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Would You Install Pirated Software at Work?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the questionable-PHB-ethics dept.

Software 848

An anonymous reader asks: "I am an IT professional, and due to budget constraints, I have been told to install multiple copies of MS Office, despite offering to install OpenOffice, and other OpenSource Office products. Even though most of the uses are for people using Excel like a database, or formatting of text in cells, other programs are not tolerated. I have been over ruled by our controller, to my disagreement. I would never turn them in, but I am in tough place by knowing doing something illegal. I want to keep my job, but disagree with some of the decision making on this issue. Other than drafting a letter to the owners of the company on how I disagree with the policy, what else can I do?"

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848 comments

Just watch your back (5, Insightful)

AmIAnAi (975049) | more than 7 years ago | (#18978997)

You must ask yourself: if they're willing to overrule you and insist you commit an illegal act, how are they going to behave should this come to the attention of FAST (or other enforcement body)? My guess is they will dump it all on your shoulders. If they don't play by the rules now, they certainly will not start when their backs are against the wall.

I suggest you document everything, off site and get your CV circulated immediately.

Re:Just watch your back (2, Funny)

Pinkfud (781828) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979071)

Considering that I work for the US Government, no. Beyond that, I agree with your reply.

Re:Just watch your back (4, Insightful)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979557)

You work for the government and you don't think they'll dump possible licensing issues on your shoulders? No offense but that's a bit naive, the gov is MORE likely to do that than your average company, not less, as has been shown by the large number of times a low level person in the government is fired for one of the big timer's mistakes. If I were you I'd get those documents in triplicate in different places...

Stick to your guns and quit. (4, Insightful)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979263)

how are they going to behave should this come to the attention of FAST (or other enforcement body)?

Why bother to find out?

Tell them that you are going to Install Open Office or quit. It's not that what they have asked is morally wrong, it's that it exposes YOU to danger for their benefit. Oh yeah, it's also stupid because better software exists and they have "standardized" on the worst. You offered your advice and they discarded it, so it's time to go unless you want to be an bag man.

By the way, the anonymous reader has already reported them. ISPs already co-operate with media companies and monitors traffic. The chances are they have monitored the post. But it won't matter because someone there will fink sooner or later.

Re:Stick to your guns and quit. (4, Insightful)

dougmc (70836) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979803)

Oh yeah, it's also stupid because better software exists and they have "standardized" on the worst.
You aren't saying that OpenOffice is better than MS Office, are you? It's cheaper, it runs on more platforms (which is why I use it on my Linux box for the very few cases where I need Office-type software), but other than that, it's most certainly NOT better.


I love to bash Microsoft as much as the next guy, probably more in fact, but when I'm looking for examples of great free software, OpenOffice usually isn't one of my first choices. It's slow, buggy and just as bloated as Office is -- if not more so. (AbiWord is better, but still not perfect ...)

Re:Just watch your back (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979473)

I suggest you document everything, off site and get your CV circulated immediately.

That's the only sensible course of action here, but I would add: do NOT do something illegal on behalf of your employer, ever, even if means quitting on the spot. No job is worth the hit you will personally take when it comes out. "I was just following orders" doesn't cut much ice with the military when lives are on the line, and will cut absolutely none if you knowingly broke the law just to make money for your employer. The fact that you documented knowingly breaking the law is going to be worth nothing in court, either.

Re:Just watch your back (4, Insightful)

cliffski (65094) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979839)

why would he have to quit? Just don't do it. What is the worst that can happen? they fire you? I don't know US law but in the UK, that would be clear cut unfair dismissal and they could be severely punished by the courts. I doubt you are a union member, but if you are, this is the kind of thing you would have them handle.
It amazes me that execs in companies can be such thieving bastards, even in companies that themselves make software. If it was somehow necessary for you to quit, then I would 100% definitely report them to FAST if they went ahead anyway. In any case, it sounds like a pretty low-life employer, so your medium to long term plan should be to leave anyway.

Ask Slashdot: How do I act on principle? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18979025)

Dear Slashdot, I have a set of principles that I adhere to rigorously. Today, I have been presented with something that violates my principles. What should I do?

Answer, you have a choice: Grow some balls or a spine. Really, either will do.

Blow the whistle or quit (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18979031)

The minute you install the pirated software, you have no moral leg to stand on. You either stick to your guns or you leave. The "I did it because it was my job to do it" defense has been tried (literally) and failed.

Re:Blow the whistle or quit (3, Interesting)

mattatwork (988481) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979393)

You mean the good ol' Nuremberg defense [wikipedia.org] ( "Befehl ist Befehl" or "only following orders").... Very few who used that defense survived the trials and those that did [wikipedia.org] claimed that if they didn't follow orders they would have been killed.... I doubt that's what the case here is.... Typically if you want to blow the whistle, you have to do so before committing the questionable/illegal act to maintain any kind of credibility. I say delay installing the software and look for another job. Turning them in may be a major headache depending on how your company handles human resource related issues and how your superiors handle subordinates going above them in the chain of command to point out their improper act(s)/behavior/orders....

Re:Blow the whistle or quit (4, Interesting)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979643)

And when you file for unemployment, and they deny your claim at first because your left voluntarily, and then you file paperwork in response that you left under duress after being ordered by a superior to do something against the law, stuff gets interesting!

Re:Blow the whistle or quit (1)

tubapro12 (896596) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979813)

And it should be obvious why. If it could pass with that excuse it could easily provide a cover for various other illegal operations: they would just need to operate as a business to get protection, obviously not how it works.

Turn them in (1, Redundant)

doubleofive (982704) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979033)

Software piracy is wrong, especially on a corporate scale. I'd write to the higher-ups explaining the options (either going legit with MS or OpenOffice), and if they wouldn't listen I would quit. But that's just me. I hate dirty pirates.

Re:Turn them in (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18979153)

Especially when they don't share the grog

well, (1)

joe 155 (937621) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979037)

you could leave and turn them in... but that would really mess up your chances of getting a job anywhere again. you should get your objection in writing to cover your ass and then do it - if it all goes to shit then roll over on the people who over ruled you.

Re:well, (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979315)

Oh, please. How would this mess up his chances at getting another job? IT isn't some small industry where everyone knows everyone. It's not like he needs his former boss as a reference. Just a good resume, and a few good references (coworkers) is all you need to get a job.

Re:well, (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979325)

get your objection in writing to cover your ass

Like his boss is going to sign something like that or own up to it later. Forget it, he needs to leave.

Which is the lesser of two evils? (3, Insightful)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979041)

You have to chose between the lesser of two evils. Go against your bosses wishes, or go against the law.

To me, the decision is clear-cut.

Re:Which is the lesser of two evils? (4, Funny)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979213)

Which country?

Western Europe, USA, Japan - decision is indeed clear cut as they will blame you for it anyway. It is solely a question of who does it first.

Eastern Europe, Russia, China - you have a WHOLE ONE LEGAL COPY OF OFFICE? Who is the out of his mind person to buy it.

So it is all relative... Same as Microsoft policy to enforcing piracy. I have seen them turn a blind eye too many once you get far enough east. After all, as with all crack dealers - the first dose of is free.

Which is the lesser of two slashdots? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18979463)

Except when the majority is violating the law. Then it's OK.

Well, I don't use it personally... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18979055)

...but on a shared workstation I sometimes use there is a "demo" of a rather popular multimedia creation app installed. Except when you open it up it acts just like the full version... ...and on a network share there are a few scene releases of shareware type programs.

Stop Being a Tool... (1)

morari (1080535) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979063)

You personally are not saving money, so why take the risk for company big wigs?

Professional (5, Insightful)

26199 (577806) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979073)

Any actual profession... and as much as IT/programming may claim to be one, it isn't really one yet... has a code of conduct that says quite clearly what you need to do. You can't be a professional and knowingly support illegal activity.

Re:Professional (1, Interesting)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979193)

Your comments about programming not being a profession I find a little bizarre, but I can't say I'm too bothered about it. I have to take issue with the following, though:

> You can't be a professional and knowingly support illegal activity.

I'm a professional software engineer and I support the production, sale and consumption of cannabis. I understand that I'm pretty far from being alone in this way of thinking. I put it to you that you're wrong.

I don't agree that companies should routinely and knowingly use unlicensed (a slightly better word than the absurd `pirate`) software, although sometimes it's a little confusing so I can imagine some companies unwillingly using software on more computers than they should.

Re:Professional (3, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979409)

I think the idea is a true professional doesn't support illegal activity on the jobsite, or related to his career. Cannabis has nothing at all to do with software engineering, just like vacation travel to Cuba (also stupidly illegal) has nothing to do with software engineering. Stances on political issues (which these are) really have no bearing on your profession. Knowingly violating copyrights and licenses, however, has a direct bearing on your profession, and is not something a good professional would do (regardless of his feelings on the issue). This doesn't mean he couldn't be against the current copyright laws, and write to his political representatives in order to have the laws changed, but while those laws are in force, he needs to abide by them in the course of his professional duties.

Re:Professional (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979603)

> This doesn't mean he couldn't be against the current copyright laws, and write to his political
> representatives in order to have the laws changed, but while those laws are in force, he needs to
> abide by them in the course of his professional duties.

It might be a good idea in terms of avoiding fines/prison to obey copyright law, but I don't think that when you talk about being professional you have to suddenly assume `legality = morality`. I see nothing `professionally` wrong with refusing to recognize software patents if it makes a solution to a technical problem easier or more elegant than either licensing the IP or coding around it. Perhaps you see that as different to breaking copyright laws, though, and categorize it as `political`. There doesn't seem to me to be much difference between using someone else's code and coding someone else's algorithms.

Re:Professional (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18979705)

Uhm, when wouldn't stealing someone's patent be easier than licensing it? When you don't risk getting caught? If that's your standard, you are clearly not a professional. I hope you're not exposing your clients to litigation with your careless behaviour.

Re:Professional (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18979799)

just like vacation travel to Cuba (also stupidly illegal)

Well, only for USAians. And even then, that's not quite true. There are many legal exceptions, and the ban is not really on visiting, but on enriching Cuba.

Re:Professional (1)

26199 (577806) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979559)

What you believe is your own business -- I mean actively support as in, be an accomplice to. I certainly wouldn't claim to be a professional if I was openly breaking the law.

I'm also a "professional" software engineer, but I don't honestly think I've earned the title yet... to me professional means being held to impeccable standards of conduct, and I'm not entirely sure I make the cut.

Re:Professional (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979743)

> What you believe is your own business -- I mean actively support as in, be an accomplice to. I
> certainly wouldn't claim to be a professional if I was openly breaking the law.

Why not? Would you care to elaborate? Many professional musicians use drugs - are they somehow not professionals? What about the millions of teachers, architects, policemen, programmers etc who use drugs? Your case is very weak. Even if those people were doing something morally wrong, such as murder, steal or deliberately hurt people, it still wouldn't have any bearing on whether or not they were good at their jobs. Was Gesualdo any less of a professional musician just because he killed his wife? And if professional is used to mean `makes a living from` rather than `is extremely proficient in`, then would you say that UK author Jeffrey Archer doesn't make his living from writing simply because he's been jailed for perjury?

> I'm also a "professional" software engineer, but I don't honestly think I've earned the title
> yet... to me professional means being held to impeccable standards of conduct, and I'm not entirely
> sure I make the cut.

If you're trying to do better all the time, train yourself, read up on your subject, can tell good code from bad and try and write good code, then I'd say you're a professional.

Re:Professional (4, Informative)

sconeu (64226) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979285)

You mean like the ACM Code of Ethics [acm.org] ?

Re:Professional (2, Informative)

Yobgod Ababua (68687) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979381)

IT professionals have a very reasonable code of ethics, thank you very much.

http://lopsa.org/CodeOfEthics [lopsa.org]

Re:Professional (1)

the_wesman (106427) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979851)

What about "The World's Oldest Profession" ??

Of course. (2, Funny)

Wandering Wombat (531833) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979089)

How ELSE would I get anything done?!

Re:Of course. (3, Interesting)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979253)

How ELSE would I get anything done?!

I know you meant it as a joke, but it bears repeating. Whenever possible, I always pirate my software first, even at work (own business). The last thing I'm going to do is shell out hundreds of dollars on software that turns out to be shit.

For those a little skeptical I even had a recent example with Winfax pro. Very glad now that I went with Snappyfax instead, instead of shelling out money for Symantec's piece of crap.

And yes, I know that a lot of software is try before you buy, but that's a very recent development, and generally doesn't cover anything more than $50~$100 anyway.

Re:Of course. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18979565)

Yeah, nice one!
Honestly, I don't care for this cheap Microsoft crap!
Over at my company, my predecessors built an application based on oracle 10g using enterprise edition features.
Right now it's running on 8 cores (demanding 8 EE licenses $40k apiece). Soon we will have to scale up to 24 cores.

Oh, btw. Did I mention that we didn't buy a single license? My CIO is freaking out (actually he gave up and became cynical) and I am starting to wonder if there are more users of unlicensed expensive systems?
I work in Eastern Europe, luckily, so the BSA & co. can kiss my ass -- for now :)

Re:Of course. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979735)

And yes, I know that a lot of software is try before you buy, but that's a very recent development, and generally doesn't cover anything more than $50~$100 anyway.

Every piece of software for which I have recently downloaded a free trial has been over $100. Most recently, there was a $7500 reporting server product, and a $500 reporting product.

Any company with software worth installing will offer you a trial. Sometimes you have to prove that you have the money to actually buy the software...

Understand your situation. (5, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979091)

If you don't get it in writing, should anything happen and the company be audited ... YOU will be the one blamed and fired.

Everyone else will swear that YOU were the loose cannon. That they would NEVER violate a copyright. That they are 100% honest.

Really. They're already asking you to violate your ethics / principles. Why would you believe that they wouldn't lie about who's idea it was?

Re:Understand your situation. (1)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979725)

I wouldn't do it even then. Because no matter how much authorization in writing you have to back you up that you broke the law "only under duress" what it still boils down to is that you broke the law. Having it in writing that your employer ordered you to break the law will be a lot more valuable if you don't actually do it. At that point the worst that could happen is you would lose your job and (possibly, but unlikely) have your career ruined. Seems like a much better option than what could happen in the long-term if you went ahead and did it, and the shit ever hit the fan later. If you go ahead and do it and the shit does hit the fan later, it's all going to depend on who can afford the best lawyers - no matter how much documentation you have. After all, it's you who ultimately broke the law not your employer.

Obviously IANAL and this is just my two cents.

Just tell them... (1)

Ariastis (797888) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979101)

That by doing so, you could be held liable under piracy laws. Ask them for a signed letter in which they remove all the blame from you and take it all upon themselves. You'll be installing OO in no time! (Or maybe eve better, your boss is going to get sued/fired. Profit!)

You do know you'll be the fall guy, right? (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979111)

You should go into this knowing that, if you get caught, everyone will point the finger squarely at you. That same boss who is ordering you to do this will deny that he knew anything about it and say that you did it on your own. As long as you're willing to deal with the legal and financial fallout that could hit you personally, then go for it.

Personally, there is *NO WAY IN HELL* I would do it. Nor would I work for a company that was irresponsible enough to even ASK me to. Sounds like you've picked a pretty shady and unstable company to work for. If I were you, I would stall on the installation ("We're having some technical issues with some of the machines, sir") and start looking for a new job. DO NOT install it if you plan on doing this (they would still blame you after-the-fact).

I've been down this road (5, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979123)

I've been in a similar situation, only for us it was the case where someone wanted to run a course in our IT Suite. They needed specific software for the course and told me this 2 days before the course was due to run, they told me they'd ordered the licenses and were on the way but might not make it until after the course was due to run.

Knowing what these people are like, and having little confidence in their ordering of the licenses I put my foot down and refused to install it until the licenses arrived, I made the point that if this caused a problem for their course that they should perhaps consider not leaving things until the last minute in future. My line manager backed me up in my stance however my boss over-ruled both of us and told us to install it, standing my ground I defied him and refused to do so. Eventually my boss installed the software himself, so the course ran and so forth but at least I hadn't been the one to break the law, the best part? Those licenses never arrived, the whole thing was completely illegal, frankly I fail to believe the licenses were ever really ordered.

You shouldn't worry about losing your job by refusing to do this, they'll most likely back down on any threat to sack you. If they do however follow through then you're looking at an extremely strong court case involving a massive payout for yourself. If you get sacked and know they have gone ahead installing illegal copies, your first stop should be to report them to whatever country deals with anti-piracy raids, when you report it ask that any evidence of infringement they find be made available to your court case, this will make your case pretty much un-loseable. Just bear in mind that you absolutely do not have to do this, you're entirely in the right by refusing to do so and the law will recognise that.

One other thing to note is that if you do follow through, obey your orders and install the software - what happens if someone else reports your company? Can you really be sure they'll take the blame? What are you going to do if they say they had no knowledge of pirate software on your systems and hence the blame gets shifted entirely on you.

I think most people pirate at least some software and home, and so some may say it's hypocritical to say the things I've said here knowing that, but there's a distinction to be made between what you do at home and being professional at work. No one has to know what you get upto at home, and so the risk is more controlled, however at work any number of your users could cash in on that $1000 software piracy report reward or whatever. Furthermore, I'd imagine the penalties for what would probably be commercial copyright infringement would be much more harsh than for home copying also.

Re:I've been down this road (4, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979467)

but there's a distinction to be made between what you do at home and being professional at work. No one has to know what you get upto at home, and so the risk is more controlled, however at work any number of your users could cash in on that $1000 software piracy report reward or whatever. Furthermore, I'd imagine the penalties for what would probably be commercial copyright infringement would be much more harsh than for home copying also.
There's another distinction too -- at home you're exposing yourself to risk; you get caught, you face the consequences. At work you're exposing your employer as well as yourself.

I think it's a lot more wrong to expose others than to expose just myself.

Err, I probalby could phrase that a bit better... I think it's bad to expose others to risk than to just expose myself to risk.

Re:I've been down this road (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18979675)

... they told me they'd ordered the licenses and were on the way ...



simple: just tell them you will call the sales department of the vendor to confirm the shipment. Either they freak out or give you a contact to call...

Discuss it with Human Resources (1)

div_2n (525075) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979133)

If you truly object, meet with someone in HR and let them know you are being told to do something illegal and, therefore, against your moral principles.

If you are given no other choice but to install anyway to save your job, send an email to your boss, the person that told you to install the software illegally (if a different person than your boss) and to the person you spoke with in HR. Blind carbon copy an outside email of yours. If you have a lawyer, I'd BCC him or her as well. If and when the stinky hits the fan, let them try to hang you out to dry.

Re:Discuss it with Human Resources (1)

div_2n (525075) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979179)

Whoops, forgot to include what to say in the email:

I will install this software despite my objections because I am required to do so as my job, but I just wanted to remind you that we need to buy the licenses for these software installations as soon as possible.

Re:Discuss it with Human Resources (1)

Phillup (317168) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979539)

Whoops, forgot to include what to say in the email:

I will install this software despite my objections because I am required to do so as my job, but I just wanted to remind you that we need to buy the licenses for these software installations as soon as possible.
If they wanted you to kill somene as "part of the job"... would you?

Illegal is illegal, it is only a matter of degree.

If you commit murder because your boss told you he would fire you if you didn't... you would still end up in jail.

Re:Discuss it with Human Resources (1, Insightful)

idontgno (624372) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979687)

If they wanted you to kill somene as "part of the job"... would you?

Depends on the job [army.mil] , doesn't it?

It still ultimately comes down to your moral and legal responsibility. But for most people, it doesn't take that much rationalizing to find a set of circumstances to justify any "obviously immoral" action.

Re:Discuss it with Human Resources (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979415)

If you truly object, meet with someone in HR and let them know you are being told to do something illegal and, therefore, against your moral principles.

Forget HR. Send an e-mail to someone in the legal department asking them to advise you, in their official capacity, that it is not your legal responsibility to keep track of the licensing for those software items and that if the company is turned into the BSA, that it is the responsibility of your boss that the company lost all that money, not your own responsibility. Make sure to outline the financial and legal liability this poses including the fact that the license you signed for the other copies gives them a right to perform an audit and an estimate of how much the company will have to pay if the copyright violation is discovered.

Make sure you use e-mail not the phone, as lawyers know very well the difference between a phone conversation that is not backed up by default and an e-mail record which may come back to haunt them. That should cover your own ass, since it is a civil issue and you are an agent of the company. The chances are the legal department will also take care of the issue for you.

Re:Discuss it with Human Resources (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979641)

I love this idea. Personally I have already refused to do a number of things at my job, mostly to use copyrighted materials as the basis for advertising. So far I haven't come up against a wall for any of them... but I had the fortune of dealing with reasonable people on those issues.

Consider talking to your own lawyer as well (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979731)

Consider hiring your own lawyer as well. If you find yourself laid off at the next opportunity or otherwise sidelined, you may need him if you want to sue your future-former employer.

A word of caution: You probably signed a non-disclosure agreement. IANAL and I don't know if those will prevent you from talking to your own lawyer.

Re:Discuss it with Human Resources (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979477)

Sounds like a good idea, but he's screwed anyway. His boss will deny it and then paper his file. He'll be better off at an honest company.

I would (1)

bherman (531936) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979143)

But I would make the sounds (all of them) for the program a recording of my voice going "Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrggggg"

Just don't do it (4, Insightful)

Goose42 (88624) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979163)

The answer is simple, just don't do it. Just do your other jobs instead of following your boss' order to break the law. If he fires you, sue. You'll win multiple years of lost salary easily when the reason you were fired is that you were ordered to commit illegal acts and wouldn't. In the end, it'll look good on the resume for your next job, because future employers will know that you'll stand your ground for the things that are right.

Honestly, I'm speaking from a little bit of experience here, so keep a stiff upper lip and don't give in to your boss.

Re:Just don't do it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18979459)

Wrong. A florida court has found that if you do not follow orders of your superiors, even if it is against federal law, they can fire you.

Re:Just don't do it (1)

temcat (873475) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979855)

Wow, looks like the court seriously fscked up here... Do you by chance have a link to the court decision on that case?

Tough call (1)

Ravensfire (209905) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979167)

If I did, it would only be after a CYA e-mail to the controller. Something along the lines of "I'm ready to begin installing Office on our PC's. From what I can tell, we only have XX licenses, so we can only install it on XX machines. Can you confirm for me that we have enough licenses for the YY machines I'm supposed to install it on?"

Put the controller on the spot, and make darn sure that you print out his response, and forward that message to a few outside addresses.

-- Ravensfire

Re:Tough call (2, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979797)

I'd be a little less weaselly than that. I'd stop at "I'm ready to begin installing Office on our PC's. From what I can tell, we only have XX licenses, so we can only install it on XX machines.", and let him specifically say that there are enough licences or to order me to do it anyway.

LOL, consulting Slashdot about ethics is like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18979189)

...well, I don't have a good analogy. Anyway, just download it off bittorrent or piratebay and tell yourself it's not theft. That's the Slashdot Way© (note the ironic use of ©)

No way!!! (1)

IvanCruz (316505) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979191)

My boss tell someone to do it for me...

At the very least, get it in writing (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979199)

Something along the line of

I controller so and so, understand that I have been offered an opportunity to be legal with Open Office and am telling so-and-so that he, against his wishes, is to install MS Office on all systems. I have been told that this is illegal and I take FULL responsibility.

If he signs it, then install it. Give him a copy and you keep the original at home in a fireproof safe or in a safe deposit box.
But if he does not take FULL responsibility, then why leave yourself dangling?

Ask for it in writing (1)

El Torico (732160) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979201)

If someone directs you to do something that is questionable, then you should send them an e-mail or hard copy memorandum requesting specific direction. You should also inform them of the legal and/or ethical rules that may apply. In short, ask for it in writing. You won't get that directive in a response; they will quickly change their mind.

Common Practice (1)

killercoder (874746) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979217)

This is a relatively common practice in Smaller Shops (or at least it was when I worked in them). I know of three cases where said smaller shop grew to the point that they came to the attention of the manufacturer (in most cases Microsoft), and the bill to avoid litigation and go ligit was huge (at least one was 700K). You need to explain to the comptroller that it is illegal, that they are risking stiff penalties and fines, and you STRONGLY recommend that they either buy the software or learn to use the free alternatives. If they can't afford to buy it now, do they really think they'll be able to afford it at 3 times the retail price? (typical settlement) At the end-of-the-day you'll install what they give you, and support it. I would ask for a letter that simply states "The company assumes all liability with regards to the validity and authenticity of the software. is a technical support specialist who assists in the deployment and support of the software, but in no-way-shape-or-form is incurring personal liability for the software or the use to which its put." Killer Killer

Turn them in (1)

Nightspirit (846159) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979219)

It's one thing to pull the "starving student" or "I wasn't going to pay for it anyways" or "it's not theft, it's copyright infringement" card. I would argue it's another thing entirely to make profit as a business by infringing on others work (even though you could argue gates and jobs are guilty of the same thing).

1) If you consider yourself a moral person, AND if this act is against your morals, then it is the right thing to do
2) It is difficult for OSS to gain much ground if everyone is just pirating MS
3) You could lose your job, so you must do a cost:benefit ratio. Are your morals important enough to lose your job?

Absolutely not (1)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979235)

I don't know if I'm paranoid or what, but pirated software in the office is a huge no-no for me. Administrating 30+ Windows workstations, 30+ Mac workstations, and 10-/+ servers I attempt to keep them clean of any incriminating bits. I just know that it would be 'my fault' if anything were to happen. But it gets tough keeping all the users from installing the latest versions of whatever software before we buy it, or software we simply don't own. I've check workstations after employees have left to find a plethora of illegal software - some of it being things they never even attempted to acquire legally through the company.

This really blows me away. We hired them to do a job using our tools and for whatever reason they've decided that that just isn't good enough. Suddenly there are various software packages on their computer that I did not provide and they're creating files that no one else can open. Then they leave and I'm forced to either continue stealing the software or purchase it just so we can manipulate the work they've done. Boot to the God Damned head, jackass. Thanks for ruining my day.

Any disgruntled employees? (5, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979245)

You're the IT guy. Find an employee who is disgruntled (or maybe just use the guy that keeps eating your lunch out of the fridge even though it's CLEARLY marked with BIG BLACK MARKER with your name). Send an email ratting the company out to the BSA from that person's account. Put a BSA bumper sticker on his car. Sneak into his house and put a thank you card ("The Business Software Alliance thanks you for reporting 500 scofflaw software stealing terrorists in 2006! Wishing you more success bringing down more scum in 2007!") on his mantle.

Meanwhile, forge emails from your boss to you threatening to fire you if you don't immediately and without question install as much illegal software as possible. Include some BSA baiting ("And if the BSA comes around, I've got a few shotgun shells with their names on it! Yeehaw!") For extra points, forge an entire email thread wherein he continues to threaten you and the BSA and anyone else you can think of despite your continued objections. Throw in some sentences where you attempt to convince him of his wrongs through Bible verses.

When the BSA comes to the office, throw a Molotov cocktail from your boss's window toward their car. Leave the building and wait across the street for the SWAT team to arrive. If your boss tries to come out, as soon as you can see him coming out the door yell as loud as you can "He's got a gun!"

This should take care of your problem.

Re:Any disgruntled employees? (1)

Applekid (993327) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979417)

Parent is now my new favorite post.

Re:Any disgruntled employees? (1)

Mattintosh (758112) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979647)

You're a Bastard, aren't you?

A few options: (4, Informative)

paladinwannabe2 (889776) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979269)

1. Threaten to quit if they don't comply.

2. Quit.

3. Mention that penalties for pirating software are more expensive than buying it in the first place.

4. Install Open Office instead, see if people notice.

5. Threaten to inform Microsoft/BSA.

6. Draft your letter to the company owners, but instead talk about how 'Open Office saves money' without mentioning your PHB's stupid plan to pirate Windows.

7. Go over your bosses's head and tell the owners what he's up to.

I'm sure other people will give you options as well. You obviously have principles, don't let your work overrule them.

or "Would you say anything?" (1)

acroyear (5882) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979277)

As in, would you say anything if your work was installing unlicensed software on boxes? I know by "pirated" they usually refer to the big things, like Windows itself or MS Office.

But really, the place where things are problematic is "nag-ware" items that don't actually remove their features if you don't pay in time, like WinZip and TextPad. Lots of companies simply keep quiet at those things being on every box on site, unpaid.

Now, I get around that by using free (if old and unmaintained) software like ZipCentral and Crimson Editor, but not everybody feels that way.

Re:or "Would you say anything?" (3, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979587)

Now, I get around that by using free (if old and unmaintained) software like ZipCentral and Crimson Editor, but not everybody feels that way.

Are you aware that 7-Zip has a file manager mode that does the same kind of crap as winzip and winrar?

hmm (1)

tsalaroth (798327) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979283)

The hard answer:

Turn them in if they insist on this action, even IF they "logged your disagreement" or whatever. Most states have laws protecting "whistle blowers", so you may well NOT lose your job (if you even want to keep it). Even the US military has some protections for someone who refuses an order because they think (or know) it's illegal.

My reasoning for this has already been stated - if they DO get caught, you're likely to be the person blamed for it, as you're the one doing the actual installation.

Anecdotal:
I was asked to do something I thought was illegal at one time, and I refused, stating plainly that I wouldn't break the law, even if it meant my job.

I got a raise.

Re:hmm (1)

CokeBear (16811) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979515)

Interesting anecdote. Did you get a raise because they were testing you and then rewarded your honesty, or did you get a raise because they knew you would squeal if you left, and wanted to keep you around to keep you quiet?

CYOA (1)

grudgelord (963249) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979305)

In this case you are damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't. On one hand, if you do as directed you are not only committing an unlawful act but are compromising your own ethics. On the other, you are risking your livelihood or at the very least your vocational bliss by introducing friction within the workplace and risk being branded a "boat rocker". So what's a guy or gal to do?

If your ideals don't outweigh your desire to eat or your career ambitions I'd recommend a nice typewritten statement regarding situation and your disagreement with the actions taken. In this statement be cautious about making accusations (somewhat unavoidable but try to tone it down if possible) and attempt to keep the tone as neutral and matter-of fact as possible. Have HR or personnel add this statement to your file in the event this ever comes back to haunt you. There is no need to distribute this letter all over the office or to the various levels of management, just have it placed in your file (and possibly your immediate supervisor; though consider this carefully as it could cause more harm than good) as a defense against reprisal should the hammer ever fall and the company decides to offer you up as a scapegoat.

The objective here is not to accuse anyone of anything or to pass an ethical judgment. You are merely saying, "I performed this assignment under protest for such-and-such reasons". While unlikely, should the situation turn ugly you can declare absolution.

Thin Clients (2, Interesting)

Yobgod Ababua (68687) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979323)

If you already have a Windows Server in place, consider installing Citrix as a simple applications server and letting most users access a single copy of MS Office installed on the apps server rather than giving each and every one of them their own installation. It's almost certainly a less-expensive (and still legal) solution than buying enough Office licenses for every desktop and, assuming reasonable usage patterns, should provide a good end-user experience.

It is not acceptable, as an alleged professional, to willingly or by policy violate the laws of where your business is located.

I know it sounds like a pain, but you should stand up for your professional ethics. If they are crazy enough to fire you for refusing to break the law, you should deal with the wrongful termination appropriately. As a refresher, our professional ethics are well summarized HERE [sage.org] .

If they asked you to go out in the parking lot and siphon gas from random cars rather than submit a travel reimbursement because the "budget is tight", would you? Would you shoplift copies of the software from BestBuy for them?

Write up a small presentation listing the various options and their costs and drawbacks:

  • Full licenses for all desktops
  • Full licenses for power users and a citrix server
  • Full licenses for power users and openoffice for others
  • Google Documents

Illegal options aren't really options and should be neither offered nor considered.

Re:Thin Clients (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18979837)

Office is licensed on a per device basis. In this scenario, you need an Office license for each machine which is accessing the Citrix server. There are no cost savings.

Re:Thin Clients (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18979861)

This is a nice idea but completely illegal. The office license is per each concurrent user on Citrix, since you have to install a terminal services version. Plus with citrix it costs more than a user license on office to buy the TSCAL, Citrix CAL, and windows CAL (last I checked it was $300 or so for citrix, $100 for windows, and $20 or so for the TSCAL).

Unfortunatly.. Yes (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18979335)

I sometimes find it so frustrating to get all the security hasps and serials registered, getting techsupport from the east coast when your on the west coast, that can take days to setup if you don't get it right by noon. That sometimes it's just plain easier to run a crack and have it set up in 5 minutes.

Refuse (4, Interesting)

zx75 (304335) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979403)

It's a hard path, and I know someone who has walked it. I have a cousin who was in the same situation and was fired for refusing to perform those illegal acts.
If you are in your grace period, they can terminate you without giving a reason, but if you've been employed for some time they cannot legally fire you for refusing to perform an illegal act.

In the end, my cousin didn't get anything out of it. He had to find another job (and did) but he did have the satisfaction of seeing the company get busted for unrelated illegal actions, which were then compounded when the illegal software was discovered.

To this day, even though it was tough being forced to find a new job, he is glad that he took a stand against it... and I'll be the first to admit that I admire him for it.

Re:Refuse (1)

faloi (738831) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979765)

If you are in your grace period, they can terminate you without giving a reason, but if you've been employed for some time they cannot legally fire you for refusing to perform an illegal act.

YMMV. In some states, you can technically be fired for any reason at any time, regardless of circumstances. If you can prove some kind of discriminatory or hostile workplace kinds of claims, you have some recourse for litigation. But if it's not documented, there's nothing to stop a company from firing people for no reason.

Why do you want to keep the job so badly? (3, Insightful)

Slashdot Parent (995749) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979441)

They asked you to violate the law and your own ethics, you gave them perfectly reasonable alternatives that would cost them nothing, and they still overruled you.

Tell me again why you are so attached to this job?

Re:Why do you want to keep the job so badly? (4, Insightful)

stinerman (812158) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979653)

Probably because the guy needs to eat.

Not all of us live in a perfect fantasy land where we can just quit jobs that offend our ethics. The guy probably has a family to support. Having to take care of other people lessens your ability to stand on principle.

Depends (1)

JohnnyGTO (102952) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979461)

on who's asking, is that yo BSA ?

No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18979499)

We setup a department at an EDU. We got requests for MS Office in the beginning. We had _1_ license. I said it'd be installed on one machine & that someone who wanted it on another machine could purchase a license. The installation media were kept in a public place & some people installed it on their personal machines. That's fine--plausible deniability. I took no part in it. After a few months, people liked OO.o and Gnumeric as alternatives.

Further: a vendor was using the GPLed version of MySQL in a proprietary app. We badgered to open the source or pay MySQL for the commercial version. They did the latter.

Being ordered to breach ethics sucks. Being ordered to break the law sucks more. And when that order does not come with a signed and notarized get out of jail free card, it is easy to say "hell no." You won't be fired--if they had the balls to do that, they'll be taking the shit they'd get if they took responsibility for the illegal action in the first place.

Ask for a written order (1)

haeger (85819) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979503)

I've found out that asking for a written order is quite effective. If it's a legit thing they want me do to it's never a problem and if not then, well let's just say that managers don't want to put their name on a piece of paper (or email) asking you to do something shady.

Something akin to these lines.

"Hi.
I understand what you want me to do but since this violates my personal ethics/religion/dietary requirements I would like you to confirm that this action is what you want me to take".

.haeger

Short version: no. (1)

^_^x (178540) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979551)

When I first started in the industry, I was 18, working at a small company, and the licensing status of our software was uncertain with no records, but piles and piles of physical copies of the software we used. It is possible we exceeded our site license (if applicable?) but I figured it was up to the company to watch - I was just a tech.

Now I work at a local college, and I wouldn't even use my personal workstation to download something pirated for use at home. Work just isn't the place for pirated software. It would also be pretty stupid of a company to fire you for not breaking the law for them, though I realize they'd probably have an excuse...

So ultimately, no. Never pirate software at work. If you decide to do so at work or at home, be prepared to take full responsibility for it - and that means a lot more than getting around to paying retail price when they catch you!

I must be the only one... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18979553)


I guess I must be the only one who ever worked for an unscrupulous employer who reads Slashdot, but the bulk of the replies here amaze me! There are certain things I'd quit my job over, some that would just keep me up at night, and some I'd do out of hand knowing that it was my only choice. Sure, if they insisted I sacrifice a virgin on some pagan alter, I'd bail immediately. Or if they wanted me to set them up a kiddie-porn site for their personal collections. Or if they voted Democrat (just kidding...) But software piracy isn't one of those 'quit immediately' type of things for me. Sure it's a 'polish your resume' event, but that's about it.

I'm posting this AC because it doesn't reflect on my current employer and I have no desire to 'out' the previous one except where it suits me. :)

I've Been In That Situation A Few Times (2, Interesting)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979613)

This problem is far more common than people think -- especially at smaller companies that are trying to make ends meet.

What I did in one case was to comply with the order and then got the hell out. I needed the time to find another job. I didn't turn them in to SPA or anything but I sometimes wish I had after some wait long enough to not point the finger back at me.

In another instance, I discovered that my predecessor had installed a bunch of copies of software without having the licenses (nowhere near) to cover the installations. I knew my supervisor was (a) a slimeball, and (b) short on money to cover the software. When I told him about the situation, he asked me to find out how much it would cost to make all the software legal so I did. It was too much for him to cover so he decided not to do anything about it.

Not wanting to be associated with illegal software (I can't go into details, but this was a place with oversight and the consequences to being a party to this would mean immediate dismissal), and wanting to cover my butt, I talked to a company rep for the software and asked if there was a way to convert old licenses to new through some kind of upgrade, plus get a discount on a volume buy. I did this without my supervisor's knowledge or permission.

I felt I had no choice. I did not see going to his supervisor as an option as I was relatively new and my supervisor had lots of friends. I did the only thing that I thought I could to cover myself. By contacting the company rep, I alerted the company that there was technically piracy going on with their software. I did it without authority, but I also covered the entity's butt I worked for by owning up to the software company and appearing to be proactive. I covered my organization's butt to our parent organization as we were subject to software audits -- which would have put us (and me) in an extreme corner. I also forced my supervisor to pony up for the illegal software. And I also documented dates, inventories, and anything to make my case just in case someone tried to blame me for the illegal copies.

My supervisor, however, targeted me and cut my position at his very next opportunity and I had to take another position in the organization. Luckily it worked out for the better. He was also eventually targeted and demoted by his supervisor. Maybe I could have gone above him but I didn't know that at the time.

It was a really tough position. I did what I felt I had to do to cover myself and the organization I work for and to force the hand of my supervisor who was quite content to operate with tens of thousands of dollars of illegal software. I had already been through the situation once and didn't feel like doing it again. It also really made me angry that someone would put me in that position when I am an IT professional. It just sucked. I have absolutely no respect for any supervisor who would do that to an employee and if placed in that position in the future, I would probably be even more open about cutting off their dick by documenting, buidling a case, and going as high as I needed to go to get the issue resolved. I realize that sometimes the supervisor is the CEO/director/whatever, and you can't go higher. In such cases I think all you can do is comply to buy time and get the hell out.

Get it in writing. (1)

The Rizz (1319) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979633)

Tell your boss that you'll do it, but that want it in writing, signed by him, that you are to install those copies even though you do not believe you have enough licenses. If he wants to guarantee that you have the right number of licenses and that everything is legal, then fine.

If he refuses to give you such a written request, don't do it. If he attempts to fire you, then you immediately go to his superior (or however high you need to go to get past the ones implicit in this decision), and tell them that you're being fired for refusing to do something illegal that would open the company to a lawsuit. Odds are, your boss is going to be the one fired, and you'll be asked to stay. If not, do you really want to work for a company that has no problem violating the law, and is willing to punish those who won't?

BSA (4, Insightful)

eric76 (679787) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979649)

You might point out to them that all it takes is one disgruntled employee or ex-employee to make a complaint to the BSA (Business Software Alliance).

There is a bright spot, however. After they pay a few hundred thousand dollars to the BSA, they may be more willing to switch completely to open source software.

Russian Mafia - no choice! (1)

mac1235 (962716) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979689)

I work for organized crime you insensitive clod!

Good piece of advice (1)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979697)

Get out of the licensing business, push that off on the accounting/purchasing people.

When you put software on an image or distribute/install it, make sure that you have an email "paper trail" of your supervisor of member of management authorizing it. If somebody sends drugs to somebody in the mail, the mailman doesn't get busted for possession -- so you want to be a mailman.

I say this because you a technical person, not a bean counter. Licensing is complicated, and difficult to handle correctly even when your company isn't trying to pirate software.

Linux smugness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18979701)

This situation is much less likely to come up in my organisation since we run linux and a sort of thin-ish client environment.
All workstations are identical, so peopel can log in anywhere. Not *all* our software is free of course, but it certainly simplifies the licensing for our non-free applications.

if its microsoft then yes (1)

crabpeople (720852) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979703)

Im sorry but microsoft has made it impossible using their monopoly position to NOT use office. Open offices spreadsheet is notoriously different than excel and most accountants will have no end of bitching till they get their precious excel back. Companies should be as legal as possible, but ultimately its a management decision and you have to put food on the table.

I dont regard software piracy as that immoral though so I might be more nonchalant than you (its right around using pirated mp3s for your hold music imho, as in your not going to get caught and it doesnt hurt anyone). If the company mandated I install prayer screen savers onto every PC because they were ultra religious I might care more to stand up to it. The bottom line is if it offends you that much and you really think M$ is dying in the streets for cash, fight them. Stand up and quit if nessecary. I wouldn't advise narcing them out though. To me that would be the most immoral thing you could do. Petty revenge that.

Do not make your boss sign a letter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18979711)

I'm not sure why everyone is giving the advice to make your boss sign a letter accepting responsibility. That is the wrong thing to do. Regardless of whether he claims responsibility or not, by being involved in an illegal act and failing to report it, you become an accomplice. If it's ever found out, your boss may get fired, but so will you.

Your only choice is to refuse to do it. They cannot fire you for that; it would be an invitation for a lawsuit in which you have a very strong position.

No license, no install (2, Informative)

rbanzai (596355) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979727)

I would not install unlicensed software at work. If my boss insisted on it I would ask him to put it on paper with the specifics of the software name, the date, and that he knew we did not have a license. If he signs it taking full responsibility I'd go right ahead.

Part of my job as I.T. Manager has been to make my boss aware of the liability of using pirated software, and of allowing employees to use pirating software like Limewire, etc. If they insist on doing things that expose them to liability it won't be because they didn't know it was a bad idea. :)

Re:No license, no install (2, Insightful)

aminorex (141494) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979815)

That would effectively protect you against legal action based on your deeds; however, misprison of a felony is also a crime, so that unless you inform the authorities of your boss' crime, you are still liable to legal action based on your boss' deeds.

It's not just you (1)

jeremymiles (725644) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979751)

I'd be worried about other people. If someone who's using the software has a gripe against you / your boss / the company, it's very easy for THEM to report you to FAST or whatever. I've got a story about that, but I'd have to post as AC.

Written order (1)

Deternal (239896) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979821)

If something goes completely against my professional advice and someone wants me to do it, I insist on getting a signed order to do so.
In that way, the executive giving the order takes full and complete responsibility and acknowledges that you are against this.

I've had to do this twice - sadly both on security issues.

In this case it would also make sense to make a list of currently owned (and version if relevant) licenses and missing/needed license purchases.
Microsoft usually acknowledges that you can install the software as long as you can prove you've ordered it already, whereas IBM does not take this stance.

To commit a crime or not? (1)

kosmosik (654958) | more than 7 years ago | (#18979823)

Well it is plain simple - refuse commiting a crime. Piracy is crime. Peroid. If your employer expects from you to commit a crime (or witness or whatever) it is your duty to refuse. If you don't have money for car you don't go steal one - similar here.

This is not some minor issue as using a copy of some obscure cracked shareware for fifteen minutes to do some bizzare stuff which you need to do due to pression of time etc. (that I would tolerate). This is about serious and willingful piracy - using few copies of some expensive software without paying for it.
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