Software Piracy – A Mammoth Challenge

We always hear about companies getting penalized for software piracy breaches.

But the real question to be asked is:  Why do individuals or companies use pirated software’s even after the product companies and regulations are increasingly offensive on such piracy.

Some of the reasons could be:  the high cost of the product, inadequate monitoring controls, prevalent culture or ethics in terms of individuals and companies.

Why would companies want to pay heavy fines for piracy breach even when there are alternatives in the form of open source?  If financial or economic factors were leading to software piracy, then lowering the cost of software by product companies could be a possible solution, which would have an adverse impact on the product company in terms of revenue.

But in fact, cost does not seem to be the prime factor what leads to software piracy. The main reason for software piracy would be the fact that digital assets are not valued much compared to traditional or tangible assets. It is this perceived low value which actually makes people to devalue a product and get into the piracy game. Access to internet makes it easy access to pirated software’s.

There are various different mechanisms used by the product companies to manage the piracy issues, including:

1) Copy Protection of the source by making it difficult to copy/replicate to different media

2) Licensing model in which the product would require a product key (software or hardware) to function

3) DRM which would require a connection between the server and the client

But these methods have their own drawbacks and are not fool proof in today’s age for a product company to prevent software piracy.

So then, what should a company do to prevent piracy?

This is a debatable topic which requires more focus in the Information Security arena.

In fact, the solution would boil down to changing the perception on how a software/product is valued by individuals or companies who are using such products. Companies must define their own Governance and Compliance Policy to ensure that they are not breaching any software agreement.

Some of the simple governance steps to avoid breaches and ensure software and licensing compliance could include:

1) Use software management system to track their usage of software/licenses

2) Perform audits or use audit tools to ensure compliance

3) Provide awareness to the employees about licensing and software purchase

4) And more importantly, purchase the required software and adequate licenses

Software piracy is complex and needs to be studied in more detailed manner to have a comprehensive solution to this mammoth challenge.

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