There are many gambles in business. In fact, some would argue, business is, in essence, a form of negotiated gambling. One area senior execs have been willing to gamble on is software. Not in terms of popping the latest copy of CS6 into the staff tombola; but rather weighing up the decision on whether or not to purchase and renew licensing agreements on products protected by intellectual property law, or continue on blissfully unaware.
In some cases, the IT department doesn’t even have the ability to monitor and manage what software is installed onto corporate devices; meaning some licences are being installed without ever being acknowledged in the business books. Put simply, does the risk of a one-off fine and the slap on the wrist outweigh the £53 a month per employee software purchase or renewal costs? Until now, most would argue the risk was minor. But the streets are talking, and where the streets talk, the law follows.
In light of a recent BBC story by technology reporter David Lee, there have been suggestions that organisations with a vested interest in protecting their intellectual property, such as those in the music and film industry, are pushing for stricter laws and punishments when it comes to compliance and piracy concerns. The proposed endgame is a jail sentence that rivals other highly classified criminal acts such as robbery and battery with a maximum penalty of 10 years. But is this empty scaremongering that holds no real weight? Or is this a victimless crime in which innocent bystanders be held up as “lessons to be learned”?
Pointing the Finger:
The effectiveness of this new legislation boils down to one principle: mislead by example. Until a significant influencer within the business realm is held accountable and scapegoated, I don’t feel CEOs will be willing to put in the time and effort needed to manage their licensing strategies. However, as the rumour mill continues to churn, it may cause managers and procurement managers to rethink their approach to software licensing in order to avoid being held accountable.
The effectiveness of this new legislation boils down to one principle: mislead by example
A Global Issue:
As this proposed law is UK-centric, global companies will need to be mindful of local copyright compliances within the countries they operate in. This could mean that managers overcompensate by purchasing enterprise licensing agreements to cover their backs (following expansion, staff changes, etc.). This can be costly, and once again may deter businesses from investing and thus opting to continue risky practice. Further to this, there is a considerable talent shortage for knowledgeable asset management professionals. This means that if these harsher penalties are realised, organisations will feel significant pressure to either cut corners or overspend, should they not be able to hire skilled asset managers. It is my suggestion that companies monitor these potential changes in legislation and prepare to seek alternative vendors, where alternative vendors with comparable functionality exist, should their vendors endorse these harsher changes. I absolutely understand the vendors’ justifiable wish to protect their intellectual property.
High Cost Risk, Low Cost Solution:
There are, however, existing solutions that combat the need for overcompensating on the purchasing of software licenses. Software License and Asset Management packages allow IT managers to oversee where and whom software licenses are being deployed to within your company, meaning you can make informed and accurate financial decisions on software that actually needs to be relicensed or purchased. You can also designate approved software so that all applications distributed throughout the company are licensed and compliant whilst also reporting on any usage beyond corporate guidelines. This could prove to be a literal lifesaver when it comes to reducing business and legal liabilities concerning software vendor licensing!