Received a request for a software audit?
Commercially minded legal advice from highly qualified software lawyers
- Get legal advice to find out your options to defend what you are up against
- Avoid wasting internal resources, time, money and the distraction from operations to deal with an unfamiliar audit process
- Dispense with the long and winding learning curve
- Regain some control of the issue and how your response to the software audit letter plays out
According to BSA Software Alliance, its members - Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, IBM, Oracle, and AutoDesk - lose billions of pounds every year to unlicensed business software.
Unlicensed software and software license violations can take a number of forms. The most frequent are:
- installing instances of software which exceed the number of licences acquired from the software vendor
- installing software for which no licence is obtained, at all
Software audit letters may seem like a needless or malicious attack on your business. It may seem that it is fishing just to find something against you.
It does not help that the advice you might have received from so-called “experts” on structural and volume licensing programmes got it wrong.
You did the right thing. They advised you. You acted on their apparently knowledgeable and expert advice. But but were wrongly advised.
You might get that cold feeling of indifference from the authors of software audit letters when you find out that it makes no difference to them that they got it wrong. You might also find that those same experts are keeping their heads down.
Receiving a Licence Audit Letter
The distraction caused by SPLA licence disputes, BSA compliance audit letters, or those arriving from Oracle or IBM directly can be overwhelming. You may have found yourself asking questions like:
- Is this somebody trying to spoof [insert software vendor] or is this a proper report of piracy?
- Is this critical? What do we do?
- What's this mean for me? Is it my responsibility or is it the board's responsibility? Is it my manager's responsibility?
- What can I expect to happen?
- How bad might it be? How big an impact is this going to have on us?
- What if our customer base finds out? What about our competitors?
- If this is going to be bad, how bad can it get, so I can start building a plan?
- Does it mean reaching outside the company for finance?
- Where does it end?
Each time you try to rebuff something, they might come back asking for even more details and information. You’re not going to get anywhere by just saying you're innocent.
Then it's difficult to tell whether there will be a financial audit penalty, and if there is, how big it will be. These companies have more than enough turnover to fund litigation, if they choose to do so.
Responding to a Software Audit Letter
It is easy to say things in your responses that are not helpful to your case. Making initial mistakes in your response makes the situation worse. You might think that your offsider was going to be a logical and responsible and see that you've done nothing wrong.
It may be surprising to learn that allegations can be made which are completely unfounded. They threaten to sue.
They say they have proof to show that you were operating illegally. And then refuse to produce it. It doesn't seem like they're going to take your word or anything you say at face value.
What are there do's and don'ts? Should we be super-helpful, should we be difficult? How do we play this?
There may be no end in sight to the unknowns when you do not know the process.
It doesn't need to be that way.
You might like to get some professional help.
Verification Process: Where do you start?
These letters and requests should be treated as seriously as any other software infringement claim or breach of contract claim.
There are four possible outcomes. Only one is desirable. It’s the last one below.
- A claim for breach of contract, or more precisely a breach of the relevant software licence
- A claim for copyright infringement
- A claim for breach of contract and copyright infringement claim
- Neither a breach of contract nor copyright infringement claim.
This is not to say that the solicitors writing the letters get the claims correct either.
We have found instances where the law firms themselves did not know the basis upon which software was licensed. If left unchecked, a pay-out may be larger than it needs to be.
That experience and industry knowledge can make the difference and keep you ahead of the curve.
Ignoring it aggravates the situation. You are exposed to the risk of expensive legal proceedings and being made a public example. Meet it head on and make your plans.
Software License Compliance Audits
If they’re not taking your word for it, you can save time, energy and a lot of money in the long-run by take expert legal advice on the terms of license, whether it's the SPLA.
There are few law firms in the UK which operate with the level of knowledge of software law that we do. We are a law firm that can offer, from the very start:
- Familiarity with the usual software licences, contracts and constructs upon which software audit letters are based
- In-depth knowledge, having handled High Court breach of software contract and infringement claims
- Advising on claims made in Microsoft, IBM and Oracle license audits for copyright infringement, audit letters for well over 10 years
It is a significant issue and a lot to tackle on your own.
Specialist UK Audit Lawyers in Software
Find out from UK Audit Solicitors experienced in the process to find out:
- what the real points were behind the audit that you need to address
- the things you don’t need to answer
- how you can switch it back around, asking them to explain themselves, rather than remaining on the back foot
- how to phrase the right questions to ask
We can help you find the best way forward your business. Leave it to you to make the decisions. If there is a risk in a particular process, we explain that risk.
We are not the type of solicitors to rush in and say "Well, do this, this, and this.". These are situations where we need information to help you and the opportunity to look through it, and advise the best approach.
It might cost you an awful lot if you just continue to respond to software audit letters, emails and or requests.
Properly understand the legal situation and how to defend it. If you don’t you could end up with some ridiculous fine that you can't defend.
Don’t lose control of the situation. This is not the time for heads in the sand.
Across those we have advised, we have saved clients 100s of 1000s of £, and include companies:
- which are national ISPs
- in the business of providing high bandwidth internet connectivity
- entirely dependant on software to produce what they sell
- provide services based on software
- administering their business with software