A good software licensing policy is the best defense against the threat of audits

Some software companies have been known to zealously pursue their own customers to extract more money from existing contracts. Proactive defense has become increasingly necessary.

Staying compliant with software licenses can be quite difficult. Given the type of instant gratification that various popular file sharing services have provided users throughout the history of the web, end users have earned a reputation for being cavalier with copy software because it’s incredibly easy and convenient to do so. Naturally, the software industry has tried to raise awareness about this, although quite often this takes the form of cringe-worthy public service announcements, the most famous being “Do not copy this floppy”.

A perhaps more immediate threat is the BSA’s campaign formerly called “Bust Your Boss!” where potentially aggrieved (ex-)employees can report license non-compliance for a company they worked for. While there are certainly companies that shirk their software licensing responsibilities, the campaign is too easy to abuse, leaving companies with the cost of complying with a software audit.

TO SEE: Software Usage Policy (Tech Pro Research)

Worse than the aforementioned examples, software companies try to make licenses as vague as possible so they can press their own customers for additional software licenses. In September 2014, Oracle launched a “license review” of confectioner Mars Inc., to which the company responded with a lawsuit after producing more than 230,000 pages of documentation at its own expense over the course of months to comply with Oracle requirements.

As part of the process, “Oracle demanded information to which it is not contractually entitled regarding servers that do not run Oracle software and Mars personnel who do not use Oracle software,” according to the filed complaint. by March. “Oracle made these claims under false pretenses under the false premise that non-use of the software nevertheless somehow constitutes licensed use of the software for which Mars owes Oracle.”

Duncan Jones, principal analyst for sourcing and vendor management at Forrester, said:

Where some software vendors stray into unethical and legally dubious tactics is when they try to exploit genuine disagreements over the interpretation of outdated contractual language. The best salespeople negotiate reasonable and fair compromises for both parties. The worst attempt to represent these legal shades of gray in black and white. They use a “deliberate overuse” law enforcement approach that is simply not applicable to these genuinely unclear situations. For example, if a shopper uses a self-checkout system in a supermarket and the POS system then sends a message to update an inventory system, the shopper is “using” the inventory system in the sense provided for in the original contract? I say definitely not, but some sellers may disagree. I accept their right to try to persuade me that I am wrong, I do not accept that they can take legal action and start issuing ‘cease and desist’ letters unless I pay them millions of dollars.

SEE: Beware of Microsoft sales reps posing as auditors to sell Office 365 (TechRepublic)

Hopefully, your organization won’t experience such a tedious software license audit. That said, making an effort to ensure you are compliant from the start is an important first step in protecting yourself against bad faith audits. You can establish guidelines for your organization by implementing a policy, such as the one offered by TechRepublic’s premium sister site, TechRepublic.

Read also…

Your opinion

Has your company encountered software licensing issues? Do you have a system or policy in place to help ensure compliance? Share your experiences and tips with other TechRepublic members.