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Copyright Law Protection for Employees? 138

Posted by Cliff
from the between-an-ethical-rock-and-a-legal-hard-place dept.
Copyright Fringement asks: "I've been constantly asked by my employer to install software (Office, XP, etc) on unauthorized computers, as well as duplicate copyrighted material (video, CD's) en masse. I know that there are watchdog agencies that look out for this kind of stuff, and it's setting my employer (or me) up for serious fines and Other Bad Things(tm), but is there a way to protect myself from said Bad Things (tm)? I've explained till I'm blue in the face, but the bosses always: get a glazed look; or give some nonsense explanation. I like my job, but I'm not taking the fall for these guys. What's a self respecting Slashdot reader to do?"
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Copyright Law Protection for Employees?

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  • I don't know if this would absolutely protect you, but ask your manager to tell you, in writing, that the computers are authorized for the software install.

    • Yeah, the same way a hitman can present written copies of his orders.

      Oh, wait.
    • Or just install it and move on down the road. This happens everywhere. The bigger the corp normally there are more violations. The only place I have ever worked (besides for myself) that had licenses for every piece of software was Arthur Andersen. Pretty funny huh?
    • by toddbu (748790) on Friday June 24, 2005 @12:17PM (#12901486)
      It's possible that even this is not enough. I once had to drive a truck down the road that was missing a tire and got pulled over and written a ticket. I went to court and fought the ticket on the grounds that my boss had told me to drive the vehicle rather than provide a new tire. I still lost the case. As the magistrate told me, "Your boss can't order you to do anything illegal". So if you get a letter from your boss saying that everything is ok, the actual act of asking him for the letter shows your suspicion, and if you get busted you could be asked why you didn't dig further.

      Personally, I'd just tell the boss that I wouldn't install the software. I've had times that I've needed to tell me boss that I wouldn't participate in illegal activity. They don't like it, but it's the right thing to do.

      • Yea but that kind of knocks you down a few pegs on the ol' corporate ladder. It kind of cuts into the whole "ass-kissing" thing. :p
      • That sounds like one hell of a balancing act. Was it a stearing tire or a driving tire? Or both if a front wheel drive vehicle.
        • Some trucks have more than 4 tires. Ever hear of an "Eighteen-wheeler"?
        • by toddbu (748790)
          It was a tire on a trailer that I was towing. We put too much weight in the back of the trailer and it started to fishtail while we were driving on the highway. The back end snapped around and popped the tire completely off the rim. As I was headed back to the shop, a cop spotted the missing tire and wrote me up. The law that he used was a Michigan law against studded snow tires. It prohibits direct metal contact with the road.
      • by cdwiegand (2267)
        Indeed, mod parent up! Even with an official letter from the CEO on letterhead, it won't protect you in most places/situtations. YOUR EMPLOYER CANNOT FIRE YOU FOR NOT DOING ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES. IF YOU COMMIT A CRIME, *YOU* COMMITTED A CRIME. If they try to force you, talk to a lawyer. Most have a free or very low cost initial consultation - it helps them to ferret out the idiots who are just suing 'cause they're stupid from the people who actually have a case. And if you employer penalizes you for not doing
    • by Mattcelt (454751)
      Perhaps the best course of action is to call the BSA yourself and offer information in return for immunity. Get a lawyer to figure out the language, b/c you want to make sure:
      a) they will not sue you personally
      b) they will not press criminal charges against you
      c) they will do everything in their power, including have their legal team represent you at their cost, to protect you if anybody else sues you, fires you, files criminal charges, etc.

      I have no idea if it will work, but it's worth a shot asking - th
  • by It doesn't come easy (695416) * on Friday June 24, 2005 @12:00PM (#12901321) Journal
    There is no protection just because you are an employee following orders. Technically, you and all of your supervisors all the way up to the president of the company, and the company itself, are individually and collectively guilty of copyright infringement, even if you don't know it is going on. If you *do* know then you are not only guilty, but willfully in violation. In either case, all of you can be sued individually.

    Speculating here, in practice the copyright holder would probably attempt to sue anyone with the ability to pay (which may still include you, although for a smaller amount than the company might be sued for). And in front of a jury you might get off using the victim defense (i.e. if you could convince the jury that you were afraid of losing your job, etc.). You'd probably still be found guilty but you might escape a fine (at least in a civil suit). At the very least you should document each time you are told to install an illegal copy f something (who, when, what, where, and your protest to your supervisor at the time). Sounds like that could be a full time chore in your case.
    • If the employee doesn't know it's going on, the person responsible is the one in charge handing him the software and saying "Install this, it's authorised, bought and paid for."

      No employee should expect to shoulder the burden of verifying that every single thing they do conforms to every possible law and is in fact legal when their bosses give orders and make false or misleading claims. It's an impossible expectation.
      • I agree with you but copyright law doesn't. You can still be found guilty and the minimum fine is $200 per occurrence last I heard. However, I would also agree that a jury would probably feel the same as you in most circumstances and acquit (but this would be from a human standpoint, not from a point of law).
        • However, I would also agree that a jury would probably feel the same as you in most circumstances and acquit (but this would be from a human standpoint, not from a point of law).

          No, it's a point of law. Jury nullification is legal and well-established through court rulings and precedence. It's not codified, but neither are a lot of other court precedents.
    • I don't know if it's this way in all states, but I've been told that it is impossible to make a legal contract to commit an illegal act. So, you maintain personal responsibility for breaking the law and cannot hide behind loyalty to your company or contractual obligation because you cannot be compelled into action by any prior agreement.
    • Doesn't a corporation (or LLC) provide protection against this kind of stuff?

      In other words, if anyone gets sued it would be the corporate entity not an individual. The corporation takes any legal heat. I thought that was the whole point of having a corporation.
      • In general, being incorporated, or working for a corporation, limits your risk in that a corporation's bad choices cannot risk your personal property, etc. But this doesn't protect you from the consequences of your own illegal actions, whether or not you were directed to perform the action by the corporation.

        If that were possible, everyone would form a corporation and then commit all of the illegal actions they wanted. Once caught, they'd fall back on the corporation guilty, individual innocent defense.
    • In a civil case, it would make no sense to sue the employee as opposed to spending all efforts going after the company's big bucks. I don't think the individual has much to worry about. Besides, most people don't know exactly how many licenses the company has purchased since it isn't their responsibility to keep track; it's the company's.
    • There is no protection just because you are an employee following orders.

      In either case, all of you can be sued individually.

      No, you can't be sued individually for performing your duties as an employee. This can be true even if you weren't directly following orders. The doctrine is called respondeat superior, which stands for "let the master answer".

      Of course this doctrine doesn't protect you from any criminal case which could be brought against you, and since you're infringing copyright for the be

    • This seems like it would fall under activities on behalf of a company. If you order 30k computers for your company and you have no way to pay, the company goes bankrupt, not you. If you include a popular song in a product your company puts out without permission, your company is liable, not you. If you raid your company's pension funds, sell off their assets, give yourself a big fat bonus, and quit as the company enters bankruptcy, the company is liable not you.

      I fail to see how the legal burdern of hav
  • ...would be a good start. At least then you can show that you told your boss why it shouldn't be done and that he told you to do it anyway.
    • ... or not.

      With a paper trail, it's pretty certain that you were the one doing the installs. Without it, they will have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that you were the person who did the install in every instance which they claim is a violation. That's not an easy get. It'll be much easier for them to prove malfeasance on the part of the corporation than to prove it on the part of a single person.

      • In a corproate environment, unless you make an effort to hide who installed the software, it's typically pretty easy to figure it out. When it comes down to it, you're company's going to blame you anyway and claim ignorance. If you have it in writing, they can't get away with that.
    • I don't know how much this would really help you if the BSA did a raid, but there is the concept of due diligence. You need to be able to show that you made an effort to follow copyright instructions and get your boss to do the same.
  • by redog (574983) <eric@opelousasPARIS.org minus city> on Friday June 24, 2005 @12:00PM (#12901327) Homepage Journal
    Buy the software and give them the bill.
  • Report them! (Score:2, Informative)

    by alta (1263)
    Go to http://www.nopiracy.com/ [nopiracy.com]

    And fill out the form.

    Yeah, right... Maybe if there was a bounty. Is there a bounty? Hmmmm
    • Re:Report them! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Col. Klink (retired) (11632) on Friday June 24, 2005 @12:12PM (#12901438)
      Or just print out that page and anonymously leave copies in common areas. After all, if you like your job, you don't want the company shut down or even disrupted.
      • I think leaving anonymous copies would be a bit obvious since only the person installing the software would have a concern. Most users don't care whether the software is licensed or not as long as it works.

        Would you work for a company that's asking you to do something illegal? That's not a job I would keep. I left one company because the boss insisted that I work seven days/80+ hours a week even though the company has a six days/60 hours a week policy, and HR was looking the other way. You got to know yo
  • Talk to one of these so-called watchdog groups and offer testimony in exchange for diplomatic immunity and a tidy sum (because you risk losing your job).

    Machiavellian? Maybe. Remember the alternative: participating in blatant ethics violations that you know are wrong but decide to do anyway.
    • in exchange for diplomatic immmunity?
      Is he working for the UN or something?
    • Does the whistle blower protection stuff cover this?

      Personally my job does not include keeping track of licensing, that is my boss's job. My boss gets the requests, signs off on them, and gives me the work orders. Unless I am given evidence otherwise I just assume my boss actually checked the licenses. I have had to return a few that request some software which is only free for personal use though.
      • Whistleblower protection is for an employee's protection from the company's retribution. The copyright holder isn't required to protect you from penalties for your participation in copyright infringement, although they may voluntarily do so if you are the one who reports the infringement (but again, they wouldn't be required to do so).

        The truth is, while everyone is responsible by law to know if a copyright is being infringed, in reality (as you point out) it's not practical and a jury would probably sid
        • Whistleblower protection is for an employee's protection from the company's retribution

          There's no whistleblower protection at goals and expectations setting time. When your boss gives you next year's goals, and you've got 20, and next year's expectations, and you've been asked to do things far outside your realm of control... there's no whistleblower protection. Next year, at performance review time, you'll get reamed six ways to Sunday, a 0% raise, and maybe even demoted. When you finally quit fr

          • In theory sure there is. The goals and expectations end up being provably out of line with what other people were getting (i.e. they took revenge) and the company gets nailed by the department of labor so hard it isn't funny (like being shut down). On the other hand the department of labor enfocement hasn't happened it any meaingful sense since Carter was president.
          • There's no whistleblower protection at goals and expectations setting time.

            And in order to sue a company for firing you you're going to have to take a big risk that you won't spend a bunch of money on a lawsuit and still lose. If you're going to go the route of refusing to commit copyright infringement, and you can't live off unemployment compensation for a few months while trying to get another job, then you better start looking for another employer.

            Really, if you're not working under a contract, and

    • Basically, you need to look at it like this. Can you risk the possibility of having the BSA or some other watchdog group coming after you personally? If not, then you should take a strong stand. Your first course of action is to scare the shit out of your boss, not by making threats, but by getting documented evidence of just what happens to companies that willfully break copyright law. Find the absolute worst examples you can come up with to show to them. Perhaps if they realize that they can be sued

    • Why is this rated funny? It's probably the best last-resort solution. If they absolutely won't listen to you, they'll still listen to the BSA.

      And the BSA doesn't necessarily have to raid your workplace; they just have to give your boss a nice, friendly call.
  • Refuse (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Get it in writing that they are asking you to do it ... then refuse ... and sue them when they fire you.
    • Re:Refuse (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I knew a reply like this was going to come up. And I kind of knew that I was going to see it modded up. But... this is just a ridiculous way to look at things. Small companies do things like this all the time. I worked for a small consulting firm, that was an awesome place to work for, paid well, and they treated us great. But... their software licensing practices were shady at best. I didn't feel entirely comfortable about installing software I knew we didnt have a license for, but in the end I liked my jo
      • Thank you.

        Every company does some things wrong. You just have to decide if that company does so much wrong that you can't live with it.
      • THINK about what you are saying. Youre telling this guy to piss off his boss to the point where he may be fired or considered not a team player and passed over for opportunities, and then sue them. Ok so the guy gets fired, with what money is he going to sue them?

        I agree, suing them is unrealistic. It's potentially worth documenting anyway, if they're going to fire you you can point out that it's illegal and essentially settle with them--but at that point relations are going to be SOUR, so it's probably
  • That sucks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Friday June 24, 2005 @12:08PM (#12901414) Journal
    My advice...

    1) Talk to your corporate counsel. If they're not idiots (which isn't a given), they'll realize you're doing them a favor.

    2) Don't sweat it. This is between you and your conscience. You may theoretically be liable for these violations, but nobody will be coming after you personally, especially if you have a paper trail covering your ass and super-especially if you've gone to your lawyers.

    But, yeah, stuff liek this sucks, especially in a small company.

    • Re:That sucks (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Wolfger (96957)

      2) Don't sweat it. This is between you and your conscience. You may theoretically be liable for these violations, but nobody will be coming after you personally, especially if you have a paper trail covering your ass and super-especially if you've gone to your lawyers.

      s/especially/if and only if/
      If you don't cover your butt, you can pretty much expect that your company has documented that you installed the pirated software, and they will do their best to make you the fall guy for it all. Do not trust yo

      • [...]your company has documented that you installed the pirated software, and they will do their best to make you the fall guy for it all

        Wouldn't work for the company. No amount of documentation of your activities would get them off the hook. They would be guilty if they knew or didn't know, and if they instructed you or didn't instruct you to infringe. The company's best defense would be to show that they had procedures in place to periodically audit their computers, and they found and removed the il
      • We can disagree about the probability of the guy's getting screwed, but I think we agree that he'd be wise to take precautions against it.
    • I agree with the above posters sentiments.

      Not knowing the size of your company I'd consider a couple other things:

      1. How much is the software being used on said computers? If the software or the computers are seldom being used, I'd say don't worry about it. If on the other hand, these an intergral part of what you produce you should really have a license.

      2. Is there a free or cheaper alternative that does the same work just as well? If the app in question is Photoshop, could they be using Gimp inste
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 24, 2005 @12:08PM (#12901415)
    Fake a letter email from MS telling them to stop! I'm sure you can make the email look like it came from MS's progrom that sniffs out cheats... PUT THE FEAR of litigation in them!
    • Parent's modded Funny, but it's more like Insightful. The point is: scare them.

      Tell the Powers That Be that you're afraid that some disgruntled employee might turn them in. You like your job, so that's not gonna be you, and make sure they can see that. But it's a very real danger and you're trying to look out for the company. That's the message to bring them.

      With that said (and especially if they still brush you off), you might want to consider just how much you like that job. If the company's ask

  • Documentation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bitty (91794) on Friday June 24, 2005 @12:32PM (#12901637) Homepage
    Get them to give you those orders in writing . Then explain to them why you won't do it in writing . Take both documents to their corporate lawyers and keep a copy at home for safe keeping. Now you not only have a paper trail of the situation to protect yourself should the company get audited, you have ammo against them should they try to fire you for not following orders.

    What they're asking you to do is violate copyright, and it's just plain wrong. Should you comply, you're opening yourself up to a world of hurt. If the company gets nailed you will be hung out to dry. You would be the one doing the copying and unauthorized installs, not management. The managers can claim they didn't know you were doing it and are shocked -- shocked! that you would to such a thing.
    • This is easily the best suggestion so far. Mod parent up!

      It will require a lot of courage to go through with it, though. Point out the fact, however, that you are protecting the company as a whole against potential liability, and you're not just doing it to be petty-minded.
    • Re:Documentation (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mutterc (828335)
      I've pushed and pushed before to try to get orders in writing (or even email) (not because they were illegal, but because they were a Bad Idea).

      I've never been successful. I do passive-aggressive resistance instead ("sure, I'll put that on my to-do list") - the bosses are too busy to keep badgering me about every little thing.

      • The phrase, "I'll be happy to address this as soon as I get it in writing," stated in a pleasant manner leaves no room for doubt that you absolutely have to have it in writing before you'll even consider it without being confrontational. This type of thing is not where you can allow yourself to be spineless.
      • >I've pushed and pushed before to try to get orders in writing (or even email) (not because they were illegal, but because they were a Bad Idea).

        Say that your boss wants you to make a hundred widgets and you think that bad things will happen, say because they don't fit your hundred gromets.

        Write an email to him;

        "As we discussed this afternoon I will create the hundred 3" widgets, starting on Friday and I expect to finish on Monday. I understand that you need them because of an emergency request by a
    • And when they fire you for demanding it in writing sue them for wrongful dismissal.
  • by mcgroarty (633843) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `ytraorgcm.nairb'> on Friday June 24, 2005 @12:33PM (#12901659) Homepage
    What would you do if your employer asked you to break into a competitor's office and copy their contract files? How about if he asked you to go buy him some drugs and hire him a prostitute?

    Just beacuse it's a crime with a lesser chance of getting caught doesn't change the nature of the act. (Not that the spy and hooker job wouldn't be hella awesome...) You refuse to do it, or you break the law. You don't isolate yourself from responsibility for your commission of a criminal act.

    • How about if he asked you to go buy him some drugs and hire him a prostitute?

      Make sure I get some too ? It's the one lesson we all learned in kindergarden: if you're going to get hookers and blow, make sure you bring enough for everybody.
    • Just beacuse it's a crime with a lesser chance of getting caught doesn't change the nature of the act. (Not that the spy and hooker job wouldn't be hella awesome...) You refuse to do it, or you break the law. You don't isolate yourself from responsibility for your commission of a criminal act.

      Now if /. would just learn the difference between civil law and criminal law we'd be good to go. I guess apples to oranges comparisons are more interesting though.
  • by Safety Cap (253500) on Friday June 24, 2005 @12:36PM (#12901687) Homepage Journal
    The company's values are not the same as yours. You have only two choices:
    1. Change your values to match theirs, or
    2. Find a place that shares the same values.
    They will not change, and you cannot change them.

    This is not a bad thing, per se. It just means you and they have different values. Would you work at a lab where they routinely sprayed oven cleaner in Rabbits' eyes (even if you weren't the sprayer)? What about at a place that dumped chemicals into streams (even if you weren't the dumper)? How about a place that forced some employees to work in very unsafe conditions (even if you didn't work in unsafe conditions)?

    We all have a choice. You can either stay or go; being the "whistleblower" means that you will be leaving almost immediately as you take your parting shot on the way out.

  • Report them. You might get up to $50K reward. Let us know how much you really get.
    http://www.siia.net/piracy/report.asp [siia.net]
  • not surprising (Score:2, Interesting)

    by teksno (838560)
    after this ask /., its not surprising we get stories like this: http://it.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/06/24/051 7229&tid=185&tid=98&tid=218 [slashdot.org]

    how is the general public supposed to find copyright infringment wrong when companies are doing it, and your boss is telling you to do it...
  • Wrong question (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fm6 (162816) on Friday June 24, 2005 @12:52PM (#12901908) Homepage Journal
    We really need an end to Ask Slashdots that request legal advice. Leaving aside the legal and ethical problems of providing legal advice from non-lawyers, the potential for harm to the questioner from misinformed Slashdotters is mind-boggling!

    Fortunately small in this case. My very inexpert opinion is that an employee who does something illegal at his bosses request has no more legal coverage than if he acted at his own initiative. But the chances of your being prosecuted or sued are very small -- in past situations like yours, the IP police have gone after the company, not the individual employees. Of course there's no guarantee that they'll always do this.

    The question you should be asking is "What do I do?" There's no simple answer there. You say you like your job, but you're also concerned about the legal risks you're running. You have to weigh one against the other. And this is something you just have to do for yourself. You're the one at risk of unemployment and/or legal peril. Only you can decide how important all the factors are.

    It's certainly not fair that your bosses have put you in this position. But that's the kind of shit that we all have to deal with.

    If you're determined to put an end to this situation, there are various outs -- all of which put your job at risk.

    • Simply refuse to make any more pirate installations.
    • Narc on your company to the IP police.
    • Find somebody in the company bureaucracy who sees things your way. The legal department would probably not be happy to know that managers are putting the company at risk this way. The HR department might also be helpful.
    Legally, your bosses can't retaliate against you for doing any of the above. Doesn't mean they won't, or that they won't get away with it.
  • Hi, my name's Bob S. Arrow. You can call me BSA for short. I can help you out of your situation! Just give me a call at home, my number is 1-888-667-4722 (It's pure coincidence that my phone number spells NO-PIRACY) and give me your name, place of employment, their phone number, address, and what software they're asking you to copy and I'll help you out in not time! Pay no attention to the swarm of lawyerbots and accountants swooping through your office windows...
  • call the bsa anonymously.
  • I was in pritty much the same situation, but this time it was local goverment, and not only that but they'd been caught with it before. New IT manager, new mistakes. He ordered everyone around to "bend the rules, and we'll fix it later". but they never got round to it.

    Problem was he started getting shirty about my personal blog when i made a joke about one of the councillors in the area. So much so i ended up resigning. A quick talk with the BSA and now i hear that idiot is also out of a job.

    While i've

    • by Roadkills-R-Us (122219) on Friday June 24, 2005 @01:02PM (#12902037) Homepage
      While i've technically done a "Good Thing"(tm) i still feel a bit evil as my actions generally cause another person to loose his job.

      No, his actions caused him to lose his job. Had he behaved ethically and responsibly, he would still have his job. He asked for it, he got it (Toyota).
    • Re:Yup, been there (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Friday June 24, 2005 @01:33PM (#12902413)

      This is one of the best truisms I ever heard: if you never piss anyone off, you're probably not doing anything worthwhile.

      I'm a nice guy. My natural inclination is to be everybody's friend. If you never have to deal with people whose views may disagree with yours, then that's great.

      But sometimes, you have money involved. Sometimes, your relationship with someone puts one of you in a senior position within some organisation. Sometimes, you simply have a strong difference of opinion with someone, or your ethics mean you disapprove of their behaviour. In these cases, it's impossible to be everyone's friend all the time.

      I've come to the conclusion that when this happens, the only two things that count are having principles you believe in, and sticking to them. To me, and amongst other things, that means you back people up when they deserve your help, you deal with people with honesty and integrity, you negotiate firmly but fairly, and if someone is doing something wrong, the consequences are their responsibility, and theirs alone.

  • Report them to the BSA.

    They'll come in, do an audit, fine the beezubus out of them, and give you a cut.

    Then take that money as a severance package and get a job with some folks who aren't complete kneebiters.

    I dislike the BSA as much as the next /.'er, but if you're a business, and you can't afford the software license, then use something else. Don't copy it. It's not like there aren't GPL'ed software for most needs.
  • Tell them you got a phone call from Microsoft asking you why there are two copies of the program using the same account number. You know, kind of like what this guy [boingboing.net] did.
  • There's alot of paranoia going around, huh? Yeah, if you knowingly break the law under company orders, you're still breaking the law, but criminal charges for something like this are generally unlikely. In cases like this, businesses are usually held responsible...and the business will look for an employee scapegoat. At this point, I should probably get the IANAL out of the way...so IANAL.

    Here's what I'd do, send a written meno to your boss and his/her boss. Make sure that they get it, and make sure t

  • Your best defense is to anonymously report them to the BSA and the FBI, and to demand from each of those organizations a confirmation code that you can use to identify yourself as the informer in court, should you ever be faced with criminal prosecution or a similarly damaging civil judgement. There's no reason to sacrifice your job because your employer is breaking the law.
  • by srobert (4099)
    The last time I was in a similar situation, it wasn't as much about the legality of my action but the safety of employees and customers that drove me to tell an officer of my company that I would not be able to follow his instructions. That was a union job and I had seniority. I knew that the union would back me up. Pissed them off but they weren't able to fire me.
    My advice: organize.
  • Forget about your job. The company is dead, and therefore your job is dead. They just don't know it yet.

    There are whistle blower laws in place to protect you, but you better be working with the police if you want to apply them. (This may be a civil matter where they don't apply)

    Update your resume tonight. The only reason you wouldn't take a new job (even for less money) is if you were collecting evidence, even then you should ask them what you should do.

    Contact every piracy organization you can

  • Get legal counsel (Score:2, Insightful)

    by GlL (618007)
    Everyone that has posted has an opinion, Some of them make more sense than others, but none of us are lawyers. The best thing for you to do is to get advice from an attorney. NOW! Before a disgruntled employee other than you calls the BSA or other agency.
    • Re:Get legal counsel (Score:4, Informative)

      by It doesn't come easy (695416) * on Friday June 24, 2005 @02:32PM (#12903119) Journal
      Good advice. If you are routinely required to do something you know is illegal, your first stop should be at an attorney's office.

      By the way, I'm not an attorney but I am married to one and I get a layman's explanation on lots of interesting legal subjects (my wife requires me to say that I have NOT asked her for and she has NOT given me advice to pass on the Slashdot on any subject, past or present).
  • I would tell your boss that it just takes one disgruntled employee to make an anonymous call to the BSA. If they tip them off that there is illegal software, they can show up for an audit. Tell him that they could be fined $10,000 for each violation and all it would take would be an anonymous phonecall.

    I like to mention the disgruntled employee thing, because it puts things into terms they can understand.

    • I like to mention the disgruntled employee thing, because it puts things into terms they can understand.

      Terms they can mis-understand, you mean. Putting it like this will almost guarantee that your boss will take this as a threat by you to do exactly what you describe.

      Making your boss think you are threatening him is NEVER a good thing.

      This guy's boss is clearly incapable of understanding ANYTHING more complicated than a nipple - and people like that judge everybody else by their own set of morals. Hi

  • Probably start visiting another site, as we don't take kindly to no rootin tootin "self respectin'" folks around here =P

    e.
  • by dheltzel (558802) on Friday June 24, 2005 @02:36PM (#12903165)
    Come on guys! This is /.

    Explain that they will need to pay for the software before you install it, but if they want you to install Linux and OpenOffice, then you'll be happy to comply and it won't cost them anything for the software.

  • If the company is publicly traded, you only need two words: Sarbanes-Oxley [sarbanes-oxley.com].
  • You're in the clear for two reasons:

    1.) You don't have nearly as much money as your employer, so a software company isn't going to sue you. They're going to sue the employer. Seriously, you go for the deep pockets - not the guy installing software.

    2.) The legal doctrine of "Respondeat Superior" covers you. It pretty much means that the "Employer answers for the crimes of the Employee". If a software company is going to sue for infringment, it's as if the lawsuit passes through you and onto your empl
  • What do you know? Do you know that they haven't struck some kind of deal with the software vendors? Since I doubt the amount rises to the level of criminal copyright infringement, your burden in upholding the law is less.

    I would send a nicely worded email to your boss (&whoever else relevant) stating you will be glad to install the software, but the company needs to make sure it has correct licences. You also need a series of activation keys because otherwise "false" alarm bells may be ringing at MS.

  • self respecting?

    Just install ubuntu, firefox, thunderbird on the machines, and place a windows Longhorn [top secret] wallpaper on the desktop, and tell you boss you got the latest windows W4r3z on the computer, and within 3 months everyone woudl haev seamlessly gone from typing

    >>john@drinkbeer.com[tab]I am bored at work[tab]Hi JJ, I need some beer, fuck work, my boss is a twat.

    and clicking send to typing

    >>john@drinkbeer.com[tab]I am bored at work[tab]Hi JJ, I need some beer, fuck work, my bo
  • im all for piracy, no really!? BUT only in certain circumstances and i think the law should allow for this:

    Pirating windows is wrong UNLESS you are installing it in a virtual machine on an OS that has a valid license. so you've paid your license fee and are just extracting more usefullness from that license.

    you are using a pruduct for personal education. NOT that schools can pirate software! for instance, if you are typing up a report, or a letter, or a memo, or whatever in a piece of software that is n
  • If you're installing that much software and worry about it, tell your boss that you're uncomfortable taking possibly illegal actions and want them to indemnify you against any actions or liability that may come about by you following your boss's instructions.

    But, really, the smart thing to do is to spend the $500 to ask a lawyer this question. They'll know what protection your state gives innocent employees of criminal organization, and what can and can't be indemnified against.

    And a good lawyer will also be able to tell you how your state's employment laws can keep you from losing your job if you refuse to perform illegal acts.
    • It's called being a whistleblower. You cannot be fired for it. You CAN be fired for some made up reason, though. If the place you work at is owned by a large enough corporation, they usually have anonymous tip lines you can call to report things like this.
      • It's called being a whistleblower. You cannot be fired for it.

        Sure you can. If the employer was dumping toxic sludge in the gutter and you called your governor, you'd be a whistleblower. If you notice that they seem to be committing copyright violations and blab about it, you might very well be lying.

        Especially if the goverment can't prove a thing, the copyright holder setttles or doesn't care, and YOU can't find the cash to mount a good enough defense.

        Not to metion the fact that, since the questioner
  • What to do. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Kaenneth (82978) on Friday June 24, 2005 @07:31PM (#12905746) Homepage Journal
    Remember when the narrator 'retires' from his office job in "Fight Club"...
  • Once you've been talked into doing something once, precedent makes it *much* harder to say no thereafter. I had a former employer that asked me to falsify records, though it wasn't stated that way. It was, "You check to make sure that this thing is thus-and-such, and then you record it", but the first time I wrote down an accurate but unacceptable value, it became, "You CAN'T put THAT down!" I shrugged and said, "That's what it was." They had somebody else take the book and change it, a compromise I was
  • " but i was ordered to kill those people "

    It wont fly..

    Your only real choices are to get a statement that the license is legal, or quit your job..

    If you *knowingly* install it, you are as liable as the shop is. Having the statement above would let you off the hook. But dont hold your breath on getting it.

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