Adopting Software Use Policies to Protect Against Copyright Infringement Claims

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BSA | The Software Alliance (“BSA”), and the Software & Information Industry Association (“SIIA”) pursue copyright infringement claims on behalf of software publishers, such as Microsoft, Adobe, and Autodesk, among many others.  Typically the BSA and SIIA send audit letters to companies believed to be using unauthorized copies of software products.  In their letters, they demand that the target companies conduct an internal audit of all computers they own to determine whether the auditing entities’ members’ software products are properly licensed.

It is not unusual for a company to discover during the audit process that its current or former employees installed software on company computers without authorization.  Unfortunately, this oversight may lead to substantial financial penalties from the BSA or SIIA for any allegedly unauthorized installations.  During the course of settlement negotiations, the BSA and SIIA routinely fine companies three times the MSRP value of each allegedly unlicensed product.

While no written policy is foolproof against employees installing unauthorized software, a proactive approach includes guidelines and policies to outline proper use of a company’s computers.  This may include provisions banning installing, using, or accessing software unless specifically authorized by the company.  Educating employees to have a better understanding of how to use a company’s resources and technology properly may help to prevent costly penalties in the future.  In addition to a written policy, it also is advisable for a company to routinely conduct an internal audit of its computers to help ensure software compliance.  Once the BSA or the SIIA gets involved, it is typically too late to avoid paying a penalty.