You may turn a blind eye to your staff’s illegal software or downloads but do you understand the implications for your business? Digital Piracy is a problem you can no longer afford to ignore. In this post, we will share how you could be liable and how it can have a negative impact on your business unless you are ready to act.
So, what is digital piracy?
Digital piracy refers to the practice illegally trading digital information, software and applications, media files and digital media devices. It has been on the rise since the late nineties when file-sharing websites became popular and downloading of various media began. Digital piracy includes theft of personal information on accessing unwarranted websites or using pirated software/applications, virus attack of digital devices through downloaded media and applications, and illegal sourcing of paid media files. It is estimated that in the US, companies lose $50 to $200 billion in revenue each year as result of digital piracy.
How can digital piracy affect my business?
Digital piracy and cyber threats mostly work through unauthorised access to private data giving rise to a range of problems at your organisation, such as loss of secure information. Digital piracy can also make you lose valuable work as a consequence of virus or malware attacks from pirated software or downloaded media files, unwarranted websites and open networks; which can attack everything from your documents to your installed software (the authentic ones, too).
Legal consequences such as monetary penalties or prison terms for accessing certain websites or consistent use of pirated software is another major concern you need consider, as a business owner. The penalties, according to the Indian Copyright Act of 1957, for Infringers found guilty are jail time for a maximum of three years and a fine up to Rs. 2,00,000. Constant access to illegal websites can also prevent one accessing internet services on specific systems, causing more inconvenience at the workplace and also, give your business a bad reputation. You could also end up spending more from registering on fraudulent business services and using pirated software which usually come at extra costs. And, every month, you could lose money paying excessive expenses on internet usage.
But as Lawrence Liang, professor of law at Ambedkar University, Delhi, points out “It is important to remember that the provision of the Act itself distinguishes between commercial and personal infringement and it provides that where any infringement has not been made in the course of trade or business, the court may impose a term for less than six months and a fine of less than Rs.5,000. Sec. 63-A deals with repeat offences and provides for a higher fine and imprisonment term for someone who has already been convicted of an offence under Sec. 63. Sec. 65 deals with the possession of plates for the purposes of making infringing copies, a term inherited from print piracy which deals with mass reproductions of material such as bestsellers.”
How can I identify an act of digital piracy?
Piracy, today, is possibly one of the biggest threats at your workplace leading to security and copyright concerns. Whether accessing pirated software or fake information, piracy can even bring your work process to a halt or create unforeseen safety issues. Every organisation encounters pirated files and media, in the course of their operations and activities, here is a look at few of the common activities at a workplace which contributes to digital piracy:
- Downloading media files over torrent and other file-sharing websites such as music or videos
- Using pirated software or operating systems (OS) in office computers
- Enabling extensions on your browsers from unauthentic or untrusted sources such VPN extensions or e-commerce ones
- Accessing blocked websites or websites with high malware content
- Using online tools with insecure servers such websites to convert file formats
- Accessing unsecured internet networks and hotspots
These are just some of the activities that could occur every day, in fact, 22% of all global internet bandwidth is utilised for online piracy. With an increasing rate of illegal activities in the digital space, it is important to monitor your company’s work process to keep a check on the threats of piracy.
How can you prevent digital piracy in your organisation?
With so many severe outcomes of digital piracy threatening businesses, you need to step up your security measures to combat piracy. While it may be difficult to stop people from downloading files or accessing unwanted websites, you can set down a few guidelines for controlling privacy.
- Set up strict download and upload limits every month for each system in the office. You can use computer monitoring software to keep a track of unnecessary file sharing
- Share a list of websites with your team which can contain high levels of malware and must not be accessed. Alternatively, you can block these websites on your company’s server
- Stop using pirated products on the computers at the organisation and use only authorised software, applications and tools. This will protect your organisation information as well as protect you from legal consequences
- Advise your team against being cautious of malware online tools. Ask your team to avoid unauthorised online extensions, especially ones which are not available on the browser’s Webstore, tools and applications
- Protect your organisation’s network with customised VPNs and secure networks
Digital piracy should be dealt with strictly at every stage and it should originate at an organisational level by using original software and applications. The guidelines mentioned above can help you control piracy activities at your business. So, keep monitoring internet usage, watch out for the warning signs and you will have your desired control on piracy at the organisation.
Information may be abridged and therefore incomplete. This document/information does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for, legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.
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