The SCG Blog

How to Ensure a Software Piracy Engagement is Smooth Sailing

April 05, 2016


Meishan Piao
Director, Global Compliance


When confronted on their misuse, the reasons pirates give for deploying unlicensed software boil down to two categories – "we didn’t know it was happening," or "we needed it to do our jobs and didn’t see another option." Clad in their excuses, when that initial letter of noncompliance crosses their desks, most targets start the process of buying legitimate licenses on the defensive. 

Piracy business intelligence ensures that the often challenging process of a piracy engagement is both viable and valuable for the publisher. But aside from having good data on "bad" software, there are other things I have found that are crucial to ensuring the engagement moves along as smoothly as possible. With these in mind, publishers can strike the difficult balance between getting the customer to buy legitimate licenses, and ensuring that the engagement is fulfilled in a timely manner. 

1. Make sure everyone understands the process

When consultants such as our team are hired to lead the piracy engagement, poor communication about the process between the vendor and its direct sales organization (or more commonly its resellers), is the biggest bottleneck I come across. Consultants need to become and be viewed as part of the team. A misunderstanding of mutual goals can get things off to a bad start, or worse, jeopardize the success of the entire engagement.

I’ve seen many situations where customers who have a good relationship with sales reps or resellers will pick up the phone and question them about the piracy allegations. If the person on the other end of the line doesn’t understand that process, or the goals for all involved, they often try to cut a deal with the customer without everyone being on the same page. This always results in the wrong deal. Facilitating a process, and not pointing fingers, will result in the best outcome for everyone. 

2. Patience is a virtue

While the average time to close a successful compliance opportunity is about three months, sometimes it can take longer to see results. Recently, I received a much-welcomed email: a piracy engagement my team had been working on for several months had finally settled. The customer wanted to remedy its entitlement infringements, but had expressed toward the end of the process that it needed more time. The vendor’s patience paid off. Customers can’t always come into compliance as quickly as the publishers may like. Having patience to work with customers to fulfill their obligations often leads to success. 

3. And know that in some places, you’ll have to be more patient

I tell my clients to expect an effort to last at least three months, but in some cases, it does take longer, and depends on the size of the company and where it’s located.

In the United States, license compliance engagements typically move along smoothly. Efforts in Brazil, Italy and Mexico, which rank 4th, 9th and 12th in terms of the commercial value of unlicensed software respectively, tend to take longer because of cultural attitudes toward piracy. As a rule, in these geographies, revenue recovery will be quicker in a larger company. A best practice in accelerating this process is to ensure that the initial notification letter is going to a C-level executive, who has a stake in ensuring that the matter is quickly resolved. 

4. Know when to fold them

There are some cases of piracy that may not be worth going after. Consider university students illegally downloading software. There may be no long-term value to the university itself in paying for licenses or functionality used in a one-off manner. We have developed a model that separates the wheat from the chaff, so that publishers setting off on a revenue recovery effort are confident going in that it will produce results. Vendors using software intelligence can also point to high levels of infringement on campus as evidence of demand when proposing the value of a site license for the university.

5. Make sure customers understand the benefits of compliance

Often times a customer doesn’t fully understand the value of investing in maintenance and support for their applications. Having access to upgrades and the latest innovations and functionality is lost, often perpetuating further piracy and bad behavior.

Once they understand the value that holds in terms of bolstering their platform for innovation, as well as protecting them against security breaches and weakening of their brand image, they are less resistant to bringing their entitlements into compliance.

Acting now benefits publishers, customers

In a recent study by the BSA, less than half of the 2,020 IT managers surveyed were confident that their software was properly licensed – a huge security risk for businesses. By uncovering unlicensed users and copies, publishers are actually protecting their customers. Additionally, for vendors, missing out on maintenance and support payments hurts innovation investments for all customers. Taking steps to ensure the use of licensed software is in the best interest of both parties.

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