [] does a serviceable job of software & hardware inventory, but really anything that connects to the WMI for inventory purposes should be able to tell you what license keys are in use. If you're in a small shop then XAMPP + OpenAudit will give you all the information you need in less than an hour from the time you start installing XAMPP.

Get your ducks in a row before you start making moves. You want to able to say "we have X copies of Office, Y installations for Win2k3, and Z copies of Photoshop installed against A,B, and C legitimate, verifiable licenses purchased. It'll cost us approxiamtly Q Dollars for Office, R for Win2k3, and S for Photoshop. I can have this issue resolved in two weeks and have multiple vendors willing to give us quotes" rather than "I don't think we've got enough licenses for all our stuff can I have some money?" It'll also offer you some small amount of protection should you have a less than productive meeting with management. CYA, Get it in writing, and maybe spend a few minutes updating that resume.

As the FP said... (2, Insightful)

Clandestine_Blaze (1019274) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313401)

As the first post mentioned, please DO bring this matter up with your higher-ups and get something in writing. Even then, getting it in writing doesn't give you a golden ticket out. If you are knowingly doing something wrong, then you are just as responsible as those who authorized it.

I don't care how small your company is; the smaller, the easier to get hit with a huge bill after an audit. I don't know how trustworthy your bosses are, but what you don't want is for the authorities to catch wind of what's going on, and for your superiors to turn you into the scape goat.

"What, we didn't know there was any pirated software being used...he's the guy who handles this stuff. We hired him to take care of this. It's his fault..."

Price vs Features game (1)

mochan_s (536939) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313409)

With hardware people tend to play the price vs features game and optimize from there. With software, people just tend to install the best software in the general way and go on from there.

I'd hate to do prices vs features game on software.

So, if you are serious about legitimizing software, do a cost vs features analysis, and see what is the cheapest one to get. For example, choose between the various versions of Windows, various versions of Office and buy the one that is needed by which person. Also, look into site licenses etc.

Realism (1)

COMON$ (806135) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313415)

Here on /. you are gonna get a lot of OSS geek replies. If that fits your model it may work. But I would do the following:

1. Call a vendor like dell, hp, or PC Connection and have them look up your licensing, they are really good at this. They can tell you exactly what has been purchased at your business.

2. Figure up what you need for licensing, bare minimum, Antivirus, some text editor, some spreadsheet editor, and OS.

3. Get no less than 3 bids on the software PO.

4. Present the bids alongside a OSS solution, a real OSS solution, don't just say free look at TCO. Open office is wonderful for many businesses though.

5. Go with what the CFO says, you may not like it, but at least you presented a good set of solutions. You don't have to be shady if you don't want to but CYA is part of IT. You dont have to like paperwork but you had better do it.

There's always more work to be done (1)

bouaketh (731170) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313417)

Do you really want to work for someone that doesn't or can't afford to play by the rules. You can get around it with OSS, but in the end is that the kind of business that is going to move and grow? If you educate them and they still won't/can't go legit, I think it's a good time to walk away before you invest too much of your time. If they are willing to depart from their pirated software and move towards OSS, then you can help them usher in a new era of IT and save them some money down the road. BTW: One of my pet peeves is the line, "But the guy before you....". I'm not him/her so deal.

You have some power here... (1)

Gybrwe666 (1007849) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313419)

Remember, most piracy is reported by pissed off employees. In an effort to do the right thing, as other posters have pointed out, first inventory everything you can. Next, figure out the extent of the problem. Then go to your boss, or the owner, and let them know your concerns, as well as the legal ramifications. Do this in the best possible fashion for you, of course. And then let them know how much of a risk they are at, in terms of financial impact. All it takes in this environment (or any, for that matter) is one fired or layed off employee (yourself for instance, but I wouldn't mention that, all things being equal) to cost them far more in productivity, time, money, and embarassment than finding solutions.

The response should dictate your further actions. However, if worse comes to worse, you can always report them yourself, should they vindictively attack you over this.

Also keep in mind that the previous IT guy might very well be much better connected if he's still there. Do what you need to do to avoid embarrassment for all parties.


Upgrade? (1)

rpmonkey (840379) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313433)

Actually, Microsoft helped me out on this one. Once the boss got a new computer with Office 2007 on it, and got tired of down-saving his files so that all of the other employees could open it on the single license of Office 2000 that was on the other 8 PCs in the office, I was able to get most of our software legitimately licensed. There were still a few apps which we were using that I couldn't locate any license for, and were on multiple computers. I made it clear to my boss that we were in violation of the license agreements to CMA, but he insisted the software be installed anyway. I should have got it in writing, but I didn't. Since I'm not there anymore, I'm not too worried about it.

I was able to deploy some OSS to get around a few applications: Deployed a Linux server with cvs and RequestTracker to replace some software we only had single licenses for that were being used on multiple systems. Also installed GIMP on several systems that were using a pirated copy of Photoshop 5.0.

Welcome to Management (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27313447)

So you want to be an IT manager? Grow some skin.

People are going to complain about a lot of things. Get used to it. Their monitors will be too small; their keyboards won't make the right clicking noise; their versions of MS Word won't be compatible with each other; their PC won't be as new and shiny as their neighbor's.

If your real worry is about the consequences to you personally if the BSA shows up, you disappoint me. What about just doing what is right because it is right?

Become a leader. Have a vision of what you wish to achieve and go get it done. If you want to run an honest company, do it. You don't have to apologize or make excuses. Does your company have a business license? Do they practice fair employment policies? Do you pay taxes? Why? Do the managers in charge of those things have to apologize for that? Do they have to rationalize those actions or policies? I hope not.

When people waffle in those places, we get Enrons, AIGs, and other disasters. Why should you hold others to a standard of ethics and responsibility, but not IT?

Find a new job (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 5 years ago | (#27313465)

Not to be rude but if you're asking a question this elementary without doing so much as a site survey of assets than maybe you're not ready for a one man IT gig. It's a tough job to swing and if you're already apprehensive of approaching the top brass about this it's hard to tell where you may end up next when middle management starts to act like they own you.

BTW: This problem will be twice as bad if this is a "family run" company.
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