I work for a Greek affiliate of a USA company.

In the past, the company itself did the mistake to buy a bunch of AutoCAD and AutoCAD Plant 3D licenses in USA for use in both offices (USA and Greece).

Recently, I found out that those licenses bought in USA are not valid in any other country (terms of use by AutoDESK). The license might be able to get transferred to the Greek company by proving some degree of connection between the two companies (pending to be proven).

The IT of the whole organization agrees with me that the licenses are not valid for use in Greece right now, and they bring that issue to the USA management.

USA management seems reluctant to address the issue (probably being afraid that this transfer might not be possible, and that they might have to buy new licenses for the Greek office).

If asked to work using this software in Greece, can I deny working as part of being ethical?

  • Can they fire you?
    – paparazzo
    Sep 27, 2018 at 21:04
  • @paparazzo They could. The funny is that currently the work that requires the use of the Autdesk software is published in a EU Horizon 2020 program.
    – Peace
    Sep 27, 2018 at 21:14
  • 4
  • 2
    @DarkCygnus because when you start scrutinising things in a business that have nothing to do for you it sends a message to your bosses.
    – Kilisi
    Sep 27, 2018 at 21:36
  • 1
    Greek Company is owned by an American company. What does AutoDesk have to say with regards to this situation? The terms might not be written to handle your situation
    – Donald
    Sep 28, 2018 at 2:21

3 Answers 3


If asked to work using this software in Greece, can I deny working as part of being ethical?

Sure, you can try to refuse working with such software.

However, the thing here is that your boss may not like you refusing doing such work, and may insist that you work with it... or in worse cases terminate you for not following a direct order.

I can relate with your situation; working with software that is not licensed is not quite ethical or merry thing to do. However, if someone is getting into trouble it will be your boss/company owners, for having their workers use such software without proper license.

They still haven't told you to use such unlicensed software, so there is still a chance they reconsider...

If they don't, well... you can express your concerns of using such software to your superiors, and it's up to them to decide how to proceed. It's now up to you if you decide to comply with such request or not, having in mind that you accept any consequences of the action you take.


no, you can't.

ethics means many things, but it's rarely useful as a justification for not doing something.

a reason to not do something is

  • it is illegal
  • it is unprofitable
  • it is unproductive
  • it is counter productive

these are an things that, when avoided, benefit a company in a measurable manner (usually measured in dollars!), and are thus reasons.

You are talking about ethics, a very broad and very deep philosophical area. there are 5 such areas. there is a deep corpus of work on ethics, I'm very much sure that your scenario is covered somewhere there, if only as an analogy.

But you don't appear to work in a university and you don't appear to be writing a dissertation on a niche issue... so I wouldn't bring up ethics.

  • It is illegal (bsa.org/anti-piracy) for the company to use software not licenced with me not having any impact from their actions (including my action of using the unlicensed software for my country) according to rest of the answers (Employer is responsible for keeping himself legal).
    – Peace
    Oct 3, 2018 at 18:12
  • Unlicensed software covers the the case of license infringement in our case (use of a license in a country other than the one it was acquired)
    – Peace
    Oct 3, 2018 at 18:20
  • @GePeace i would be honestly stunned if the company that your company bought a very expensive license from took any action whatsoever. That would be remarkably stupid. If they're ont going to take action, then it's hard to qualify it as "illegal".
    – bharal
    Oct 3, 2018 at 19:01
  • I am not responsible to qualify it is as illegal in legal terms, BSA and Autodesk with their audits are. If there are 0.000000000001% chances to be caught from the enforcement, it does not mean it is not illegal. An yes, if they all knew the infringement, they would take action (at least a request for reaching a compromise before a court decision...)
    – Peace
    Oct 3, 2018 at 19:19

First, ethics are hard...

That said, in this case there are professionals and personal ethical considerations.

First personal, do you feel that using the software is an acceptable thing to do? Would you be ashamed to tell your mother or child that you did so? If so, it’s against your personal ethics. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do so, but you should weigh doing the wrong thing versus how much you need to keep getting paid by this employer.

Secondly, professional ethics. That’s actually easier in this case. If you were required to inform your next employer about this, say it magically appeared on your resume, would that have a positive, negative or neutral impact on your getting a job with the kind of company you would want to work for? If negative, it’s against your professional ethics.

Again, this doesn’t mean you should refuse if the answer is negative, just that you need to decide how much possibly damaging your future prospects weighs in consideration.

You should also consider the legal implications of doing this: can you be held financially or criminally liable?

Finally, after considering the personal and professional ethics, as well as any legal liability, you need to weigh the consequences. Can you afford to do the right thing? Can you afford to NOT do the right thing.

  • Thank you very much for the answers: For the personal: As living in Greece where software piracy for everyday users is a pretty common thing and not enforced for simple users, I would not be ashamed to tell that to others. Although my personal ethics tell me to respect another company's IP the same way you expect others to respect your own IP. This leads to the professional ethical considerations: depending on my next employer, I would be ashamed to tell that, as they might think my previous experience is not a serious one and that I have learnt the wrong way.
    – Peace
    Oct 5, 2018 at 15:04
  • Nobody is proud for using corruption to move on even successfully.
    – Peace
    Oct 5, 2018 at 15:04
  • @GePeace: some won’t view it as corruption.
    – jmoreno
    Oct 6, 2018 at 12:00
  • I agree with that it depends on what companies' competitors do on a specific locale.
    – Peace
    Oct 6, 2018 at 14:10

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