Do you have the rights for that app?

An agency often can cut its initial investment in software in half through a multiuser license, but the savings can be lost if the agency abuses the license and gives more users access than the deal allows.

Skimping on the number of licensed users proves expensive if it becomes public that an agency is pirating software, government and industry officials said at a recent conference on software licensing and piracy. Organizations found guilty of piracy usually must pay retail prices for their unlicensed use of an app, plus fines.

The federal government'the world's largest buyer of software at more than $20 billion a year'has tried to ensure that agencies do not pirate software. Executive Order 13103, signed in 1998, requires agencies to obey copyright laws, draft licensing policies and keep inventories of all software in use.

'If you have any holes in your IT compliance program, the risk can be very substantial,' said Barty W. Bryant, vice president of operations at Tenax Inc. of Richmond, Va.

Often, violations occur out of ignorance, not intent, Bryant said. 'Organizations mistakenly believe they are compliant. If they took a polygraph test, they would pass. They just don't know enough,' he said. 'Unfortunately, it's like a traffic ticket. Ignorance is not an excuse.'

The Business Software Alliance estimated that the United States suffered from a 25 percent piracy rate last year at a cost of more than $1.8 billion to software makers. BSA recently investigated Virginia Beach, Va., for noncompliance. BSA's 'basic strategy is that no one is too small or too big or too important,' Bryant said.

There are few instances on record of abuse within the federal government, said Keith Thurston, assistant deputy associate administrator for governmentwide policy at the General Services Administration.

The CIO Council and Business Software Alliance have released guidelines to help agencies make sure they are complying with the executive order. The guidelines recommend that agencies assign compliance responsibilities to CIOs, assess existing software management policies and develop stronger procedures if necessary.

'For the federal government, most agencies negotiate enterprisewide site licenses for departments,' Thurston said. 'This really reduces the possibility of violations.'

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