Companies at risk from unlicensed software

Tuesday, September 28th, 2004

Brian Morton

Software piracy is on the increase in Canada because employees are often installing their own unauthorized software at work, according to a new survey.

“About 35 per cent of all software sold in Canada is piracy,” said Alan Steel, acting president of the Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft [CAAST], in a telephone interview on Monday.

“In most cases, if a person has their own personal copy [even when bought legally], and then puts it on a company computer, it’s illegal. The employer has no idea, and can be held accountable. People loading something should understand the issues at hand.”

According to a Decima Research survey commissioned by CAAST, one in 11 Canadians who use computers at work are installing unauthorized software.

The survey suggests that one in nine British Columbians have installed unauthorized software, compared to just four per cent of workers in Atlantic Canada. Ontario rated the highest, at 12 per cent.

According to the survey, which was conducted in August and released by CAAST on Monday, 37 per cent of the 1,083 respondents felt there was nothing wrong with installing personal software on company computers, while 26 per cent simply felt it was more convenient than going through proper channels to acquire the software.

Nearly half, 42 per cent, said they had not been briefed about their company’s policies regarding downloading, installing or using unlicensed software. And 27 per cent said they weren’t sure of their employer’s position on the issue.

Steel said a company’s reputation, as well as the integrity and security of its computer systems, can be put at risk by using unauthorized software.

CAAST said in a news release that unlicensed software — whether illegally copied, purchased or downloaded — can result in legal liability for companies, security risks and viruses. Under Canadian copyright law, each copied software program can result in damages of up to $20,000, and businesses can be held liable for the actions of their employees.

Steel said he was shocked by the results of the survey.

“It did shock us that 42 per cent said that they’d never been briefed about the usage of software at a company. And we’re really surprised by the number of people who said they really didn’t know.”

Earlier this year, a North Vancouver robotics firm, Braintech Inc., agreed to pay more than $140,000 to CAAST for using unlicensed copies of programs.

After an internal audit, Braintech — which specializes in vision-guided automation for manufacturing — discovered it was using unlicensed copies of Adobe, Internet Security Systems, Macromedia, Microsoft and Symantec software programs.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

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