While there’s a high tolerance in many companies for copying software, the fact remains that software is protected by federal copyright law. That means you cannot make copies without the consent of the copyright holder.
If you pass disks around the office, you may expose yourself and your employer to copyright infringement liability.
Although enforcement is spotty, it’s wise to take these preventive steps to follow the law:
Record new software buys. Keep a log of when you purchase new software. Note who pays for it (use the appropriate budget code if it comes from a certain department’s funds). File any license agreements along with your purchase records. If you work at a large company, regularly track how many licenses you’ve paid for and make sure that number corresponds with the actual number of users.
Educate employees. If someone wishes to load her own software onto your company’s computer, that’s fine— as long as that employee shows proof that she is the legitimate owner of that software. Collect receipts or other documentation so that you can confirm “outside” software is not pirated.
Log requests. When employees ask you for software, document their requests and respond promptly. If you agree that they need the software, then obtain it legally and maintain a paper trail showing how you acquired it. If you deny their request, explain why in writing. If you fail to get back to them, you increase the odds that they’ll take matters into their own hands and use unauthorized copies of the software.