Don't take let your business take software for granted. After you pay for the package, your obligation to the manufacturer doesn't end -- ever. Part of your agreement in buying software involves pledging to carry out the terms of the manufacturer's license and warranties.
And watch out if you violate those agreements.
Having too many users for too few computers or letting staff copy software onto their home computers may be a violation of those terms that could cost your business. The Business Software Alliance (BSA), a Washington, D.C.-based industry group, sometimes audits firms for members. Fines can run up to $150,000, paid to the manufacturer, which adds up to a costly piece of software.
Software is an intellectual property, like music, books, and art, and the real cost of the software is not the actual software, but the license to use it properly. The sooner companies understand and comply with the fine print in licensing agreements, they better equipped they'll be in avoiding the consequences of software violations.
Avoiding violating software terms
Here are tips to avoid software licensing problems -- and potentially costly fines -- at your business:
On the software side
R. "Ray" Wang, principal analyst for Forrester Research, says software companies can also make compliance easier by allowing companies to add users with the touch of a button, instead of having them wait weeks for approvals and contracts. "Doing so would save the vendor a lot of grief and the companies would add additional users as they grow," Wang says.
It's easy for small businesses to ignore software compliance because some might consider software a support function that doesn’t directly affect their bottom line. Wang says most people don't go out of their way to commit software violations, since some don't know how many licenses they should have or what compliance laws they have broken. However, these excuses won't exonerate a business that violates these agreements.