Workplace is changing – can your licenses keep up? - Gavel to Gavel

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The recent pandemic caused many companies to drastically change the manner in which they conduct business. Businesses rapidly implemented work-from-home protocols in an effort to keep things running smoothly despite the end of business-as-usual. Now, as restrictions are being lifted but uncertainties remain, companies seeking to ensure business continuity are developing strategies that will allow employees to transition to and from remote work quickly and easily.

Unfortunately, policies that allow such flexibility are not without risks. Many software license and service agreements that were executed in a pre-COVID environment may not accommodate such post-COVID business modifications. To ensure compliance, and to avoid becoming an easy target for an external audit, companies should take the following steps when evaluating their business continuity plans:

  • First, know your limits. Review a copy of each license and service agreement, noting how many users/devices are covered and identifying limitations on the conditions of use. Make note of any terms that may be ambiguous in view of recent changes to your work environment.
  • Second, identify your needs and usages. Determine how each licensed product or service is being used by employees, the conditions of use, and changes that would result from a shift in working conditions. Pay close attention to device-based restrictions, which may permit access only on company-owned or licensed devices, or where certain security measures are met, and determine how to ensure compliance with these restrictions in a remote-work environment.
  • Third, educate your employees. Instruct your employees regarding the importance of using a single machine, authorized by the employer, when utilizing company software. Remind them to use company-licensed software solely for company business, and personal software solely for personal purposes. Ensure that each employee is aware of any security requirements that must be satisfied under the terms of your license and service agreements, and conduct periodic checks to monitor employee compliance.
  • Fourth, keep records. Retain a copy of all instructions provided to your employees and the results of your efforts to monitor your employees’ remote use of software and services.

There are many new risks in the post-COVID environment. You can minimize at least one of those risks by carrying out the steps above and consulting with counsel to ensure that your business continuity plans don’t run afoul of your software license and services agreements.

This article appeared in the July 2, 2020, issue of The Journal Record. It is reproduced with permission from the publisher. © The Journal Record Publishing Co.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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