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How Do You Deal With Pirated Programs At Work? 958

Posted by Soulskill
from the make-them-walk-the-plank dept.
LoneAdminOK writes "I started working for a small company in the middle of January as their IT Manager. I am the first actual 'IT Guy' that they have had; before me it was someone that performed another job within the company and just handled the IT on the side. The problem that I am running into is that most of the software I am finding on the network and on people's computers isn't owned by the company. The person before me would just get it from 'somewhere' and install it on the computers as needed. This is putting me in a bad position when I have to reinstall the program or find it to install on someone else's computer. Often, I am telling people that we don't have it or we have to buy another license, and they get mad at me because the other guy said that we had it. I can't even tell where the versions of Windows Server that they are running came from. The only one I know is legit is the one that is installed on an HP server with the OEM sticker on it. How have any of you handled a situation like this? I don't install 'borrowed programs' in a production environment because I know that if the BSA got wind of this, it would all fall on me when they stormed in."
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How Do You Deal With Pirated Programs At Work?

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  • Your choice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:13PM (#27312963) Journal

    All you can do is go to the higher ups and lay out the entire situation. If they don't care about the consequences, have them put it in writing to CYA, and then decide whether you want to trust that YA is truly C'd, and whether you want to add "Installer of Illegal Software" on to your CV. That's all you can do.

    In my experience, the smaller the company, the more pirated software you find. If it's one guy working out of his house, it'll be lucky if he's actually using his own internet connection, more less software that he actually owns.

    Now queue 500 posts saying, "ZOMG, replace it all with OSS."

    • by KyleTheDarkOne (1034046) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:15PM (#27312999)
      ZOMG, replace it all with OSS.
    • Re:Your choice (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Akido37 (1473009) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:15PM (#27313001)

      All you can do is go to the higher ups and lay out the entire situation. If they don't care about the consequences, have them put it in writing to CYA, and then decide whether you want to trust that YA is truly C'd, and whether you want to add "Installer of Illegal Software" on to your CV. That's all you can do.

      In my experience, the smaller the company, the more pirated software you find. If it's one guy working out of his house, it'll be lucky if he's actually using his own internet connection, more less software that he actually owns.

      Now queue 500 posts saying, "ZOMG, replace it all with OSS."

      In summary, you're screwed.

      • Re:Your choice (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @01:04PM (#27313991)
        microsoft partnership for small business. 400$ ca year, and is a buffet of cal and offices business
      • Re:Your choice (Score:5, Informative)

        by Gerzel (240421) * <brollyferretNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @01:56PM (#27314955) Journal

        While it might not be a choice for OS, you probably should consider OFFERING FOSS to your employers when you go speak to them.

        Remember going with FOSS doesn't mean going whole hog linux and software vegan.

        You can offer things like Open Office as an alternative to shilling out huge $ for MS Office licences.

        There are a lot of good FOSS programs for windows. Offering them as an alternative will help to balance the argument that the company needs to be legal in its software usage, esp if they complain that their people don't know how to use the FOSS, because you can tell them to choose between training time or spending money.

        It basically helps kill the argument/rational of "We have to pirate there is no other way."

    • CYA = cover your ass (Score:5, Informative)

      by Spy Handler (822350) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:21PM (#27313127) Homepage Journal

      CYA = cover your ass

      in case some of our international readers missed it ;)

    • Re:Your choice (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Toreo asesino (951231) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:23PM (#27313217) Journal

      I actually remember being told by management in a much previouser place to hook up our internet to the unsecured cafe wireless below us because no one could work until the ISP reconnected us (didn't pay the bills). They must've got one hell of a shock as 20 or so machines all started connecting out to the mail server through their wireless via one tablet PC dangling down below through an office window via the Ethernet to get the best connection possible.

      And yeah, "management" (far too classy a word for these people) knew exactly what they were doing.

      Happy days :)

    • Re:Your choice (Score:5, Informative)

      by cptdondo (59460) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:24PM (#27313227) Journal

      I was in a similar situation long ago... I wrote up a memo outlining the software we had installed, an estimated budget to get everyone legal with what they needed, and an approval to go ahead. (At the time there was no FOSS...)

      I got my ass chewed for putting it in writing, but it got their attention. We ended up getting legal in most of the larger packages.

      Today I would also do the homework and add "direct FOSS replacements" for the software in question as much as possible. MS server -> CentOS + Samba; MS OFfice -> OpenOffice, and so on. I would create a roadmap to get everyone legal and ask for approval.

      Above all, be professional, curteous, and politically astute. It won't do to create a "fear reflex" where you get shitcanned and blackballed. You may want to have a closed-door conversation first and ask to see if management would like to see the roadmap you've prepared.

      • by hildi (868839) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:47PM (#27313689)
        some of the finest people in history have been shitcanned and blackballed for simply saying the truth, no matter how politely, professionally, or curteously they did it.
      • Re:Your choice (Score:5, Informative)

        by Vancorps (746090) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:53PM (#27313803)

        You present a fairly sensible approach except for the fact that presumably the company already has a working solution for them so they just need to get it legal. With Microsoft this is easy, you just get a select agreement and based on the number of installs you get a substantial discount.

        I had the exact same situation happen to me when I moved into this job. I had a closed door meeting with the owner and my boss to determine what the priorities were and what the best way to proceed was. In the end a select agreement allowed us to instantly make all of our servers legal since I had no prior documentation illustrating that we had legitimate licenses.

        Server side you simply can't just drop in replacements when you already have running systems. With the Microsoft approach you can just change your license key to the new volume license key you get with your select agreement and away you go without reinstalling anything.

        On the desktop a simple PDF writer is more than sufficient and free for end-user PDF creation instead of having to purchase Acrobrat in most situations, obviously not all. Of course Foxit is my preferred choice for reading PDFs.

        In the end I went through department by department to determine what everyone needed to do there jobs with minimal impact, the company spent a load of money and now we're a completely legal shop. It actually feels good to provide the transition.

        Also in my case I outlined the cost to get us legal and then outlined ways we could reduce costs in future by deploying Linux in places it makes sense like with our new Asterisk system. It removes the fear they have that it will keep happening so they will be less resistant to getting the company legal.

        • Re:Your choice (Score:5, Interesting)

          by cptdondo (59460) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @01:02PM (#27313957) Journal

          You make a good point... I guess I would modify the roadmap to include things like:

          Option A: Buy license for MS Server, $2K/yr but no disruption
          Option B: Obtain and test CentOS + Samba, 2 weeks of my time testing and deploying

          That way you give them a choice. People like to choose.

        • Re:Your choice (Score:5, Interesting)

          by c_g_hills (110430) <chaz@@@chaz6...com> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @03:01PM (#27315979) Homepage Journal
          Perhaps it is different with Server 2008 but with 2003 you cannot simply swap the license key for an OEM server key to a volume licensing key. You have to do an "upgrade" with the corp media. This is a problem when you want to migrate a physical server to a virtual one running on a different host, since OEM-licensed Microsoft server OSs are only allowed to run on the metal the license was purchased with. Silly!
      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @01:06PM (#27314037)

        If you offer OSS replacements, be ready to back that shit up. What I mean by that is you need to be ready to support it to do all the same things that whatever you replaced did. Saying "Well you shouldn't do that," or "You need to read the manual," isn't ok. You recommended it, you have to support it.

        Now in terms of things like OpenOffice, this means doing testing before hand to make sure it does everything they need. Don't assume, do real tests. Find out what they actually do and try it. Do they do mail merge? Do they have power point presentations that integrate with Excel files (for realtime data update)? Find that out and test it. Make sure it all works. Only then should you recommend an OSS solution. Two reasons for this:

        1) Your job may rely on it. If you recommend something that works poorly, they may show you the door. Goes double if it was because you were "making trouble" about their pirated software. They figure you are just going to be a problem and thus want nothing to do with you.

        2) Even if you don't get axed (and probably if you do as well), you may ruin any chances of future OSS use. The message that'll be taken away is "OSS is broken and doesn't do what you need." It'll be seen as a cheap replacement that doesn't get the job done. Thus they won't want to use it in the future. Someone will say "free software" and they'll say "no way."

        So while an OSS recommendation is a great way to legally save money, do your homework first. Make sure that it truly is a replacement for what they use now. Not a "kinda sorta works" substitute. Not a "well it does some of what you want," substitute. A true replacement for all the functions they need. Also make sure you are fully prepared to train people on it since even if the differences are small, they'll trip people up.

    • Re:Your choice (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BitwiseX (300405) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:26PM (#27313299)
      I agree 100%. I've seen this a million time at smaller companies, that I've gone into as a contractor. As a contractor I've had to refuse requests to install software. It was usually one copy of Office '97 that a husband brought in to install on 10 or so PCs.

      The sad part is MOST small business don't even realize what they are doing is illegal. Then when you analyze what they have and what the cost of going legit is, they say "Thanks!" and show you the door.

      In your case I would hope asking for a CYA letter from the higher powers would at least throw up a red flag and make them realize the seriousness of the situation. I'd be interested to know what legal position that puts you in however, since you know what you are doing is illegal, CYA letter or not. If your boss said to shoot his secretary and gave you a letter saying he told you to do it... I don't think it would hold up in court (A little extreme, but still..)
      • Re:Your choice (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:46PM (#27313663)

        "The sad part is MOST small business don't even care that what they are doing is illegal. Then when you analyze what they have and what the cost of going legit is, they say "Thanks!" and show you the door.

        There, fixed that right up for you.

        • Re:Your choice (Score:5, Insightful)

          by LoadWB (592248) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @01:21PM (#27314305) Journal

          Yup. I have walked out of jobs like this and let some of my less scrupulous colleagues take them on. While no one I know of locally has ever had a visit from the BSA, they are a bit like lightning.

          I have been advised by legal counsel that a "CYA" letter does not "CYA." If you run into a situation where illegitimate (I prefer not to use the term illegal) is in use, you bring it to the attention of management, and management does not care, GTFO.

          Make your arguments, wait for the final word, and walk. Do not stop, do not talk, do not even say good bye... WALK AWAY. As a consultant, you have the freedom to do that. As an employee, polish up your CV.

          Although, at this point they are playing a very dangerous game with themselves and with you. Another tidbit of advice given was to write up a document which essentially held them hostage in return for your reputation: you agree not to report their use of illegitimate software in return for you never being there. Shitty, yes, but those are the games we play and the chances we take.

          Unless the guy's name is "Tony" and he runs a "waste management" business. Then you just say "yes, sir!" and move to another country in the middle of the night. Better yet, get off the damn planet.

          Another guy here mentioned an alternative plan of attack, which is gradual compliance. If you can present that as an option, I think that would work as well. You are still on sticky legal grounds with the BSA, though. They consider unlicensed software like child porn, and if you ever THINK it is there and do nothing immediately, you are considered complicit.

          This work makes me sick sometimes.

          • by bazio (864132) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @02:24PM (#27315451)
            Blue-Collar Man: Excuse me. I don't mean to interrupt, but what were you talking about?
            Randal: The ending of Return of the Jedi.
            Dante: My friend is trying to convince me that any contractors working on the uncompleted Death Star were innocent victims when the space station was destroyed by the rebels.
            Blue-Collar Man: Well, I'm a contractor myself. I'm a roofer... (digs into pocket and produces business card) Dunn and Reddy Home Improvements. And speaking as a roofer, I can say that a roofer's personal politics come heavily into play when choosing jobs.
            Randal: Like when?
            Blue-Collar Man: Three months ago I was offered a job up in the hills. A beautiful house with tons of property. It was a simple reshingling job, but I was told that if it was finished within a day, my price would be doubled. Then I realized whose house it was.
            Dante: Whose house was it?
            Blue-Collar Man: Dominick Bambino's.
            Randal: "Babyface" Bambino? The gangster?
            Blue-Collar Man: The same. The money was right, but the risk was too big. I knew who he was, and based on that, I passed the job on to a friend of mine.
            Dante: Based on personal politics.
            Blue-Collar Man: Right. And that week, the Foresci family put a hit on Babyface's house. My friend was shot and killed. He wasn't even finished shingling.
            Randal: No way!
            Blue-Collar Man: (paying for coffee) I'm alive because I knew there were risks involved taking on that particular client. My friend wasn't so lucky. (pauses to reflect) You know, any contractor willing to work on that Death Star knew the risks. If they were killed, it was their own fault. A roofer listens to this... (taps his heart) not his wallet.
    • Re:Your choice (Score:5, Informative)

      by NotBornYesterday (1093817) * on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:26PM (#27313301) Journal
      Surprisingly, those 500 FOSS-supporting slashdotters might be right. Apparently, the economic poo we are wading through has a lot of businesses (esp smaller ones) considering FOSS. I don't know if Microsoft will ever again resort to auditing and suing its own install base en masse like it did years ago, but with their balance sheets sliding south just like everyone else, they might start looking to maximise the revenue from their unofficial install base, as it were. I sure wouldn't want to chance it. There are more FOSS equivalents now than ever for proprietary software. Now might be the perfect time to switch.
    • Re:Your choice (Score:4, Informative)

      by Archangel Michael (180766) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:33PM (#27313431) Journal

      I agree. I'd go one step further though. I'd go to the big boss head honcho guy, and explain the options as far as you know as follows.

      1) You are a professional, and take professional pride in your work. This means that you will not install or support pirating.

      2) As professional, you'll recommend free and open source alternatives to replace all the pirated versions as quickly as you can.

      3) Any software that is necessary that has been pirated will be replaced with legitimate versions ASAP, with the understanding that it is a high priority for you.

      4) The cost of getting caught by the BSA holding pirated versions is much more costly than actually purchasing the software. And it only takes one disgruntled employee to make that call.

      I'd present him with the scenario where someone offered to sell the business a bunch of whatevers that happened to "fall off the truck" what the boss would do. If he doesn't care, then you know exactly who you are dealing with and the kind of company you work for.

      Lastly, I would DOCUMENT everything, and let the Bossman know you are documenting everything, including the conversations you have regarding your findings and the solutions you're offering. That is professional.

      Education is a long hard process. And sometimes the best education is pain. But there are a few people out there that will never learn.

      • Re:Your choice (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gustgr (695173) <rondinaNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:59PM (#27313895) Homepage

        including the conversations you have regarding your findings and the solutions you're offering.

        You, sir, has just revealed the fastest way to get canned. I'm not saying it is the wrong thing to do, but I really believe his boss would not appreciate having his words written to stone by an employee. He may even see this as blackmail or something, which would make the case much much worse.

        • Re:Your choice (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Archangel Michael (180766) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @01:36PM (#27314571) Journal

          You document everything for PERSONAL protection. You don't tell people you're documenting things, you just do it.

          And in this day and age, if you don't document things (journal entry) properly, you're an idiot. When the boss can fire you for doing your job, you want to be able to fire back. Self preservation.

    • Re:Your choice (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mitchell_pgh (536538) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:44PM (#27313613)

      Inventory, inventory, inventory... and make recommendations.

      Also, when talking to the higher ups, make sure to consider a "transition period" where you go from illegal software to "gray software", to a fully licensed office. It makes them recognize that it doesn't all have to happen overnight.

      I worked at a design firm and they had illegal versions of Adobe CS and MS Office floating around like it was their business. I basically performed an inventory of every system, created a spreadsheet highlighting the illegal software and then created a strategic timeframe/cost for how you are going to go legit.

      If they don't want to go legit, you should consider a new company or push FOSS alternatives.

      • Re:Your choice (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cbreaker (561297) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:56PM (#27313843) Journal
        That's the perfect answer and exactly what needs to be done.

        You can even go a step further and contact some of these companies to let them know your situation ahead of time.

        Call Microsoft sales/licensing and tell them your situation and tell them you're working to resolve the licensing issues. Same with Adobe and the others. Get quotes and stuff. That way, if anything bad ever did happen, you have documentation that you're in the process of shoring up the licensing.

        No company is going to sue you if you're in the process of correcting the issue because that means you're going to be a future paying customer.
      • Re:Your choice (Score:5, Insightful)

        by John Hasler (414242) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @01:08PM (#27314071) Homepage

        > If they don't want to go legit, you should consider a new company or push FOSS
        > alternatives.

        Switching to Free Software *is* going legit.

    • I walked into this (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:44PM (#27313627)
      same situation two years ago. Last month I cleared out the last of the questionable software. It has taken 2 years, much hard work, and more than a few shouting matches, but we are fully licenced here at last. Much of what I replaced was replaced with OSS.

      Since simply licencing everything would have bankrupted the company, and inertia prevents a switch to Linux on the desktop, the bosses want outlook. I got a policy stating that all new laptops would be purchased with a copy of Office.
      One day without notice I blocked access to the update server for the pirated antivirus software, and just waited. Two days later there was a panic, and the next day I had a site licence for the antivirus I wanted instead of the crap I was stuck with by the person I replaced.

      In a nutshell, here is my advice:
      Document everything. What you found, when you found it, and your plan to get rid of it.
      Think creatively about ways to get what you want.
      Take your time. Cleaning up a mess like this is a long process.
    • Re:Your choice (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gmack (197796) <gmack@innerfire . n et> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:49PM (#27313723) Homepage Journal

      Better yet wait for the next virus hits and then blame it on a lack of security updates caused by all of the pirated windows versions they are running.

    • Re:Your choice (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Saint Fnordius (456567) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:52PM (#27313785) Homepage Journal

      The only other thing I can think of is to tell the individual users that you are busy covering their arses as well, since an audit may cost them all their jobs. And don't let them think it ends there, give them a ray of hope such as "well, we're examining the accounting records as well."

      After all, you might get lucky and accounting might have the purchase receipts. Then you can blame it on bad bookkeeping while you untie the Gordian knot.

    • Re:Your choice (Score:4, Insightful)

      by vtcodger (957785) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:55PM (#27313839)

      ***All you can do is go to the higher ups and lay out the entire situation.***

      Not arguing. But first check the purchasing records. If some (or all, but how likely is that?) the software was actually bought, there should be Purchase Orders or paperwork reimbursing whoever bought it. There may be a cardboard box around somewhere with original copies of the disks/CDs for some of the software. Do not expect the paperwork to be especially clear about what exactly was purchased.

    • Re:Your choice (Score:4, Interesting)

      by xda (1171531) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @01:08PM (#27314069)
      First of all, don't worry about people getting upset with you. All you have to do is locate all the licenses you do have. If your servers pass a WGA check then they are probably ok, but make sure you have a backup system in place in case WGA kills that server.

      Next you need to start transitioning people off the illegal software. OSS is a very good choice to implement in office environments.

      Don't make a federal case out of it. But don't contribute to the problem either. If you start getting allot of negative feedback you need to simply explain, sans-drama, that the previous IT Admin wasn't keeping track of licensing and even if the software they installed is legit you can't prove it. You can however provide them with software that will meet their needs without costing the company any more money, but they will need to give a tiny bit of cooperation in order to make it happen.

      If your superiors give you any trouble about licensing explain to them, again sans-drama, that they can't expect you to break the law on a daily basis as part of your job requirements. DO NOT in any way make any statements like "I have to report this" or "you guys are running illegal software". You don't work for the BSA or anything like that it isn't your responsibility to report anyone.

      there is no need to use pirated software GO OPEN SOURCE. I have 3 small businesses all owned by friends that operate entirely on Ubuntu and OpenOffice.org. My mother doesn't get computers at all, she has been using Ubuntu now for about 5 months. I never even showed her how to use it, I keep a PC in my living room for her to use, she just started using it without any help from me at all! Open source software is easier to use than ever before just run with it, it won't let you down.
    • Re:Your choice (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kilodelta (843627) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @01:12PM (#27314133) Homepage
      You are right on point. Also be aware that the BSA first looks at company financials before they initiate a case against the company.

      I had a former employer that played fast and loose with licensing rules. When I left the job I reported it to the BSA. The BSA got back to me and said "Sorry, they don't have deep enough pockets."
  • ZOMG (Score:3, Funny)

    by XanC (644172) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:15PM (#27312985)

    Replace it all with OSS.

  • Yarr... (Score:5, Funny)

    by nacturation (646836) * <nacturation AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:15PM (#27312995) Journal

    I'd just keep me head down and swab the deck, me hearty!

  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:17PM (#27313017)

    Everyone is doing it. What are you afraid of?

    Don't be a baby! Go on, do it!

  • by omkhar (167195) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:17PM (#27313033)

    >I don't install 'borrowed programs' in a production environment

    'borrowed programs' shouldn't be installed anywhere - prod, test, uat whatever. Non-production piracy is still piracy.

  • Nuke... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:18PM (#27313053)

    Nuke the site from orbit. It is the only way to be sure.

  • For what company do you work?
    I'm sure we can figure something out.

    Your friend,
    BSA

  • by Foofoobar (318279) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:19PM (#27313079)
    Jeff Bezos once said to me 'you can't take something away from someone without giving something back of equivalent value without them being pissed off'. Obviously you have to take the software away but try to give them an open source equivalent for the time being. They may actually even start using it longterm and save the company money from having to purhcase licenses of the other software.
  • by Shadow Wrought (586631) * <shadow.wrought@nospaM.gmail.com> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:19PM (#27313087) Homepage Journal
    Collect the reward.
  • What the hell? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:20PM (#27313099)
    Why the hell have you taken the time to "Ask Slashdot" when your first duty should have been to call an urgent meeting with the board to explain the situation? If the shit hits the fan you will be the one responsible, so get it in order!

    Start with auditing your network (use automatic auditing software) and then work out:
    1. What licenses can I reclaim from users who do not need the software they have?
    2. What licensed software do we use for which we require more licenses?
    3. What unlicensed software do we have?
    4. How much will this all cost to fix?

    You should have already done this. Then you take it all to the board and get them to stump up the cash to fix it.

    If you can't/won't do this, go find another job.

  • by rob1980 (941751) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:20PM (#27313103)
    Often, I am telling people that we don't have it or we have to buy another license, and they get mad at me because the other guy said that we had it.

    That's not your fault, tell them to be mad at the other guy. As far as you're concerned, either the company can cough up the money for non-pirated copies of software, or you can ZOMG, replace it all with OSS.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:20PM (#27313113)
    Every employee reads and signs a conduct statement when joining and annually. Its spelled out in there. I believe company had some problems and fines in the past.
  • Are you mad? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drolli (522659) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:21PM (#27313131) Journal

    Rules for dealing with that

    1) *Never states the existence of pirated software as a fact to outside you company*.!!!

    2) Ask your Boss at a cup of tea outside his office

    3) Depending on your bosses answer and your morality
        a) Boss says: hunt down priated software -> you do that
        b) Boss says: dont touch the issue and you are not too worried about the moral/legal issues: close your eyes
        c) Boss says: dont touch the issue and you are worried about the moral/legal issues AND you are brave: state is explicictely in an e-mail to your boss with somebody else in the company in the CC
        d) Boss says: dont touch the issue and you are worried about the moral/legal issues AND you are reasonable: leave.

  • Oh yeah? (Score:5, Funny)

    by qoncept (599709) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:22PM (#27313169) Homepage

    I know that if the BSA got wind of this, it would all fall on me when they stormed in.

    And those Boy Scouts are rotten little bastards.

  • ask some questions (Score:5, Informative)

    by uglyduckling (103926) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:23PM (#27313193) Homepage

    Rather than presuming that it's all pirated, start by presuming that everything as it stands is legitimate. Write a memo to whoever does the accounting and ask for copies of the invoices for all of the software purchased over the past five years "so that I know what licenses we currently possess and don't end up paying for software twice over when someone asks me to install something".

    When/if the accounting person/dept comes back with nothing, then take it to the bosses and explain how surprised you were when accounting were unable to find any invoices. Stress the safety issues of illegitimate software (viruses, trojans etc.) and discuss the options. Make it look like you are a contentious employee doing your best for the company and avoid looking like a self-righteous jobsworth.

  • Reap the rewards (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cdrguru (88047) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:23PM (#27313219) Homepage

    Today in pretty much every American school from Kindergarden through 12th grade there is free training in piracy of anything digital. Want a song? Someone will show you where to download it from for free. Same for software.

    After being subjected to 13 years of this sort of training we can move on to college where there is another four years of honing the art. Everyone knows how to do it by then.

    Now they enter the business world and you find it odd that your fellow employees can't understand why they just can't have evertything they want? Sorry, but you are seeing the result of a nationwide (if not worldwide) program. If the people in charge at your workplace don't see anything wrong with everyone just having what they want, I think I'd run for the door. There will be consequences, someday. Someone will find out that rewards are paid to people that turn companies that pirate.

    Ethics? If there are no ethics preventing people from pirating, there will be no ethics preventing them from trying to get a reward turning people in.

    If someone high up at your company can't see the problem, you don't need to be working there. You will find out your bosses will see to it that it is all pinned on your predcessor and you.

  • by kiwimate (458274) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:24PM (#27313221) Journal

    I'm bound to get modded a troll or flamebait or off-topic or something for this, but how is this different from pirating music? /. group-think says it's not theft and trots out a whole bunch of other self-justification about the evil RIAA and so forth, because you're "not depriving anyone of something physical", etc. It's the same, right?

    Is it different in this case because it's a small company doing it rather than a whole bunch of individuals? Does that mean it's okay if it's just me, but wrong if my company is doing it?

    So to answer the question at hand: go the CYA route suggested by the very first poster, and make sure you point out (nicely as you need to, given this economy and how sure you are of being able to find another job) that this is illegal.*

    * Just like music piracy. Even if you want to claim it's not theft.

  • Common Problem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekmansworld (950281) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:26PM (#27313293) Homepage

    This is a totally unsurprising situation to find at many small businesses. When a business consists of just a handful of people, it is cost prohibitive to actually BUY software.

    There is a point, however, that a business has to bite the bullet and "go legit". At certain sizes, businesses show up on Microsoft's anti-piracy radar, and your business can find itself on the receiving end of a software audit. At that point, the business will be liable for not only the costs of any software installed but also fines.

    This is a good way to present the situation to your bosses: It's a matter of cost-benefit analysis.

  • BSA (Score:5, Informative)

    by SuperBanana (662181) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:29PM (#27313351)

    I know that if the BSA got wind of this, it would all fall on me when they stormed in.

    They can't. They love to pretend they can, or they try to strongarm people into letting them do surveys. It's all just evidence gathering for when they sue you later, or use it to extort you into paying massive fines.

    If they show up, tell reception not to let them past the waiting room. Call the cops IMMEDIATELY if they won't follow your instructions or requests (your business is private property.) Fetch the highest person in the company, preferably an officer, and tell them the BSA has no legal ability to search without a warrant or court order (which requires a lawsuit) and they need to shoo them away. The BSA should get nothing but the phone number of your lawyer.

    Now, on the second part of your question: what to do? It's very simple. Ask your boss. Explain the risk. Include some sort of plan for inventorying and an estimate of how long it'll take. OCS Inventory is a pretty good way to do this if you have more than a dozen or so systems. Possibly include some (qualified) estimates of what it is going to cost to come back in line (remember there are significant volume discounts for things like Office) based on what you've seen before; stick to the facts. Include alternatives such as OpenOffice, but don't get too crazy (ie, don't list "convert to linux" for unlicensed servers as $cost_of_MS_Server in "savings"...factor in some healthy labor estimates AND you have the time to take on such tasks. Don't forget that there is opportunity cost too.)

    Lastly: you need to make sure you have BOTH purchase records (receipts/packing slips) and the license files (ie those thingies with the holograms and barcodes) for EVERY PIECE OF SOFTWARE YOU HAVE. The company accountants / office manager can help with part of that. It's going to mean going through a lot of boxes- get a big filing cabinet. If you get any electronically, PRINT THEM IMMEDIATELY, and keep them in a safe place.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:40PM (#27313545)

    There are several solutions, and which one is adopted depends a lot more on corporate culture than technical merit.

    In large businesses (10,000+ employees), I see two common approaches. The first is lock-down.

    Lock down.
    * Centralize everything and lock down the workstations. All software comes from one department, is distributed by SMS or Altiris, and (sometimes) workstations are monitored for compliance. Businesses like this often go with Dell for their hardware provider and have only about 5 or so workstation configurations in active use. Patches and install requests can take months to fulfill, and if the software isn't on their list, chances are good that you'll never see it. These businesses have security weaknesses in their network due to this centralization -- typically using flat topology models with very little or no firewalling between various business units. USB ports are typically fiddled with so flash drives cannot be used. For some reason, DVD/CD drives always do though. Go figure. Everything is vanilla-flavored, stock, and the same. If you find a weakness on one workstation, chances are good they all have it. Standardization is great! The servers are backed up. The workstations, where all the real data is, is ignored.

    Multiple IT departments
    * You'll see this with businesses that absorb other businesses -- financial companies in particular. Each business unit has its own IT, distribution schema, and enforcement of IT policies vary wildly. You won't be able to change your desktop wallpaper, but regedit still works with full admin rights. Firewalling between various business units is more common, but the policies are often out-of-date, and multiple routes exist. VPNs are commonly stacked over them, and if you know where to look, you can usually find a way through. The upshot is that the hardware is much more diverse, users are sometimes "left to their own devices" (literally and figuratively), and homebrew software solutions are more common. Nobody really knows what Server X does, but it has a sticker on it saying "Do not touch, Very Important." Often, hardware inventory and diagnostics in such environments consists of unplugging it and waiting to see who complains. If nobody complains, pack it up and ship it to Corporate. Nobody really knows what the company owns, but by god, we've got a lot of it. The good news is, if you can find your IT guys, they'll usually have your software loaded in a few hours. They won't care as much about software licensing either (I just gotta make my 8 hours, man)... Contractors typically run the show, and they have no idea what they're doing (because nobody wants to tell them anything). Servers are backed up, sometimes workstations are too. Sometimes. Maybe.

    Mid-size businesses (less than 100,000 employees)
    Sometimes you'll see centralization, but more often it's the scenario above, but with only one IT department. The network topology is generally laid out better though, hardware is more consistent, and the helpdesk is actually (le gasp) helpful, typically being a stone's throw away from the admins who maintain the servers. This is a good deal for you users -- they're too busy to be making many software policies and auditing, but not too monolithic that they're inaccessible. Your USB flash drive will work, even though you're told not to. Hello iTunes! Don't download pr0n though... For some reason, medium-sized corporate IT departments know everything you do on the internet, even though they don't know where the database server is. There is one rack of equipment... somewhere... and if it dies the entire business will collapse. But nobody knows. The servers are sometimes backed up, and so are the workstations. We're not sure... What's a "backup policy"? Can I use MMC to set one up?

    Small business (less than 10,000 employees)
    There is one guy or a small team and they are zyzzy GOD on the network. They don't care what you are running on your workstation... There's a pile of install CDs at his desk. Help yourself. Talk to the pimply-face

  • by Slartibartfast (3395) <ken&jots,org> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:44PM (#27313625) Homepage Journal

    "The answer is easy if you take it logically..."

    1) Start looking for a new job.
    2) Go to the CFO. Explain that while you, yourself, have no intention whatsoever of blowing the whistle, there are actual *rewards* put out by the SPA for unhappy employees to take advantage of by being whistle blowers.
    3) Explain that, if he's really lucky, as an officer of the company, he could face criminal charges.
    4) You don't want ANY of this to happen. So, at the very least, a concerted effort going forward -- with backing from management -- should be made to start getting valid licenses in-place.
    5) See #1.

  • BitTorrent (Score:5, Funny)

    by lymond01 (314120) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:47PM (#27313699)

    I download all my software from BitTorrent. Why pay for something you can get for free? It doesn't hurt anyone...it's not like the programmers are making the bulk of the money off the software sales...Microsoft is a billion dollar company but do you think they pay their programmers even millions of dollars a year? Pssht.

    The day programmers start making even 50% of the profit from their labors is the day I start buying software.

    Software? Oh, I meant music. :-)

    Disclaimer: Outside of the Slashdot Virtual Reaility, I do purchase CDs, AACs, MP3s. I use licensed MS software at work and home and even buy video games now and then. I do NOT, however, pay for bottled water at the movie theater. Preposterous!

  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @01:10PM (#27314107)
    You've actually been given some good advice on what to do from a CYA standpoint. You can try those suggestions. The odds are that nobody will fink on your company, but if your company has a disgruntled former employee, those odds will suddenly increase.

    Do note that nobody will like this. Management will get mad that you are "rocking the boat" and spending money that they hadn't budgeted because the previous guy didn't tell them that they were such a situation. The employees will get mad because there is a chance that what they were using may go away or be replaced with something else. Change is bad to a lot of people.

    To give you an idea of how crazy this fear is, my best friend is an attorney. His practice includes his wife (also an attorney) and at any given time 2 or 3 employees. He doesn't retain people well because the jobs he has don't pay well, so there's a lot of turnover in his staff. He lives in fear that a former employee will sic the BSA on him, so he makes sure that everything he has on all the PCs is legit. In fact, he will not use FOSS at all because he is afraid that somehow this will run afoul of the BSA (I have tried and failed to convince him otherwise). He also tends to pay full price for everything he buys because he is afraid too that if buys something at a discount, it might not be legal and he'll be screwed. Heck, he's been known to even buy multiple copies of a program that he may only need 1 copy of just to be absolutely sure that he's in compliance and with all of this, he is still worried that somehow, someway, the BSA will one day come calling and arbitrarily decide that he's out of compliance and screw him over. While I know that this is an extreme example, it does illustrate that some people, including small businesses, take software compliance very seriously.
  • Sounds familiar... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fprintf (82740) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @01:31PM (#27314491) Journal

    http://ask.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/02/04/022257 [slashdot.org] is a discussion very recently about software piracy at the Beijing office of a company. While the location is different, the responses are quite similar. Basically, document your actions in writing, and be prepared to leave if the situation doesn't improve.

  • Finding the Licenses (Score:4, Informative)

    by cbdougla (769586) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @01:31PM (#27314499)

    One thing you might try is use a software product to find the license numbers.

    http://www.magicaljellybean.com/ [magicaljellybean.com] has a utility that will print out all the Microsoft license number for all the MS programs installed on the computer.

    Now I am not suggesting you do that for all the computers but certainly taking a sample of machines and seeing if they're using the same license on them could help determine the true nature of the situation.

  • Here's what you do (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spazmania (174582) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @01:32PM (#27314515) Homepage

    First off, let the higher-ups know what's going on and that it's neither a joke nor a hassle but a serious issue of stolen property about which they have now been unambiguously advised.

    Second, try to handle this in a "moving forward" manner. You'll find no support for suddenly spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on software. If you push it, you'll probably be fired for not being a "team player." Instead, make sure that any new systems you set up run correctly licensed software. You'll replace all the computers over the course of the next several years anyway, so this will get you where you need to be while spreading the cost out into something manageable.

    Third, get together with the company accountant and and scrutinize the purchase receipts for the last 3 years. You probably have more licenses than you think, but they were purchased ad-hoc with poor recordkeeping.

    Fourth, don't be too literal with the license details. If you have three VMs running XP on a XP host and you try to call that four licenses you'll get skewered by your boss, just as you should. Practices like refusing to let employees install Office on their home PCs because the company hasn't paid for an extra license will earn you a rep for having a stick up your tail. Get exactly one Office license for each employee and no more. And as long as you have a license for each copy of Windows, don't worry about whether the individual installations were done with a crack.

    Fifth, recall that individuals often install useful software on their individual machines. This is a good thing. You think you only have two solutions: the company licenses the software or you remove the software. In fact, you have a third: the individual to which the computer is assigned can take direct responsibility for the software, and sign a form to the effect that, "The following software on my computer is provided by the company. I, the undersigned, take responsibility for the legality of any other computer software found on my machine."

    Finally, do the obvious stuff... Replace Norton Antivirus with AVG Free, Secure Shell Client with Putty, etc. MS Office with OpenOffice if you dare.

    Now, obviously this is not legal advice. If you want legal advice, the answer is: "Open your wallet and close your eyes 'cause if you see this it'll just make you cry." This is social advice. It'll get your company to a point where it's operating ethically without unduly annoying your boss or colleagues.

  • by itzdandy (183397) <dandenson@NOspaM.gmail.com> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @01:40PM (#27314641) Homepage

    I came into a job where the previous guy had installed upwards of 300 copies of MS Office 2000 Pro and a number of other programs such as terminal emulators.

    I went to the management with this and got pretty much nowhere. I did win on the fact that I would not under any circumstances install software without a license so I have a solution moving forward.

    For all those machine without proper licenses I went to the software company and explained the issue and that I would like to bring the company into compliance if they would be willing to give me their discounted upgrade rate. I replaced all of the Office 2000 installs with open office and got the vendor of a terminal emulator to make me a good deal.

    We are now 100% compliant and migrating towards more open source software.

    I wish that there were direct OSS replacements for everything I run but there are not. I need perfect VT400 emulation and I have not found an OSS that does that. Putty is about 95% but that other 5% doesnt allow me to have the proper keys mapped to the proper location.

    Good luck and be on Buddha's side. Stick to your principals.

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