Teachers who use computers may not be aware of it, but it is quite possible that they are running pirated software on the computers they use at school or at home. Their students may be doing the same. On the other hand, they may be well aware of the existence of pirated software and know that it is, strictly speaking, stolen property. According to the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA), one-quarter to one-third of all software used in K-12 schools in the U.S. is illegal. This is one of the major problems facing U.S. schools today. Part of this significant problem is rooted in ignorance, a lack of understanding of what software use is allowed under the law, the high cost of software, and lack of adequate budget to purchase software.
Software is protected by copyright law. The law says that it is illegal to make or distribute copies of copyrighted material, including software, without authorization. If you do so, this is piracy, and you may face not only a civil suit, but also fines of up to $100,000 and jail terms of up to 5 years. So, as a technology coordinator, how do you protect yourself and your school? What steps your school should take to discourage software piracy?
Here are some of the strategies that schools should take to discourage software piracy:
- Education, education, and education. Provide copyright workshops and classes for administrators, teachers, parents, and students so they understand the copyright law as applies to software and consequence of illegal use of software. Hopefully, this will develop a sense of ethical responsibility for everyone in schools.
- Establish a clear software policy and make the policy known to administrators, teachers, parents, and students.
- Develop a software code of ethics. Students and all school personnel must fully aware of the software policy. They must sign and agree to abide by the policy.
- Appoint a software manager or a committee for keeping records on purchase and software use.
- Install system protection software that prevents system modification and software installation on school computers.
- Keep a software log. The log should include records of a program’s date of purchase, license agreement, user, and machine ID.
- Perform regular audits. Compare the software installed on a machine against purchasing records.