The Business Software Alliance (www.bsa.org ), the leading advocacy group for the world’s commercial software industry and its hardware partners, recently published a list of 10 steps that small-business owners and managers can take to avoid the legal and financial risks of using unlicensed software. The list coincided with the Bush administration’s proclamation of May 16 through May 22, 2004, as Small Business Week. “For many small businesses, proper software licensing often falls through the cracks, potentially exposing them to legal and financial consequences,” says Bob Kruger, vice president of enforcement for BSA. “Even companies without a dedicated network administrator can follow these simple tips to ensure they are compliant.”
Adapted from the Alliance’s “Guide to Software Management,” the 10 steps are designed to help small businesses establish and maintain policies and procedures to stay risk-free.
•Be a responsible software user. Develop a company policy on software usage and have employees sign it annually.
•Compare the number of software installations to the number of licenses. Obtain any licenses needed for compliance.
•Centralize software purchases. Funnel purchases through a designated internal authority, such as a purchasing department.
•Ask that employees submit written requests for new software and see that the software manager signs and authorizes these requests.
•Buy from authorized dealers, or through reputable application service providers (ASPs).
•Obtain original materials, such as manuals, registration cards, license agreements and receipts with each purchase and keep them in a centralized file or location.
•Have a clear policy on Internet usage, including the uploading and downloading of software, and enforce it.
•Establish a regularly scheduled audit of the company’s software assets. Know what programs reside on your computers and network at all times.
•Visit www.bsaaudit.com  for free tools and resources, including the BSA Guide to Software Management and free software audit tools that will enable you to audit the software on your computer network to determine whether or not it is licensed.
•Report software piracy by calling 1-888-NO PIRACY or accessing the online reporting form at www.bsa.org/usa .
BSA’s education and policy initiatives promote copyright protection, cyber security, trade and e-commerce. Its members include Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, Avid, Bentley Systems, Borland, CNC Software/Mastercam, Internet Security Systems, Macromedia, Microsoft, Network Associates, SolidWorks, Sybase, Symantec, UGS PLM Solutions and VERITAS Software.