The issue of software piracy is quite recurrent with my clients and today I want to answer the 3 most common questions about this issue and also pose 3 dangers or consequences and at the end I will give you 3 recommendations.
At this point we should all know what software piracy is, and if you don't know it's basically using a software without acquiring the respective user license.
Questions about illegal software
Below, I will try to answer the 3 most common questions asked by some customers on this subject:
Is it illegal to do this?
Although it seems like a joke this is a common question in the world of digital transformation consulting so I will try to answer it in the best way possible.
The quick answer is yes.
Most countries protect the software with their intellectual property laws and its use is subject to the respective contract that is made when acquiring a license, which is commonly called (terms and conditions).
In the case of the United States, the software is protected by copyright laws.
In Mexico this is protected as a work based on two laws, the Federal Copyright Law (LFDA) and the Federal Criminal Code (CPF).
Can I be fined for having illegal software in my company?
Again the quick answer is yes, and not only that, you can also go to prison.
In Mexico, according to the above laws, the sanctions reach up to 10,000 days of minimum wage ($123.22x10,000 = $1,232,200 MXN in January 2020) for each infraction (Article 232 LFDA) and up to ten years of imprisonment (Article 424 CPF).
The United States Copyright Act, Title 17, Section 101 et seq., Title 18, Section 2319 provides that copyright infringement is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Repeat offenders can be imprisoned for up to 10 years.
Violators may also be held civilly liable for actual damages, lost profits or statutory damages up to $150,000 per job.
So you know what you're up against if you have illegal software in your organization or even on your personal computer.
Can I be audited?
This answer is not so simple, it is very difficult for a company to be audited for illegal software without a background.
However, depending on the software used and the amount of it, remember that the manufacturer knows you have their software, even if it is illegal.
Organizations such as BSA (The Software Alliance) are also dedicated to combating the use of illegal software and can file a report with the authorities once they receive information from the manufacturer or an anonymous report, if this happens the authorities can obtain a warrant to search your company.
In addition, when it happens they can take your computer equipment into custody until the investigation is over and the fine or process to be followed is determined.
So, although there is little chance of this happening, the answer is still yes.
Consequences of illegal software
As everything we do has consequences, in this case they are not only legal, in fact, the legal consequences are the least of the problems when you use illegal software in the company.
Let's see 3 consequences that are totally related to the use of unlicensed software, it is worth mentioning that they also affect home users, not just businesses.
The main consequence is that by having the software without a license it runs out of updates, including security updates, which are much more important than feature updates.
Most people tend to downplay this issue, but let's look at a recent example of why updates are important.
In this month (January 2020) the NSA of the United States discovered a critical flaw that affected all Microsoft Windows systems (one of the most affected by piracy), this flaw allows an attacker to manipulate the certificates in the computer and thus be able to deceive you, basically you can be in a site that will steal your access and you wouldn't be able to realize it since it seems to be legitimate.
This bug is considered one of the most critical in the history of the operating system because the possible effects are terrifying, you can be robbed of access to banks, corporate portals or even credit cards and you do not even know it.
Of course a few hours later a security update was available that corrected the problem for all users (with original license).
Unfortunately those who do not have the original software will be exposed to this and hundreds of other bugs, which means they will leave a gap in your business or home for cybercriminals.
Only in 2019 Microsoft corrected 357 vulnerabilities in Windows 10 according to the CVE (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) of which 73 were critical.
That means that a computer with this illegal version of Windows that was not updated throughout the year has at least 73 open security holes, which in turn means that cybercriminals have at least 73 (known) ways to screw with your life.
And this does not happen only with operating systems, in 2019 Autodesk corrected 7 (according to the CVE) critical vulnerabilities in its applications that allowed the execution of remote code on your computer.
So if you have an AutoCAD that hasn't been updated throughout 2019 it means you also have 7 security holes open for cybercriminals.
I hope you have understood how important security updates are and therefore how important it is to have the original license.
No disaster support
We have already seen that if you have illegal software you have many security holes open, so if one of them explodes and causes you a technological disaster, you are totally alone.
You can't claim a company for not protecting you when you didn't pay for the license of such software, and believe it or not this is more common than it seems.
According to Kaspersky Security Bulletin in 2019 19.8% of computers were victims of an attack, add to this the fact that you have many gaps opened by outdated software and the recipe is complete for another case of a company (or person) in trouble by cyber criminals.
There are many scenarios of disaster by cyber criminals, but the most common are theft of bank information, kidnapping of information in exchange for a large amount of money in crypto currencies, and corporate sabotage.
I'm telling you that it's not worth going through a moment like this just because you didn't pay for an original license, and although there is no system that is 100% certain to have support to deal with the problem, it's an abysmal difference.
It negatively affects the image
Last but not least another consequence of having illegal software is the image you project to your customers and suppliers.
In the end you are making use of something pirate and breaking the law, that says a lot about the person (or company) that you are, you project an image that you do not care about violating the law and affect others for personal or business purposes.
Tips to follow so you don't fall into the use of illegal software
I'm going to give you three tips that can help you to regularize yourself if you use illegal software or if you don't, to avoid falling into that temptation.
Include licensing in your business and investment plan
This is fundamental for every company or entrepreneur, if you are an architect and you are starting your office you have to consider the cost of the AutoCAD license and others in your business plan.
Do not ignore these investments, and I say investments because many people see it as an expense without realizing that what they use illegally is an important pillar in their business and therefore they should invest.
Even if you are self-employed and need software to do your job you have to consider it in your investment list.
If it's not important, look for alternatives
I know people who have illegal software and use it once a month or less frequently, this happens a lot in non-commercial users.
For example, some people illegally install Photoshop to use it once a month to upload a photo to Instagram.
If this is your case you better look for free alternatives that do the job and don't have to violate any law and of course don't put your equipment at risk.
Following the example of Photoshop, if your case is one of those who use it very sporadically there is no point in paying for Adobe CC, but neither is it an excuse to have it illegally, lean on alternatives like Gimp or even online like Canva.
If you use a lot of illegal programs, make a regularization plan
In the event that you are already violating the law and have more than one illegal license, it may be difficult to acquire them all at once because of the cost.
If you find yourself in this situation, make a regularization plan, this includes of course the purchase of the licenses in your investment plan and a purchase schedule according to your economic possibilities.
Remember that it is one thing not to be able and quite another not to want to do it, if you are one of those who can and do not want to then you make it clear that you do not care about causing harm to others and that you only see for yourself.
And if you are one of those who can't then apply advice number two, look for alternatives with which you can start your business without breaking the law from the beginning.
Greetings, we'll read it next week, if you liked the post share it with your entrepreneurial friends.