I work as an engineer for a very small company which is specialized in mechanical engineering design & simulation. Since I arrived here almost 2 years ago, we have been using cracked softwares to do most of our technical tasks (CAD, simulation, calculation, etc...) which is basically everything we're doing. I was never comfortable with that, and whenever possible, I'd always switched to an open source alternative even though the changes were not always accepted very well by my colleagues or my boss.
Anyway, my boss (the CEO) is very stingy, he's not very technical although he's kind of managing the team. He doesn't see the benefit of buying licences. I tried to tell him that I was bothered using cracked software, because we're regularly running into bugs & problems we don't know how to deal with, that I waste a lot of time trying to figure my way out and tinkering solutions. Also I tried to tell him that paying a license for at least one or two of those softwares means we can have support, formations, which means we become more proficient therefore we can be more profitable for him. But he's avoiding the subject, he's delaying, he's lying about it. He doesn't even want to contact sales to have at least an idea of what could be the cost (even though I know it's not a small investment). I suppose he's been doing this for years and he's not worried of the risks.
I even tried to convince him once by telling him what happens to the companies that get caught doing that (I know someone who works for FEA software company, he knows my situation and told me about what he knows from the anti-crack team in his company). If it happens for us, then it is bankruptcy for sure.
What is my responsibility in being aware of it, and by using those softwares on a daily basis? Should I be worried for my job and my colleagues' jobs? Should I back-off on this topic and stop bringing it up? It tends to create tension between me and the rest of the company (the others don't really care), because it highlights the fact that I don't like the ethical behaviour of my boss generally speaking.
I also should add that I've been looking for a new job that's different from what I'm currently doing, but the pandemic situation has made it more difficult.
Thanks for your attention
Concerning my area, I work in France.
I've heard that the Software Companies mostly track down "big fishes", and when they do find one, they usually put the fraudster on the spot and leave him no choice but to make a bad deal by buying licenses to avoid prosecution. I don't think we enter in this category, but to me it doesn't matter. Best case, I end up losing my job, worst case I end up in prison. I thought about "blackmailing" my boss by telling him that if he doesn't make any effort to do legit business, I might turn him in. But I don't see any good ending to that story.
I know there are a lot of companies out there that are not willing to pay the full price for what they're actually using. I don't blame them; maybe the market is at fault I don't know. But still, the facts show that I'm aware of the situation.
When I mentioned Open Source Alternatives, to be explicit when I arrived here I switched from Matlab (unlicensed) to GNU Octave and tried to convince my colleagues to do the same. It is basically the exact same tool, at least the way we're using it. But for those who know a little bit about the CAD/FEA software industry, there's no easy way around the licensed softwares. And all the more when you start to want to use more complex tools/functions.
Based on all of your answers, I'm going to contact a lawyer soon. There's no written proof that I brought up this topic several times with my boss and my colleagues. I'm still thinking about writing an email but I have to think about how to put it in a way that doesn't raise more tension and make my boss suspicious about my intentions. I don't trust/like him, so I wish to move on to another job quickly. If that is the case, I don't intend to turn the company in, whatever the reward. I know there could be a lesson for my boss here but jobs are at stake.
The CEO is also the owner of the company yes. He's more like a business man that has other incomes than our small engineering company. He works with us let's say 30/40% of his time, the rest of his time he's involved in consulting for other companies, boards, real estate...(he doesn't share much about it).
Someone said in the comments that I am overthinking this. I have also told myself the same thing for quite some time, this is mainly why I accepted this situation for so long. But because we're doing engineering here, most of the time we're designing parts & components for amateur aircraft industry. We're supposedly "covered by insurances if anything happens with what we deliver" (according to my boss at least... I don't really know what's worth). I keep imagining what will happen the day something happens with what we designed. We might get in serious trouble just because we don't have the legitimacy to say that we have calculated parts with reliable/legit means. I'm not saying that the use of a licensed software takes away the responsibility here, but you keep some credibility. Hence the need to have at least one license for delivering studies.