The BSA Compliance Gap Survey released in June 2014 and covering the previous year, 2013, has shown that Romania continues on the path of decreasing the rate of unlicensed software use; compared to 2007, when the software piracy rate was 68%, in 2013 we are looking at a rate of unlicensed software use of 62%, with a 6 percentage points drop. On the other hand, the value of the unlicensed software in use has increased, indicating a growth of the overall market. In 2013, the commercial value of the unlicensed software amounted to USD 208 million, while in 2007, amounted to USD 151 million.
The users that willingly or, sometimes, even not-knowingly, go for unlicensed or counterfeit software are exposed to various risks. First of all, they often do not benefit from the full features of the software, coming from updates, upgrades and support that the producer ormally offers to a legitimate user.
Counterfeit software may be accompanied by malware or malware may be easily downloaded after the PC with an unauthorized software copy enters online; recent studies note that this is likely to happen in one third of the cases where unlicensed software is used. In addition, the use of software that is not duly licensed may result in legal liability – both criminal and civil. This can result also in financial consequences – damages, fines –, and reputational consequences – the company may be exposed to public criticism and / or have difficulties in dealing with partners and stakeholders because of the law incompliance.
For any company that wants to be sure that it is in full compliance, there are steps that could be taken and implemented by the management, the IT department / people and even by Human Resources.
First of all, there is a need for clarity as regards the software used and the licenses held, which can be achieved by regularly auditing the IT resources; based on the findings of such audit, measures may be taken and implemented – aiming both at licensing the software in use and at controlling the digital content brought in or downloaded by the employees and that could expose the company. From technical measures to internal regulations and policy, this can also be addressed in the company.
It was found in a recent study published by BSA and IDC in June 2014 that 50% of the employees of the companies having in place formal, written policies as regards the use of software do not acquire unlicensed software, while the same behavior is noticed in only 26% of the employees of companies not having at all in place or having only informal policies as regards the use of software. Compliance is first of all a matter of education and awareness, starting at the company’s level and we encourage companies to adopt formal internal measures in this respect. Companies are advised to have in place software assets management (“SAM”) procedures, as this allows management to decrease costs associated with the deployment, support and management of software; it can increase the flexibility and scalability of the enterprise; and the regular control of the licensing situation decreases the possibility of the aforementioned risks. Briefly, SAM consists of five stages.
The first one is to collect all primary information (number of PCs, servers, which software is installed, who is responsible for software purchases etc.). Then, to conduct an audit / inventory (either using internal resources, by checking software on the hard disks, or using a special application, or using third party consultants) and prepare a detailed report. Third, to compare information on existing licensing documentation to the audit report, revealing cases where there is a surplus of licenses or not enough licenses. Forth, to develop a plan on standardization, use, control and software purchases. And last, but not least, based on this, to develop a plan of licensing management, which includes analysis of software requirements, education of personnel on software use, plan of expenses cuts on technical support and schedule of regular software audits. More practical steps can be found both on www.bsa.org/romania and on www.softwareculicenta.ro.
In what concerns us, BSA has partnered with the Police in informing both the business environment and the general public on the risks of using unlicensed software. In September 2013 – June 2014, we have run a nation-wide campaign, called “Are you aware what information you make available on a plate when using illegal software?”, stressing the security and confidentiality risks entailed by this phenomenon.
We also ran Ars Praeventiva, a Police initiative that we proudly join – a theatre festival in the Bucharest high-schools whereby students were encouraged to write scripts for theatrical plays with the subject of intellectual property rights and IT&C – safety and risks, and then put the show on the stage. Starting September 2014, BSA and the Romanian Police have resumed the actions for raising awareness among businesses on the risks of using unlicensed or counterfeit software and are running a new campaign. A very important element is the face-to-face meetings with the businesses, during local events at which we are partners or organized by us.
Readers can find more information on www.softwareculicenta.ro, a website created in partnership with the Romanian Police 3 years ago.