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Barbara Rembiesa founded the International Association of IT Asset Managers (IAITAM) in 2002 after realizing that software license agreements were becoming more complex and confusing and, as a result, most businesses didn't have the first clue about what those agreements meant. Many small and midsize businesses, she found, mistakenly believed that one legally purchased copy of a software program could be installed on several different PCs. They had no concept of EULAs and couldn't grasp the cryptic language used in the lengthy agreements (Microsoft Office 2010's licensing terms are, for example, 24 pages long).
"Most people think they're buying the actual software," she said. "But they're not."
IAITAM began providing education and certification for IT managers on software compliance, asset management and other areas. Software licensing has been the trade organization's biggest focus over the past 10 years.
"Most businesses, especially SMBs, don't know what a EULA even is," Rembiesa said. "The education isn't out there, and if they don't get it from IAITAM then I'm not sure where they'd get it."
Even if businesses do begin to grasp the concept of license agreements vs. pure ownership, they also must contend with rapidly evolving terms and conditions, which sometimes are changed on the fly by software vendors. For example, Rembiesa said, Microsoft used to have a "work from home" provision for Microsoft Office that allowed users to install a second copy on their home computers. But the software giant quietly removed that provision in a later version of Office.
"A lot of businesses got hit with audits because one line in a big EULA got changed," she said.
Similarly, Microsoft changed the terms for Office 2010's Home and Student edition to prohibit the version from being used for any commercial use. While using the Home and Student edition for business is technically piracy, it is considered a license violation because you don't have a license for Office Home and Business or Office Professional.
Where do solution providers fit in the equation? Software vendors must walk a fine line between keeping their customers' trust and ensuring their customers are legal. Most vendors don't require partners to inform them of pirated software in customer environments.
According to Entre's Lucas, as a Microsoft Gold Certified partner Entre's only obligation, under the terms of the partnership, is to refrain from installing or servicing pirated Microsoft software. But Entre is not required to report instances of unlicensed software to Microsoft or any law enforcement agency.
"I strongly advise them to remove the unlicensed software and purchase the proper licensing. What I won't do is report my customers to Microsoft or Symantec or any other software vendor," Lucas said. "Why? Because that's not my job."
Mary Jo Schrade, senior Microsoft attorney who specializes in the software company's anti-piracy efforts, agreed with Lucas. "I think it's incumbent for Microsoft partners to advise their clients against using unlicensed and pirated software," she said. "But I don't think it's incumbent on partners to report their clients because then the partner is no longer in a position to be a trusted adviser to their clients."
Schrade said the trusted adviser role that solution providers play is an incredibly beneficial tool to fight piracy. In fact, Schrade said Microsoft has made significant progress in its war on piracy over the past decade, thanks to certified partners educating their clients and raising awareness for software licensing compliance. "We think of partners as people who can resolve the issue without having to report or go through legal channels," she said. "If they don't already, SMBs should rely on Microsoft partners for guidance on software licensing."