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The Critical Need for Software Asset Management
  Software audits can protect a company from copyright infringement. It can also provide additional information to help better manage software costs and enhance employee productivity.

Computers have become so pervasive in our daily lives and in the running of businesses that we tend to take them for granted. It has become such a common practice to load and boot up software for our word processing or accounting, or any myriad number of tasks that very few of us would stop to question the programs that we run. In truth, programs lurking within your company's computer network may surprise you.

Because of a number of factors, many companies unintentionally end up using unlicensed, unauthorised, or pirated software. These factors can be due to careless software procurement practices, employees misusing company software or installing pirated or unauthorised software on their own, or companies simply not understanding how licensing agreements work.


Copyright Legislation To Impose Stronger Penalties

The need to use only licensed and legal software within companies has become critical, now that the Singapore Government has amended its Copyright Legislation to impose stronger penalties on copyright infringement. In the context of software, under-licensing – running a copy of software on multiple machines – can constitute violation of copyright agreements.

To ensure you stay on the right side of the new copyright legislation, it is crucial to understand some basics, like who owns your software. While you may think that since you paid for the software, you own it, that is in fact not the case. Unlike other things that you might purchase, software applications and fonts are different in the sense that they do not belong to the buyer. Instead, they are licensed to a user — companies and individuals purchase the rights to use the software on a designated number of computers, but can't put copies on other machines or pass that software along to colleagues.

Companies don't normally set out to infringe copyright laws. However, without proper management policies and procedures in place, unlawful software usage can spiral out of control. This is why it is essential that companies perform regular software audits on all personal computers within their organisations. Software asset management should be part and parcel of any organisation's asset tracking process. It is even more important now to have these processes in place, considering how the Internet has made it easier for software to be accessed and downloaded.

CD and DVD re-writers are also readily available in the market, making it very easy to duplicate software CDs. With so many ways software can be obtained and installed into a company's computer network, the risk of unauthorised installation and usage of software is higher than it has ever been.

With Singapore's new copyright legislation and the risk of much stronger enforcement action from the authorities, it is now extremely important for businesses to ensure they eliminate improper licensing and the use of unauthorised software. All companies will need to seriously consider their policies and procedures to address and mitigate the risks of infringement and penalties.

The Intellectual Property Right Regulation (IPRR) sets the legal framework for software licenses, but it is often very general. Various software license agreements detail the comprehensive rules in relation to software grants, with some license agreements mirroring the IPRR; for example, the number of copies of a particular software program that are allowed. However, what usually happens is that the license agreements will grant additional rights to the user, such as allowing additional copies under certain preset conditions.

It is therefore very important for a company's management to have an overview of the new legal framework, what its software obligations are, have a true picture of what might be lurking in their network without their knowledge, and how they can find out if they are compliant to prevent their company from paying a penalty.

Manage Software Costs And Enhance Employee Productivity

Software audits are not only about protecting a company from paying penalties for copyright infringement – they also provide companies with additional information to help them better manage software costs and enhance employee productivity. Software audits make it easier to identify expired licenses and standardize all computers with the most recent software versions. Audits also make it easier for companies to explore purchasing volume-licensing programs to simultaneously lower costs if they discover a new type of software that has become more popular or effective throughout their organization, it can help to improve employee productivity.

By consolidating software purchasing and record keeping, companies can ensure they get the best price for their volume orders. Consolidated software purchases also make it easier to track the status of software spending against budget allocation, in turn helping companies better plan their expenses.

And the biggest reason why companies should perform software audits is the assurance of knowing they are protecting their company from the legal fees, financial penalties, and bad press that tend to accompany piracy infractions.

The good news is that software audits can be relatively easy and hassle free to undertake. While several audit firms offer this service, the process is usually the same – auditors work with an organization to review information on IT assets and purchases, reconcile the results, and make recommendations moving forward. By identifying software-licensing discrepancies and mapping out a clear path ahead for efficient software asset management, companies are able to maintain compliance with minimal hassle.



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