Agencies urged to be honest about software license compliance

Government agencies are saving up to half the cost of some software applications by licensing rather than buying outright, vendors said this week at a conference sponsored by Softchoice Corp. of Toronto, Tally Systems Corp. of Hanover, N.H., and Tenax Inc. of Richmond, Va.

But the vendors warned that skimping on the number of licenses will cost agencies if an audit reveals breaches of Executive Order 13103 on software piracy, signed in 1998. The order requires agencies to track usage and license compliance.

'If you have any holes in your IT compliance program, the risk can be very substantial,' Tenax vice president Barty W. Bryant said. The Business Software Alliance of Washington recently investigated Virginia Beach, Va., for noncompliance, he said.

'Their basic strategy is that no one is too small or too big or too important,' Bryant said.

The alliance has estimated that United States software piracy last year cost providers $1.8 billion. Organizations found guilty of piracy usually must pay retail prices for their unlicensed applications in addition to fines.

The vendors said agency managers need to set policies to bring those numbers down by measuring employee usage accurately and striking a balance between overspending on unnecessary software or paying too little for what gets used.

'You have to keep tabs on very granular information,' said Steve DuScheid, marketing director of Tally Systems. 'You have to know exactly which editions, which suites, which products and which versions are running on your systems.'

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