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Appropriate software usage at the U: what not to do

Image source: | artist credit: Domenico Loia

Imagine you’ve got a piece software on your work computer, and the license for it has recently expired (but the software still works). You haven’t been using the software that much, so you’re hesitant to pay to renew the license. That’s okay, right?

Wrong. You’re now out of compliance – and if caught, you’re potentially risking job termination, criminal prosecution, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines to the University.

“It is critical to the organization that we not violate software license agreements,” said Jim Livingston, Chief Technology Officer. “The penalties for being out of compliance can be substantial and open us up to compliance audits.”

When a software license is purchased, University organizations must keep track of what they acquired and where it’s being deployed, as well as the scope of use.

“Software is frequently licensed for specific uses, such as being limited to University business purposes or, for software you might find online, for personal use only,” said Chris Stout, attorney in the Office of General Counsel. “Using software for a non-permitted purpose can be the same as using the software without a license at all.”  

Bill Lutz, vendor manager for the Office of Software Licensing, recommends organizations do their own internal audits on a regular basis to ensure software licenses have been purchased for every user and are being utilized in appropriate ways. 

“[Employees] should make sure they keep good records, so that if there ever is an audit, they can prove that they’ve purchased the license for the software that’s on their computer,” he said.

The financial implications for breaking software license agreements can be enormous.

“If you get caught using more than you should, or using something that’s outside of your agreement, it will cost us money,” said Greg Nance, associate director for Governance, Risk, & Compliance in the Information Security Office.

In addition to huge fines, a person caught using software illegally can potentially be criminally prosecuted.

“There are significant financial and legal repercussions,” said Livingston. “People need to carefully read and understand license agreements they are agreeing to that obligate the University.”

Fortunately, there’s a perfectly legal and affordable way to acquire and utilize software at the U – simply visit where you’ll find a list of legitimate software licenses available for purchase (and sometimes, for free), generally at lower costs than you would normally pay. The Office of Software Licensing works hard to obtain campus-wide software licenses for students, faculty, and staff at the U, and UIT encourages everyone to take advantage of those deals.

So, next time you need a piece of software to do your job, make sure you’re obtaining it, and maintaining it, the right way. It’s simply not worth the risk to save a few dollars in an organization’s budget.

For more information, view the following University policies and rules:

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Last Updated: 4/11/22