3 Ways Computers Can Hurt Your Ministry Part 3 Software Piracy
This article is the final installment in a 3 part series on how to protect your ministry from serious computer related loss. This time we TMre going to focus on what every ministry should know about software license compliance. Violating these laws could needlessly cost your ministry hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and open you up to potential prosecution.
When you purchase a software package for your ministry, it TMs not quite the same as buying a tangible item, such as a paper shredder. If you buy a paper shredder for your office, you can use it in any room in the office and shred any document you like with it. With software, you are dealing with intellectual property . You don TMt actually purchase the intellectual property from the software manufacturer you are only purchasing the right to use this intellectual property under a strict set of conditions (known as a license agreement ). Any use outside of this license agreement falls under the category of software piracy.
There are several flavors of software piracy, but the most common ways churches and ministries fall into non compliance (both knowingly and unknowingly) are End User Piracy and Client Server Overuse . Examples of this would include:
Buying one copy of a program and installing it on more than one computer
Purchasing upgrade priced software when a legal copy of the software was never originally purchased
Bringing ministry discs home and installing the software on personal computers
Helping someone else copy software illegally
Client Server Overuse occurs when you use software in a network environment. They reacted to this by forming an organization called the Business Software Alliance (AKA the BSA). The BSA exists to enforce software licensing in the business (and ministry) community, and they do this by investigating allegations of piracy and imposing the penalties provided under the law. Most of the tip offs the BSA investigate come from disgruntled employees who call in and inform on their former employers. In a civil lawsuit, the manufacturer can stop you from using the software package in question and also seek monetary damages, up to $150,000 per software package and even any profit or income attributed to the infringement. If the government prosecutes you in a criminal proceeding, the penalties could be as high as $250,000,
5 years in jail or both.
Beside the legal and financial ramifications of software piracy, I believe the spiritual implications are also important to consider. For God to bless our ministries and use them to build His kingdom, we need to obey the laws of the land and conduct our operations with the utmost integrity. It TMs not worth saving a few hundred dollars on software if you end up losing the effectiveness and credibility of your ministry.
Now that you know a little about this issue, here are a few important steps you can take to protect yourself and your ministry.
Perform a thorough software license audit. Document every software license you TMve purchased and compare that list against every software package you have installed. The difference may surprise you! Purchase whatever licenses you need to make up this difference.
Take advantage of software charity licensing and donation programs. Microsoft and many other manufacturers offer Charity licensing programs that allow your ministry to buy software at enormous discounts. Some even offer donation programs that let you get the software for free, if you qualify. With such huge discounts available to ministries and churches, it makes no sense to violate software licensing laws and face so much risk.
Implement an acceptable use policy. Education is the best way to keep your employees compliant. Put together a document that explains exactly what they can and can TMt do with ministry computer and software assets, go over the document with each employee and have them sign off on it.
Well, that TMs about it. I hope your ministry can benefit from the valuable information presented in this series of articles, and that with some wisdom and good counsel, you can avoid all the pitfalls we discussed and be more successful in fulfilling the Great Commission.
Donnie Schexnayder is a ministry technology expert. He holds industry certifications from Microsoft and CompTIA and has over 10 years experience in supporting churches and Christian ministries with technology. With a mixture of passion and expertise, Donnie helps ministries advance their mission of bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth by using cutting edge technology. Donnie lives with his wife and 2 children in Colorado Springs,