Software licence products one way to avoid lawsuits

A software piracy raid at BMW Australia last November found that the company was breaching licensing agreements on software from Microsoft, Lotus, Novell and Symantec. In the end, the software vendors settled out of court for $A42,000. The case highlights the need for companies to comply with software licensing, something which is often easier said than done. BMW Australia's corporate affairs manager says the company did not deliberately breach its licensing agreements and this is probably true of most cases.

A software piracy raid at BMW Australia last November found that the company was breaching licensing agreements on software from Microsoft, Lotus, Novell and Symantec. In the end, the software vendors settled out of court for $A42,000.

The case highlights the need for companies to comply with software licensing, something which is often easier said than done. BMW Australia’s corporate affairs manager says the company did not deliberately breach its licensing agreements and this is probably true of most cases.

Products such as Express Meter by Seattle-based WRQ can help. Version 3.6 is rolling out, and the host-connectivity maker has launch-ed a support programme in New Zealand to help customers implement the software and use it effectively.

“Express Meter is mainly used in three areas — software licensing compliance, year 2000 compliance on the desktop and compliance for companies which deal with the EMU [euro monetary unit],” says WRQ product manager Paul Davis. “However, while lots of companies see the value of such a discipline they don’t have time to implement it.”

WRQ’s answer was to design Express Expert — a programme of training, materials and support which is being rolled out to software resellers in New Zealand through WRQ distributor Interconnect.

“The idea is to help customers easily implement the software and use it to support their business.”

Whether it’s a software licence, rolling out new applications or Y2K compliance, there is a common process of discovery, prioritisation and control, says Davis.

“The first issue is to know the scope of what products are on the network. Express Meter has an auto-discovery capability so that the administrator doesn’t have to enter what applications are being used. On a network of several hundred PCs an administrator will find thousands of applications in use. For the Y2K issue there is no way that an administrator can inspect thousands of applications. This brings you to the second issue — prioritisation.

“This might be based on how many people use each application, how mission--critical applications are, and their frequency of usage. Express Meter provides information to prioritise for inspection.

“The third issue is inspection. There are three courses that an administrator can take — the application is okay for year 2000; it has to be upgraded to a new version that is year 2000-compliant, or year 2000-ready.”

On the issue of software rollouts Davis tells of a Massachusetts utility company which was using Access 2.0 for its reporting.

“Access 95 was released with some tools that would benefit the programmers. However, apart from the cost of the upgrade licence, the company had to take into account memory upgrades for PCs and the cost of a technician’s visit.

“So the company sent an email asking everyone whether they used Access and 84% said yes. They then ran a discovery test on Express Meter and found that only 14% of people were actually using it. That’s a difference of 70% out of a population of 1500.”

Davis says the product is aimed at companies with 100 PCs and up but there are customers with as few as a dozen.

Other asset management programs include Net Census from Tally Systems (www.tallysys.com) and workgroup asset mana-ger Bendata (www.bendata.com). Neither has local distribution.

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