Legality - Software Licenses Pirated

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Legality - Software Licenses Pirated

Postposted on Sat Jun 23, 2012 12:15 am

So an I.T. person is hired by an out of state company to receive a bunch of laptops, check to make sure they work and run the needed software and then deliver/setup said laptops in a conference room. During this time the I.T. person knows something in fishy and checked the Quickbooks licenses, the Microsoft Windows XP and the Microsoft Office software only to find that all 6 laptops are using the same key. Each of these keys is for SINGLE USE, none of them are multi-seat keys.

Said I.T. person also caught wind from Attendees at the "Quickbooks Training Class" that the entire thing is a semi-scam. None of the people were provided with a useable laptop (Unless you count a HIGHLY damaged Dell C400), with no battery, damaged screen and failing hard drives (and cracked cases with failing or almost no hinges). The person teaching the course is a local that was asked to teach in about 2 days before the class. The venue was changed 3 times, none of which were paid, and the I.T. person just barely managed to get paid, probably because they were hoping he would so kindly ship (on his dime) their equipment to the next point of interest.

So... my question is, what are the legal requirements/obligations for said I.T. person? Hold onto the piles of junk and notify Intuit and Microsoft... or just leave them at the hotel where the event happened? Please keep in mind that research had been done on said dead beats and it was revealed that they have a history of fraud and were sued in Orange County, as well as on the FCCs list for fax spam (wow, didn't even know they had a list for that!)
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Re: Legality - Software Licenses Pirated

Postposted on Sat Jun 23, 2012 12:33 am

Wipe the drives and write the checks.
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Re: Legality - Software Licenses Pirated

Postposted on Sat Jun 23, 2012 2:42 am

There might be no specific legal obligation, but is there a moral one? Could this person anonymously report this company's violation?
I'm not saying there is, and certainly as a busy IT person myself I understand personal time and involvement are precious, but deadbeat companies should get stitches.

It's not too hard to apply to become a refurbisher and distribute cheap copies of win 7 pro and basic office 2010 apps with machines for a reasonable end user price. MS is fairly generous in this area; I hate any shop or entity that puts customers at risk through piracy.

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Re: Legality - Software Licenses Pirated

Postposted on Sat Jun 23, 2012 7:30 am

It sounds like these people are committing a bunch of nefarious activities that could be criminal in addition to being grounds for a civil action from several different parties. As for the software piracy, one quick and easy way is to anonymously report it to the BSA. The BSA can be a total bunch of a-holes, but in some cases where you are dealing with scumbags you probably want to sic the BSA on these guys.
Last edited by chuckula on Sat Jun 23, 2012 1:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Legality - Software Licenses Pirated

Postposted on Sat Jun 23, 2012 9:12 am

Usually in businesses software is unlicensed for a reason. A great example is with Windows Server. You are completely within your rights to run that, unlicensed, for 120 days. This gives you time to build, test and troubleshoot a new server before you have to burn a license on it.

This case doesn't sound anything like that. It sounds like there is a group of people playing a cup and ball game trying to make it harder to find where the illegally licensed software is at. If you want to do something about it (and it's your call, don't know what I would do in the situation) the BSA (Business Software Alliance)is the place to report licensing violations of this nature. Depending on the situation they even pay a bounty to the person that reported the violation.

What they are doing is completely illegal and greedy in every way. Being a college student that can't afford a photoshop license is one thing, but these people are making money off the un-licensed software. Microsoft and Intuit deserve their cut of this companies profits.
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Re: Legality - Software Licenses Pirated

Postposted on Sat Jun 23, 2012 9:42 am

Hmmm...the only scenario I can think of where one would have a legal responsibility would be if, during an investigation, they (law enforcement) find out that this person knew that he or she was helping do something illegal, and they decided to be the kind of A-holes to press charges for aiding criminal activity...so to answer your legal obligation question, it really requires a lot of people to be really spiteful.

On the other hand, others have mentioned BSA, and I am sure that there are other ways to anonymously report about this (and probable other people, too). I think your average officer in blue would also be a good resource.
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Re: Legality - Software Licenses Pirated

Postposted on Sat Jun 23, 2012 11:19 am

There is no legal obligation.

As for the laptops using the same single-use WinXP key, that's not uncommon. The laptops could have all been imaged with the same build, and each unit was mostly likely purchased with a WinXP license. Still, from your description, something fishy is going on.

If they hold on to the laptops, that's theft. Don't do it. Even if you are correct and all the software is pirated, if they keep the laptops they are exposing themselves to legal troubles.

A "confidential" report to the BSA can be filed at reporting.bsa.org
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Re: Legality - Software Licenses Pirated

Postposted on Sat Jun 23, 2012 2:21 pm

I think I'm going to go the BSA route. I've also sent information off to Intuit as these people are sniping Quickbooks Pro Advisers off of Intuits Pro Advisory list, and then not paying them. As much as the local cops probably don't give a damn about this stuff, I may just turn it over to them. At the same time a friend suggested I turn it over to FedEx who had shipped it before, and is where they wanted it to go in the first place and let them know that their is illegal software on it. The company may have to take action to avoid being put in the center of it all and they have more detailed info about where it was shipped from. At this point I'd love to see these bastards fry, but I do need to distance myself from it as I've got better things to do with my time.
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Re: Legality - Software Licenses Pirated

Postposted on Sat Jun 23, 2012 5:06 pm

The nice thing about going BSA is, you get it on record that you are trying to do the right thing, so down the road no one can say that you were accomplice of any sort, wittingly or unwittingly.
Once you found out, you dropped the dime because you are a good person and had no knowledge of this before hand. Get something in writing if possible that you did the right thing :)
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Re: Legality - Software Licenses Pirated

Postposted on Sat Jun 23, 2012 6:38 pm

Yeats wrote:There is no legal obligation.

Legal advice on the Internet: worth what you paid for it. In fact, actual legal obligations can vary, depending on what the I.T. professional's other business, personal, and professional affiliations happen to include. For example, someone who is working as an independent specialist might also have an open contract with a state or government agency that places them under special reporting requirements.

The biggest problem here is that the contracted I.T. professional not only suspected that something was amiss, but traced out the liscensure history to confirm it, yet still processed the equipment per contract, receiving payment for services rendered. Are there ways that this could be interpreted to include direct liability? Possibly; but without consulting an actual legal professional, it's hard to say. Most likely the situation will blow over and the I.T. professional will never hear anything about it again. But the worst-case scenario is that the situation ends up in court somehow, and recent employees and contractors are subpoenaed or indicted in a criminal action, or named as plaintiffs in a civil suit.

As others stated, the I.T. professional should file the report with the BSA, and document all of it. Hardcopy printouts with dates and times for all digital correspondence, tracking documents for anything sent or received by mail or courier. If there are any further concerns, the I.T. professional should talk to a lawyer specializing in business law, who can advise on actual liability (if any) and mitigation under the state and local jurisdictions where the event occurred. This need not occupy more than a couple hours of time, and a consultation fee which can probably be written off as a business expense.
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Re: Legality - Software Licenses Pirated

Postposted on Sat Jun 23, 2012 7:48 pm

ludi wrote:Legal advice on the Internet: worth what you paid for it.


I agree with you. However, I've had a good amount of experience in this area.
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Re: Legality - Software Licenses Pirated

Postposted on Sat Jun 23, 2012 8:46 pm

Yeats wrote:
ludi wrote:Legal advice on the Internet: worth what you paid for it.


I agree with you. However, I've had a good amount of experience in this area.


Yea, if memory serves from school IT workers aren't considered "professionals" (I forget what the legal term is, and it's been a few years so this may have changed) in the same way that doctors and lawyers are. At least in the United States. Because of that we are not held to the same ethical standards and are not liable for issues in the same way that a doctor is liable for noticing a tumor and not documenting it.

I'm going to qualify that. After some Googling I couldn't find anything to confirm or refute that memory. Take it for what it's worth.
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Re: Legality - Software Licenses Pirated

Postposted on Sat Jun 23, 2012 10:20 pm

Yeats wrote:
ludi wrote:Legal advice on the Internet: worth what you paid for it.


I agree with you. However, I've had a good amount of experience in this area.

Not knowing your experience, I can't support or criticize it one way or the other; however, not knowing all of the circumstances surrounding the anonymous "I.T. person" in the OP's anecdote, I don't believe anyone here can say in absolute terms "there is no legal obligation". The best we could say is "there is typically no legal obligation in the most general case." These things can vary widely by state of residence and be further complicated by concurrent relationships, if any, with federal, state, and local agencies that may have special reporting requirements.
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Re: Legality - Software Licenses Pirated

Postposted on Sun Jun 24, 2012 3:29 am

ludi wrote:
Yeats wrote:There is no legal obligation.
The biggest problem here is that the contracted I.T. professional not only suspected that something was amiss, but traced out the liscensure history to confirm it, yet still processed the equipment per contract, receiving payment for services rendered. Are there ways that this could be interpreted to include direct liability?


Said I.T. person actually had no knowledge of license infringements prior to the work. It was once things got fishy with everyone not being paid that the I.T. person decided to dig a little deeper.
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Re: Legality - Software Licenses Pirated

Postposted on Mon Jun 25, 2012 8:14 am

Dposcorp wrote:The nice thing about going BSA is, you get it on record that you are trying to do the right thing, so down the road no one can say that you were accomplice of any sort, wittingly or unwittingly.
Once you found out, you dropped the dime because you are a good person and had no knowledge of this before hand. Get something in writing if possible that you did the right thing :)

Yeah, just do this for sure. If it's possible to get local officers involved, they will also get something in writing, if only as a personal insurance against liability.
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Re: Legality - Software Licenses Pirated

Postposted on Mon Jun 25, 2012 8:49 am

Did anyone think of maybe they DO have the proper licenses, but just imaged the entire laptop? It may not be likely, but its a possibility.
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Re: Legality - Software Licenses Pirated

Postposted on Mon Jun 25, 2012 9:41 am

Corrado wrote:Did anyone think of maybe they DO have the proper licenses, but just imaged the entire laptop? It may not be likely, but its a possibility.


^This. I used to run an education center where we taught classes such as Quickbooks, A+, and Office classes. If you looked on all of the classroom computers all software had the same key, but we did have a license for each copy. It was quicker and easier to setup one and image it to the other 40-60 than to set them all up. Not saying that this was done but that it can be legal if the proper licenses are purchased.
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Re: Legality - Software Licenses Pirated

Postposted on Mon Jun 25, 2012 11:22 am

chuckula wrote:It sounds like these people are committing a bunch of nefarious activities that could be criminal in addition to being grounds for a civil action from several different parties. As for the software piracy, one quick and easy way is to anonymously report it to the BSA. The BSA can be a total bunch of a-holes, but in some cases where you are dealing with scumbags you probably want to sic the BSA on these guys.


Having done "business" with the BSA in the past, they quite simply do not care about small scale (<50 incident) infringement. They also seem to determine the cases they look into by the potential for payout. A school, even with no paperwork and hundreds of seats of flat-out pirated Windows+Office, does not have war chests to raid. I'd imagine these fly-by-night scammers would fit the same profile, there's no payout there for the BSA.

Not to mention, the BSA took nearly a year to get back to me to get info and begin looking into the anonymous report. At that speed, these scammers will be long gone.
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Re: Legality - Software Licenses Pirated

Postposted on Mon Jun 25, 2012 8:42 pm

The FBI now has custody of the laptops. The Windows XP could possibly be volume licenses... not likely. The Office software is the most likely to be licensed as a volume license at all. But Quickbooks 2011 will tell you how many users it is licensed for. These people specifically didn't want these systems put online so that the multiple pirated keys were not reported back to the developers or Microsoft. If they pirated 1 of these 3 software's, why even bother with buying the other ones?

Even if they have licenses back at home base (which I highly doubt), they would still be required to change the key in Windows to its own unique key (or volume license key). I'm not sure about the affixing a CD Key onto the laptop itself as these only had Windows 2000 on them originally. Its pretty clear that they sent out junk hardware that barely worked to "legitimize" their "efforts" to make the event happen to cover their butts on that front. But any self-respecting company like that would not send out hardware that old and beaten up for a class that cost around $500 a person.

I'm not one to go out of my way to report a small incident that involves people who just need to purchase keys and do the right thing. I will however do go out of my way to put behind bars people who are doing it on a larger scale and clearly don't care as they are screwing local businesses and people over for cash, all from the comfort of their out of state home. I don't see why they don't just run a legitimate business, there is more than enough cash to be made doing it the right way.
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