Proper management prevents piracy
When the Clinton Administration issued an Executive Order last year requiring all government departments and agencies to have proper software management practices in place, many software users were caught off guard. The mandate, which was effective immediately, required them to use only registere d software and to maintain records for the used software. It reinforced the importance of software regulations, but it left some agencies scrambling to comply.
Current U.S. law states that software programs may be legally installed on computers for which software licenses have been issued. To install the program on more machines requires the purchase of additional licenses. Failure to purchase those licenses results in criminal activity commonly referred to as software piracy.
Because software is easy to duplicate, frequently users will simply make a copy of the original program for additional machines. However, software is automatically protected by the same federal copyright law that governs other more familiar media, such as books and music. The duplication constitutes copyright infringement, whether it is done for sale, for free distribution or for the copiers own use.
Often, using software that has not been licensed is a result of ignorance rather than a willful attempt to break the law. The penalties for copyright infringement are stiff, including fines of $100,000 to $250,000 and jail terms up to five years, making it imperative that local IT managers understand their responsibilities for compliance. The Software Industry Information Association, Washington, D.C., offers a Certified Software Manager seminar to assist local governments in effective software management, including licensing software for multiple users. The program specifically equips IT managers with practical, real-world information, including facts about: * software piracy; * copyright law and what license agreements really mean; * penalties that can result from improper software usage; * end-user education; and * plan enforcement through the use of regular audits. Developing an effective software management plan is one of the most critical elements in complying with license agreements. In the past, it was common for some IT managers to violate license agreements unknowingly by leaving software on obsolete machines while installing the same programs on new ones.
An effective plan includes procedures for removing all software from machines that are no longer in use and redistributing the licenses to new machines. It also allows for regular internal IT audits as a way of ensuring that all prescribed practices are being followed. With information technology such a large part of our everyday lives, it was extremely important for me to be able to educate my department on [software licensing] regulations, says Ben Wooten, director of ADP examinations for Tennessee. Most people are unfamiliar with these regulations and, as a result, dont realize that non-compliance can have very harsh consequences. In fact, prior to 1998, Tennessee had recorded more than 45 departments and schools that had failed to comply with software regulations.
The key to making the program work was to create an understanding right off the bat that software regulations exist, and they are being enforced more frequently than ever before, Wooten says. Once people understand exactly what the rules are, then we can get into exactly what we can do to ensure that they are followed.