Can Cloud Computing Stop Software Piracy?

With the influx of software applications using the Software-as-a-Service model, experts claim that software piracy will eventually be eliminated. However, some pessimists are claiming that users will just find ways to circumvent everything so that they won’t pay for software use. The Business Software Alliance (BSA) released its new survey results wherein it found out that 42% of the 15,000 PC users-respondents in 33 countries admitted to sharing their login credentials to paid cloud computing services with other people within their organizations. According to BSA President and CEO Robert Holleyman, such act doesn’t constitute piracy as some cloud computing services do allow simultaneous logins using just one account. Other than that, sharing login credentials can cause terms of service violations or license abuse.

The Economist has widely criticized BSA’s survey primarily because some wordings in the survey don’t specifically mention that login-credential sharing is a clear violation of paid cloud service license or terms of service. However, BSA is adamant in claiming that everyone must be concerned about “cloud piracy”. BSA Senior Vice President for External Affairs Matt Reid claims that although cloud piracy hasn’t reached the same position as that of traditional software piracy, the results of their survey must be taken into consideration.

However, some members of BSA believed that cloud applications will greatly minimize software piracy. Last year, in an interview with Forbes, Adobe Systems CEO Shantanu Narayen said that piracy will be significantly reduced because cloud and Software-as-a-Service applications will continuously require internet connection. Kevin Lalor, Business Intelligence 101 CEO and Founder, is in complete accord with Narayen’s position regarding software piracy. According to him, SaaS applications are able to track account usage and logins. Thus, software piracy will eventually be eliminated with the cloud’s subscription model. Cloud Sherpas Chief Technology Officer David Hoff also believes that with real-time analytics offered by cloud computing applications, it is now possible for the software publisher to gain basic control over their applications.

According to David Hoff, cloud applications which allow simultaneous logins using one account isn’t really a problem because a user can be logged in using multiple mobile devices. If cloud applications block the account because of this then the software publishers will be driving away their subscribers. Kevin Lalor also doesn’t see multiple simultaneous logins as a problem because according to him, the login credentials will just be shared among small groups. Matt Reid conceded that sharing of login credentials doesn’t really represent a violation of terms of service or licensing. In fact, providing such flexibility can entice customers to subscribe to cloud computing services. However, the practice of sharing can be a bad habit.

It is interesting to note that 56% of the survey respondents do believe that sharing login credentials for a paid cloud service isn’t right. But, in the same survey, 42% of respondents do share login credentials for paid cloud computing applications within their organization. Although such practice doesn’t violate the terms of service, Reid points out that such practice can be abused. David Hoff allays Reid’s fears by saying that modern SaaS models and cloud applications can deal with login use abuses.

Aside from the login credentials sharing, the BSA survey also reported it is possible for “dark clouds” to proliferate in the cloud. Dark clouds, whether private or public, can deploy pirated SaaS. Also, the presence of “gray clouds” can be utilized by organizations to purchase software legally and offer their licenses to other users even outside of their organization. The BSA survey, however, didn’t provide any data on gray or dark clouds although the BSA group did pose it as a major problem. However, according to Kevin Lalor, he doesn’t believe that organizations can build private gray or dark clouds successfully. In InformationWeek’s 2012 Private Cloud Survey, only 21% of organizations do implement private clouds thus dark or gray clouds are not really a cause of concern right now. However, BSA still contends that when more and more organizations move their operations to the cloud, such abuses will pose a big problem.

One comment

  1. Ok. So if I loan my CD and install code to my friend and doesn’t use the software at the exact same time that I do each day, then nothing has been pirated. Right?

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