Avoid bogus software

Brian Boruff worries about the pirates and, he says, so should business owners.

It’s not the fate of the Pittsburgh baseball team that bothers Boruff, but the unscrupulous or unaware computer users who illegally copy or purchase counterfeit software.

Boruff, general manager for Microsoft’s Greater Pittsburgh district, says such abuse cost Pennsylvania a half-billion dollars in lost wages, tax revenue and retail sales in 1997, according to a study by the International Planning & Research Corp. of Redmond, Wash.

And while Microsoft and other software manufacturers have an obvious vested interest in making sure piracy is kept to a minimum, Boruff points out that pirated software — either illegally copied versions of legitimate programs or counterfeit versions of the same — can have a deleterious effect on a business.

This year, with the Y2K issue looming for everyone who uses a computer, Boruff suggests there is an opportunity for business owners to take stock of their software as they confront Y2K compliance issues that may affect their business operations.

“If there ever was a year to look at licensing compliance, it’s this year,” says Boruff.

Besides the fact that software pirates and users of phony software could be subject to criminal prosecution, pirated products may contain errors or viruses that could shut down networks or PCs. Additionally, buyers of bogus software will find later that the package won’t or can’t be supported by the authentic manufacturer, a situation that means they may not be able to take advantage of useful upgrades of the original product as they become available.

Boruff offers the following tips to computer users to help them identify illegal software:

  • Prices that are exceptionally lower than the going market price for a product — Boruff offered the example of Microsoft Office, a product that would sell for about $375, offered for $100 or $200, as a clue that it may be a phony.
  • Back-up disks or CD-ROMs with handwritten labels or components that appear to be of inferior quality.
  • Manuals that appear to be photocopied or are of inferior quality.
  • B>Products marked with a phrase such as “for distribution with a new PC only,” “special CD for licensed customers only,” “not for retail or OEM distribution,” or “academic price — not for use in a commercial environment,” that does not describe the transaction.

Business owners with questions about the legitimacy of Microsoft products can call the Microsoft anti-piracy hotline at (800) RU-LEGIT Additional information on software piracy is available at www.microsoft.com/piracy.