Written by attorney Steve C. Vondran

Top 11 ways you can get BUSTED for software piracy and face personal liability

This video talks about the use of "crack codes" to install, activate and use unlicensed software on your corporate networks, laptops, and servers, PC's, MACs. Here are the 10 top ways I have seen companies hauled into time-consuming and expensive software audits, and at times, federal court copyright infringement cases.

  1. Using crack codes found on the internet, or sometimes through a paid consultant who installs them

  2. "Crash reports" (working on pirated windows, or CAD for example) and sending in a "crash report" to the software publisher. They look you up and see no licensing.

  3. You post a job ad on Indeed (or other job sites) looking for someone with Revit skills for example (an Autodesk product), and they look you up and do not see that your company has any licensed Revit subscriptions. This can lead to an internal letter or a letter from a law firm such as Donahue Fitzgerald.

  4. An informant (possibly a disgruntled saboteur) knarks you out and whistleblowers (sometimes seeking a monetary reward). For example, software audits and investigations performed by the Business Software Alliance ("BSA").

  5. The software you are using contains piracy detection software (or a beacon), which "phones home") infringing uses and installations to the company who then initiates a piracy investigation.

  6. You purchase unauthorized and unlicensed software online (from a non-authorized reseller). The vendors typically like to blame YOU and not so much the reseller.

  7. Monitoring illegal sharing of software (installing software on more computers than permitted by the End User License Agreement ("EULA"). Again, through the use of "phone home" technology which is often not clearly disclosed.

  8. Caught downloading software programs through BitTorrent and your IP address is tracked leading to a "John Doe" lawsuit or accusation of copyright infringement.

  9. Having your work praised in an online journal (and software company learns their product was used to create the masterpiece) and they look you up in the customer database and find no proof of purchase and no license.

  10. A competitor reports you to try to gain a competitive advantage in the relevant marketplace.

  11. Purchasing "refurbished" hardware with unlicensed OEM software

This is not an exclusive list. If your company gets a letter from a law firm (such as Venable, or Donahue Fitzgerald) or an audit demand from a software vendor (such as CNC, Vero, VB Conversion, Adobe, Microsoft, Autodesk, Siemens PLM, or other company), or a software trade association such as BSA, SIIA, Software Compliance Group, or other entity, this list will help you think through why you may have been targeted.

Additional resources provided by the author

Here are some other great resources if you find yourself in a software dispute, arbitration, mediation or litigation. Watch these videos.

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