March 30, 2010 – Intellectual property (IP) can be defined as a product that has commercial value but is physically intangible, such as music, books and movies.
Computer software is a form of IP – Microsoft can write code, create the software application, put it on a CD, and distribute it so that millions of people can use it at the same time, but the CD is not the work; the software itself is.
While IP is intangible, in this modern information age it carries as much, if not more, monetary value than material possessions.
As a result, IP and copyright laws have been put into place both to recognise that it not only retains value but to prevent copying or distribution against the will of the creator.
Software piracy is effectively the unauthorised copying or distribution of copyrighted software – essentially stealing the IP within the software. It can take the form of hard-disk loading (loading unlicensed copies of software onto multiple computers without paying for it); simple copies (fake software typically burned onto an unbranded CD or DVD, with no accompanying documentation or certificates of authenticity to prove that they are genuine); and counterfeits (fake software typically shipped on an official-looking CD or DVD, in packaging that appears to look original).
Protecting your Assets
As a business owner, genuine licensed software is an asset and investment and should be managed as such. Also as a business owner, software piracy, even when committed unknowingly by a member of your staff, is your problem.
Aside from the risk of being caught and facing possible criminal and civil legal sanctions, as well as the risk to your business’s reputation, a business running pirated software on their PCs can fall prey to malware, viruses, security breaches and network downtime.
This is because unlicensed software is often installed by resellers or IT staff using hacked Product Keys that are generated by key generating tools, or counterfeit CDs that contain serious security vulnerabilities.
Software companies support their finished products and provide updates and fixes for genuine licensed software to help keep it functioning properly. When the software is not a genuine product, it is usually not eligible to receive manufacturer’s technical support, virus protection, warranty information, or any other software updates.
By using genuine licensed software, you not only help protect the creators of the software and the software itself, you ultimately protect the interests of your own business.
However, with so many things on a business owner’s plate to manage from staff to operations, keeping track of software licensing requirements can be a big challenge.
This is where Software Asset Management (SAM) comes in to play.
How Software Asset Management Can Help
Software Asset Management (SAM) is a best practice incorporating a set of proven processes and procedures for managing your business’ IT assets and ensuring they operate at maximum efficiency.
Effective business management means identifying the risks facing your business, and controlling and mitigating those risks before they can have an impact. Implementing SAM can help you identify what you have, where it’s running, and if your business is using your assets efficiently.
A SAM program will give you as a business owner a better understanding of what types of licenses and how many your company has purchased and deployed; what you are actually using and therefore what you need.
You also have added peace of mind by ensuring your software is genuine and not pirated. This provides an extra layer of security and efficiency that pirated software cannot.
With a good SAM plan in place, you are effectively protecting your business and your staff from the threat of piracy, while ensuring you get the best bang for your buck from the genuine licensed software you have invested in.
(Andrew Waititu is the License & Compliance Manager for Microsoft in East & Southern Africa).