Software Licensing – Are you unwittingly using unlicensed software?

unlicensed software


Unlicensed software is a big problem. In 2016, SMEs paid over £900,000 in legalisation costs and damages for software copyright infringement.

By the way, if you thought ignorance would get you off the hook, think again. According to the Federation Against Software Theft:

“Earlier this year, an East Midlands boat manufacturer was forced to pay out more than £20,000 for using unlicensed copies of BSA member software. An engineering company from Scotland paid nearly £30,000 for the same reason. Both companies were liable, despite not knowing the software was even installed on their computer systems.”

For the majority of business, the use of unlicensed software is unintentional. It could happen if your employees download software from a peer-to-peer sharing site or online discount store. In this case, the licence is not valid and is, therefore, being used illegally.

How to spot unlicensed software

Your best protection is education, so here are a few top tips on how to spot non-genuine software:

  • Counterfeit software is distributed from websites that aren’t approved by the original creators of the software. Checking how the product is normally sold is, therefore, a good way to identify whether the software is legitimate.

  • A quick web search of the products stock keeping unit (SKU) code, often reveals how it is normally sold.

  • Check with the software publisher which channels they sell their products through. They will usually indicate who their resellers are: whether they have their own online store or sell via a mainstream online distributor, whether their products are available bundled via a PC manufacturer or high street stores.

  • Check if the relevant product or product editions can only be purchased via a Corporate or Volume Agreements – this means that they have to be sold in certain quantities. If you are buying just one or two of a product that is normally procured via these sorts of agreements, then it is likely you are buying an inappropriately licensed or indeed a counterfeit product.

  • A price that seems too good to be true can be a key indicator that software is being sold illegally, and is always worth investigating further.

  • Take great care when buying second-hand PCs to check the authenticity of any software it comes with. There is a high probability that any software pre-installed on that PC is not legally licensed unless you procure the PC from a licensed PC refurbishing organisation.

  • When in doubt contact a mainstream software company or reseller for advice, especially when you are buying larger quantities.

[Source: Federation Against Software Theft]

It’s time to take action

The smart thing to do is to keep control of your licences.

Here at MPMIT, we can offer peace of mind by helping you run an audit to see if your business needs to take measures to protect your company from an unnecessary fine.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages. MPM’s staff are trained on software licensing by the Federation Against Software Theft.