Compliance & Enforcement

Compliance & Enforcement

What is Unlicensed Software?

Unlicensed software is unauthorized use or distribution of copyrighted software. It includes downloading, sharing, selling, or installing multiple copies of licensed software. Unlicensed software use also includes license infringement – installing a piece of software more times than the license permits – as well as sharing software license codes, uploading software codes to websites so others can download and use it, sharing software license codes or activation keys, as well as user IDs and passwords for web-based software applications. 

Unlicensed software use is illegal and can result in both civil as well as criminal penalties. It exposes businesses and consumers to security threats including malware, ransomware, spyware and viruses, and leads to decreased efficiencies in organizations. Those who are aware of unlicensed software use at end-user organizations are encouraged to report it to BSA through our confidential online reporting site at

Who we are and what we do

BSA serves as the world’s leading compliance and enforcement organization. BSA champions intellectual property rights of software copyright holders and helps curb unlicensed software use through vigorous enforcement programs in over 60 countries.  BSA helps its members guard against illegal software use by taking legal action against commercial end-user license infringement and distribution of unlicensed software via the Internet as well.

BSA also educates organizations through its suite of software asset management (SAM) solutions. BSA Verafirm SAM Certification is an online course aligned to the ISO/IEC19770-1 SAM standard designed to educate users on SAM best practices and how to proactively increase IT efficiencies and reduce risks.


Unlicensed software harms software publishers, creates unfair competition which adversely affects legitimate companies, damages brands through distribution of substandard products, and exposes customers to a range of IT risks including malware, security breaches and data loss. In 2012, BSA investigated over 15,000 unlicensed software reports around the world.

Where necessary and appropriate, BSA uses traditional tools such as civil lawsuits when necessary to stop software theft, providing a real and tangible response to end-user unlicensed software use. BSA also refers cases to national law enforcement authorities for criminal prosecution, providing close collaboration and invaluable support throughout the investigative process.

Government Engagement

BSA works closely with national and local authorities around the world in a coordinated effort to change cultural perceptions among businesses and individuals about the legal use of software. In collaboration with governments, BSA helps promote software asset management (SAM) programs, raises awareness of the risks associated with using unlicensed software, and educates communities on the economic impact of failing to use lawful, licensed software.

Targeted Communications

BSA’s worldwide enforcement programs are designed to reach end-user organizations and the general public to educate them on the business value of legal software, and the critical reputational, legal, and security-related risks associated with the use of unlicensed software.

Global Internet Program

BSA employs a variety of techniques to detect and disrupt the distribution and consumption of infringing software in online and cloud environments. This includes working with hosts to remove infringing files from their sites and litigating against those who illegally distribute software online. During a typical year, BSA’s Internet enforcement efforts result in the removal of hundreds of thousands of download links and e-commerce listings offering counterfeit and infringing software, as well as felony convictions and millions of dollars of civil judgments against online distributors of unlicensed software.

Solutions for Software Compliance

BSA provides business solutions through effective software asset management and compliance programs aimed at helping organizations gain maximum value out of their software assets. BSA offers proprietary programs to help individuals and organizations reduce risk and IT costs associated with illegal software:

  • BSA Verafirm SAM Certification, is the industry’s first ISO-aligned (19770-1) standards-based SAM training course. Targeted at the IT manager/SAM professional, the online course provides complete guidance and best practices that professionals can use to develop and institute ISO-aligned SAM processes within an organization.

Tools and Resources

Implementing a basic SAM program and software audit can protect your organization from the risks, penalties, and ethics problems associated with using unlicensed software. In addition to providing its own solutions, BSA provides links to free tools and resources that help end-users manage their software efficiently.