Software Piracy and Licensing Issues

When businesses violate their software licenses or use pirated software, it can get expensive.

Part of a network administrator's job is overseeing and maintaining the various types of software used by the company. This includes ensuring that the company is in compliance with the software licensing agreements for each of the software products being used and making sure the software has been obtained legally. When companies use pirated software or violate licensing agreements, it can become an expensive problem.

For example, Brian Maass of Denver's CBS4 describes the situation the city of Denver is now dealing with. Although it's not clear how the situation came about, Oracle notified the city of Denver that they were not in compliance with their licensing agreement. The city had been paying Oracle about $1 million per year to use their software and services, but a recent audit indicated the city should have been paying closer to $10 million. After negotiations, Oracle and Denver agreed to a new 5-year contract. The city of Denver will pay Oracle $4 million for 2017.

In another example, Australian companies are learning that it's expensive to use pirated software. The Software Alliance, also known as BSA, took 14 different Australian companies to court, winning close to $600,000 in damages for copyright infringement. The guilty parties were also required to purchase legitimate licenses for the software involved.

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Discussion Questions/Activities
  1. As a class, discuss the concepts of software piracy and the ways that lack of attention or misunderstanding of software licenses might inadvertently contribute to piracy. 
  2. Divide the class into two groups for a debate on the ethics of software piracy. Are there scenarios in which piracy might be considered acceptable? Give each group some time to research their position (either for or against) and have the groups present their arguments.
  3. As an individual project, ask students to locate a recent example of an organization that has had similar problems with either software piracy or licensing violations. How did the company become aware of the problem? What were the repercussions of their actions? Has the issue been resolved, and if so, how? Students should write a brief paper or create a presentation to share their findings with the class.


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