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What is software piracy?
Software piracy is the illegal use and/or distribution of property protected under intellectual property laws.  

Software piracy can take many forms:

  • End-user piracy occurs when an individual or organization reproduces and/or uses unlicensed copies of software for its operations.
  • Client-server overuse occurs when the number of users connected to or accessing one server exceeds the total number defined in the license agreement.
  • Counterfeiting is the illegal duplication of downloaded software with the intent of directly imitating the copyrighted product.
  • Hard-disk loading occurs when a computer hardware reseller loads unauthorized copies of software onto the machines it sells.
  • Online software theft occurs when individuals download unauthorized copies of software from the Internet.
  • License misuse occurs when software is distributed in channels outside those allowed by the license, or used in ways restricted by the license.

How common is software piracy?
Approximately 19 percent of software in the United States is unlicensed. Software piracy is common is the workplace, but many businesses are unaware that they are violating copyright laws because they do not have effective software management policies in place.

What are the consequences if my business is using unlicensed software?
Small businesses that use unlicensed software are at risk for legal, financial and technical consequences. Illegal software may be damaged, incomplete, or may even make your computer networks more vulnerable to viruses or security breaches. Other penalties may include fines of up to $150,000 for each infringement and in the most serious cases, offenders may even face jail tail.

How can I be sure my business is using only legal software?
Start by reading SBA and BSA’s
10 Tips to Protect Your Small Business from Illegal Software. These tips will guide you through the process of auditing your software assets, developing a software policy, and implanting an ongoing software management process.

What are the most common forms of software piracy
in the workplace?

The three most common forms of software piracy in the workplace include:

  1. Employees bringing software from home and installing it on office computers.
  2. Employees downloading unauthorized software from the Internet.
  3. Employees sharing programs with each other.

Am I liable if an employee has installed illegal software on an office computer without my knowledge?
Yes. This is why it’s so important to conduct software audits every six months to one year, and to perform regular spot checks on employee computers. You can deter employees from installing illegal software on business computers by instituting a company-wide software policy and educating them about the consequences of violating it. BSA’s
Software Asset Management (SAM) Toolkit includes a sample software policy and employee education materials.

What should I do if I find unlicensed software on my business’s computers?
If you find illegal software on any office computers, immediately delete the unlicensed copies. Next, if you determine that you do need the software, purchase legal copies from an authorized dealer.

Where can I get help implementing an effective software management policy at my business?
By visiting you’re already off to a good start. On this site, you’ll find free resources, tools, and tips for helping you develop a responsible software management system. In addition, the SBA and BSA can answer any other specific questions you might have. Please contact BSA at 202-872-5500 or Contact SBA at 1-800-827-5722 or