FAST offers advice on how to avoid the ramifications of using unlicensed software | FAST

FAST offers advice on how to avoid the ramifications of using unlicensed software

8th November, 2017

Businesses who use unlicensed or counterfeit software put themselves at risk of costly and time consuming legal action– FAST gives you tips on how to avoid this

Due to continuing numbers of whistle blower reports, the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) has launched an initiative against software piracy through a series of top tips designed to educate business end users of the best ways to spot non genuine software and to ensure that their business uses software lawfully.

While software publishers have increasingly moved away from distributing programs on physical carriers such as CDs sold in boxes and now largely deploy cloud or server models, this change has still left avenues open for cyber criminals to target unsuspecting organisations and for IP infringement to remain a real business risk. Moreover, bad intent is not the only means by which people end up using software illegally.  A lack of awareness on legal use issues can also result in business users taking unnecessary and expensive risks.

Julian Heathcote Hobbins, General Counsel at FAST, expanded on the problem and the ways that business users can ensure compliance reducing  legal and operational risk:

“Many software products have strict licensing rules attached to them, and there are many unscrupulous people out there looking to make an easy dollar through distributing unlicensed or counterfeit software. It can therefore be easy for business people to slip up and find themselves  using software that isn’t licensed correctly or isn’t genuine – especially when it is common for them to download software directly from a variety of internet sources. This makes it far easier for a business to buy in error even if well intentioned but this has a very tangible effect on the creators of the software programs, especially SMEs.

“By using unlicensed software, for example, when it is notgenuine, business end users are depriving the publisher - large or small - of revenue they are due. Reduced revenues means reduced R&D budgets for software programs, which in the long run results in a marketplace with less innovation. However, for those who don’t have an understanding of the complexities of software pricing, it can be very difficult to tell when software is not genuine – and some might not even be conscious of unauthorised software as an issue.

“It’s for this reason that we’ve put together a series of tips, designed to make it far easier for business end users to identify when they might be caught out. These tips help software users keep on the right side of software licensing rules,” he continued.

FAST’s tips for spotting non-genuine software include:

  • Counterfeit software is distributed from websites that aren’t approved by the original creators of the software. Checking how the product is normally sold is therefore a good way to identify whether the software is legitimate.
  • A quick web search of the products stock keeping unit (SKU) code, often reveals how it is normally sold.
  • Check with the software publisher which channels they sell their products through. They will usually indicate who their resellers are: whether they have their own online store or sell via a mainstream online distributor, whether their products are available bundled via a PC manufacturer or via high street stores.
  • Check if the relevant product or product editions can only be purchased via a Corporate or Volume Agreements – this means that they have to be sold in certain quantities. If you are buying just one or two of a product that is normally procured via these sorts of agreements then it is likely you are buying an inappropriately licensed or indeed a counterfeit product.  
  • A price that seems too good to be true can be a key indicator that software is being sold illegally, and is always worth investigating further.
  • Take great care when buying second-hand PCs to check the authenticity of any software it comes with. There is a high probability that any software pre-installed on that PC is not legally licensed unless you procure the PC from a licensed PC refurbishing organisation.
  • When in doubt contact a mainstream software company or reseller for advice, especially when you are buying larger quantities.

Call to Action: FAST is urging you to report the availability and/or sale of non genuine software wherever you encounter it via email ( or via this web form here. If you are concerned about deliberate and prolonged illegal business use, use the online portal to inform FAST