Startups and Small Companies Exempt from Buying Software?

I was at a CFO conference last month and had an interesting discussion with another attendee over lunch one day.

This attendee (we’ll call him Jeb) is the CFO of a small firm in California. This is not his first time at being a CFO and is an intelligent, articulate gentleman who endorses an entrepreneurial spirit within his company.

The conversation started out the usual way with him asking what my firm does (Software Asset Management-SAM) and then asking a variety of questions about how SAM benefits companies. The conversation then turned towards compliance and he shared that a former company had been audited by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) right before he had gone to work for them and had been fined due to inappropriate use of software licenses. He described some of the financial and operational pain the company had experienced as a result of not being properly licensed.

Finally, the conversation turned to the financial impact of outfitting an organization with software licenses. Being a business owner myself, I could definitely commiserate with Jeb over the costs to properly outfit an organization. However; I was amazed to hear him share his viewpoint that start ups and small businesses shouldn’t be expected to license every computer.

Frankly, I was blown away. Here was an intelligent, financial professional stating that companies should be allowed to break the law, steal intellectual property, and essentially mis-state their financial earnings (when you realize that they wouldn’t be including a major cost to doing business…buying software).

Desperately trying to stay off of my soap box, I raised these issues with Jeb. I tried every logical argument to try to have him understand how integrally unethical his viewpoint is…I hope I at least gave him something to think about. Unfortunately, he’s not alone in his viewpoint…can someone please explain to me how you can morally or ethically justify software piracy?

Weeks later and it still amazes me…

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