Is it a acceptable to use pirated software to do your job without telling your boss about it?

I find that rather than getting your employer to buy the software it's easier to use a pirated copy to do your work and without mentioning that the software wasn't properly licensed.

It often seems nobody really asks or cares how you got the work done as long as it gets done...

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    Is it acceptable for a construction worker to go to Lowes and shoplift the tools and lumber to build a house on behalf of the company he works for as long as he didn't tell anybody? I would say it is not ok. Commented Apr 19, 2012 at 13:44
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    @JoshPennington The problem with that statement is that piracy is not "stealing". If I shoplift the materials to build a house, Lowes has lost thousands of dollars worth of materials - materials that can't be sold to the next customer. If I pirate a copy of Adobe Dreamweaver to build a website, adobe is out of money for their product - but haven't lost anything because they can still sell dreamweaver to the next person. Both routes are wrong, but they are not the same by any stretch of the imagination. (Personally, I will "try before I buy" - but not in a work environment).
    – WernerCD
    Commented Apr 19, 2012 at 14:21
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    The great thing about internet-sourced legal advice is that it's worth every penny you pay for it! Commented Apr 19, 2012 at 14:51
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    @WernerCD: They are the same by a very small stretch of the imagination: both crimes are depriving the owner of the right to decide who gets to use their property. The fundamental crime of stealing a physical object is not that you are depriving the owner of the ability to sell the object to someone else. Rather, it is that you are using it in any way whatsoever without their consent. Commented Apr 19, 2012 at 15:42
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    Remember, comments on questions are primarily there to help people make their question better, not for general discussion. Answers, even short ones, are better off as answers, anything else should be taken to The Workplace Chat.
    – Mark Booth
    Commented Apr 19, 2012 at 15:53

9 Answers 9


Is it a acceptable to use pirated software on the job without telling your boss about it?

Acceptable to whom? Clearly it is acceptable to you, or you wouldn't be asking. If your question is "is this acceptable to my boss?" then the person you should be asking is your boss. Let us know how that conversation goes.

It's certainly not acceptable to me.


It is an extremely bad idea!

  • While you may not personally care about the law, the company can get into trouble because of your actions.

  • The company policy might want to prevent misuse of any software including the risk involved due to pirated software.

  • You don't necessarily own the resources of the company and hence don't quite have the right to do stuff against said policy.

  • If there is a need for the tool in order for you to really perform work, then company should pay for it or provide you with alternative tools.

It definitely will hurt the society; It may hurt the company and it may hurt you as well.


No, it is not acceptable to use pirated software to do your job, in fact it could lose you your job.

In the UK, the use of pirated software would usually be considered gross misconduct and be grounds for summary dismissal, so as risks go, that's a pretty big one.

As others have mentioned, the reason companies treat this so seriously is because the consequences for the company can be grave.

In the UK, The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) publicises the legal penalties and security risks for piracy and prosecutes both organisations and individuals on behalf of its members. They also promote the use of Software Asset Management to help companies avoid copyright infringement.

Even using software provided by your company, if you know it to be pirated, could result in pretty dire consequences - it's not impossible that you could be considered to be a conspirator and personally liable.

Under such circumstances, ethically you should report the infringement to FAST (in the UK) and any repercussions for this should be covered by whistleblower legislation.

The situation in the US, or in any of the countries around the world whose legal system is based on the UK/UK models, would be pretty much the same.

The specific laws, crimes and enforcement agencies would be different, but the essential principal and the ethics of the situation would be identical.

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    The same sort of thing would happen in the United States. Pirated software in a business is asking for the FBI to raid your office. All it takes is one phone call from a disgruntled co-worker. Commented Apr 19, 2012 at 15:21

Most software is available as a demo version. You can use this trial to demonstrate the benefit of this software (such as increased productivity) and then show the results to your boss. If you can persuade him, you'll get this software legally. If you can not, then let it be! The responsibility for the leak of productivity (if there really is any) then is on someone else.
Question yourself: Why do you want to risk anything?

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    @9emE0iL18gxCqLTa it is alright to try trial software. Usually a commercial use (having a benefit of it in this test phase) is forbidden in most cases.
    – Markus
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 11:30

I used to install pirated software both at home and at the job. Seemed like a good idea and a justifiable shortcut, but, in reality, it was a bad idea. It's like cheating. Once you start, it's very hard to get back on the legitimate track and the returns are never as valuable as doing actual legitimate work. It's like a law of nature, and believe me, if I could go back to the day I began pirating software, I would choose not to and work hard to pay my dues legitimately. I know with every fiber of my being that I would be more successful today had I done that.

I've never heard of anyone getting audited (outside of mergers), but, although that would definitely be a nightmare scenario, the audit is not what you should fear. The real negative effect is that you come to rely on unethical means for your operations. This is how corruption begins and it can grow beyond just pirating software after a while. It's human nature. Once you do something unethical, it's easier to justify other unethical behavior. What may start out as innocent software pirating, can grow into stealing hardware, then to cooking financials in spreadsheets, then to corporate espionage, then to even more unethical things like embezzlement, etc. You might think to yourself, "I would never let it get beyond mere software pirating", but that's the first justification. The second would be, "I would never let it get beyond mere hardware theft", etc.

Watch Devil's Advocate sometime. :)

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    My (US) employer was audited by a major software vendor without a merger for an impetus a few years ago; so it does happen. Commented Apr 19, 2012 at 14:54
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    I too have worked in several places audited by Mircosoft
    – HLGEM
    Commented Apr 19, 2012 at 15:22
  • Disgruntled employees commonly rat out their (sometimes former) employer, or lie in the hopes that an audit would turn up a real instance - anything to get the company in trouble. Who wants to be the person that cost their company a $1M lawsuit?
    – AnonJr
    Commented Mar 19, 2014 at 15:48

Try to do the right thing. I've been in many organizations where the culture of piracy was rampant. Ironically, these were tech firms... Sometimes there's resistance to buying licenses. Perhaps it depends on the size of the company. You can get the organization in quite a bit of trouble by doing this, though. Cover yourself.

  • If you can't obtain the tools necessary to do your job, there's a bigger problem.
  • If you can't sell/justify the need for those tools, there's a bigger problem.
  • +1 -- The use of pirated software is unethical and illegal. Your company should provide you the tools needed to do your job, including software. If they don't that needs to be remedied. If you just happen to like some specific piece of software and want to use it for personal reasons, pay for it. Getting your employer busted by law enforcement for having pirated software on their equipment is a quick way to ensure termination.
    – voretaq7
    Commented Apr 19, 2012 at 18:10

If you steal software for your company then you can get both you and them into a lot of trouble (including fines big enough to make the company go bust). A lot of companies (e.g. Microsoft) make much more of an effort to persue corporate piracy than consumer.


No, don't do it!!

It will not only get your company in trouble, it will also put you at risk as well, and potentially end up with a criminal record.

Some software publishers such as Microsoft will conduct site audits to make sure that all software are being used legally, and with the appropriate license.

If you find that you need a particular tool to do your job, convince your company to buy it.

Again, No, don't do it!!


I'm not going to argue what's right or wrong, but the fact of the matter is that using pirated software is illegal.

You should NEVER do something illegal on your job, no matter if it's OK by your boss (even if he/she explicitly tells you to). If your company won't supply you with the software you need to perform your assigned duties, then that's not your problem.

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