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Is Your Boss A Pirate?

The Business Software Alliance, an organization representing the nation's software manufacturers, is calling on employees to turn in employers who are using unlicensed software. They're even dangling a $1 million reward as an incentive.

The alliance launched its rewards program back in the fall of 2005 and said it has since settled with hundreds of companies since then. But, as part of a campaign that kicked off this week and will continue through October, the alliance has upped the reward from $200,000 to $1 million.

The organization says that software piracy causes millions of dollars in lost revenues every year and that illegal software can increase the risk for security and technical problems in a workplace. Companies face fines of up to $150,000 for each software title that has been copied.

Sure, many businesses don't mean to use unlicensed software. Executives at fast-growing companies often put software licensing on the back-burner. Some rely on outside tech professionals to manage the software - and later find that the software wasn't installed legally. Others point to employees who installed software on a company machine without authorization.

"Businesses have a million excuses for having unlicensed software on office computers," said Jenny Blank, Director of Enforcement for the Business Software Alliance. "BSA is now offering up to a million dollars for employees who turn them in."

By Sam Diaz  |  July 5, 2007; 2:18 PM ET  | Category:  Sam Diaz
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Key phrase: "up to" $1,000,000.

Since the payout is a percentage of the fines, in order for you to receive that much money, the BSA would have to go up against a huge Fortune 100 company and find major violations. But taking on a company big enough to afford some serious lawyers would only get them a huge court battle, and the likely loss of a major customer.

This campaign may be the best thing the BSA has ever done to encourage the use of Free and Open Source Software (ala Firefox, OpenOffice.org and Linux). Not only does it help prevent viruses, spyware and other security problems, but it can also protect your company from jackbooted thugs like the BSA.

Even though I've been a proprietary software engineer for almost 30 yrs, every time I've ever seen a company come to rely on a proprietary software product from another company, it has eventually come back to bite them in one way or another.

Posted by: ThisJustIn | July 5, 2007 6:08 PM

In our experience all the reward scheme does is encourage employees or ex-amployees to "get even" and cause significant disruption. Most sites end up paying the pipers tune as they really have no idea what is installed on their systems due to lax controls and inefficient management practises.

They can get a free Snapshot of the state of their systems at http://www.pcprofile.com/SnapshotPCP_Demo.zip to see if they need to take drastic action before they get bitten by this latest campaign.

Rob Harmer www.pcprofile.com

Posted by: PCProfile | July 6, 2007 8:44 PM

Rob:
Thanks for the laugh!

As a Linux user, I don't need your product, so I can just watch your fear mongering with amusement.

But the funniest part was looking at your application. Are you really able to scare poor Windows users into paying $25 for a program that counts how many "*.EXE" files they have on their system? Shouldn't it count the number of software packages instead (which a user could do simply by looking in their Start menu)? Shouldn't it limit its scan to programs with non-freeware or personal-use-only shareware licenses? Shouldn't you filter out built-in Windows programs?

I feel sorry for Windows customers who have been trained to accept being nickel and dime'd by MSFT, AV-companies, shareware-utility companies (e.g. WinZip) and application companies; just so they can have a computer that does something useful without it being ripped apart by viruses and spyware each time it's connected to the Internet.

Microsoft customers are so well trained that "there's no free lunch" or that "you get what you pay for", that when the wikipedia-effect of the Internet actually produces a superior software product that is available for free - no strings attached (ala Firefox), they can't believe it. They still go out and buy a new computer so that they can pay Microsoft (and several others) so that they can run a bloated, buggy Vista OS and/or live in mortal fear that the BSA is going to kick their door down.

Hint: Try Ubuntu, for free, forever (http://www.ubuntu.com).

Download the "Live Boot" image, burn it to a CD-ROM, boot the CD-ROM, and you can give Linux a test drive without damaging your Windows system in any way. See what you think. See the thousands of free, powerful applications that are available built-in to Linux, including Firefox and OpenOffice.org.

What have you got to lose, except your Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt?

Note: I don't work for them. They never charge money for their software. No credit cards required. You do not need to accept any License whatsoever to use it. There's no need to call your lawyer to have him read a 3-in square window with an EULA in it before you accept it.

Alternatively, you can try my favorite flavor: Kubuntu (http://www.kubuntu.com). It's the same thing as Ubuntu with a more Mac-like desktop style.

Share and Enjoy.

Posted by: ThisJustIn | July 9, 2007 12:19 PM

Last week, the Business Software Alliance (BSA) announced that it will temporarily increase its rewards incentive from $200,000 to $1 million from July to October 2007. This is the second dramatic increase in the organization's rewards program which offers financial incentives to anonymous tipsters who report software license violations. In February of 2006, the BSA increased its reward amount from $50,000 to $250,000. Scott & Scott issued a statement in response to the initial increase, and feels obligated to speak out in support of businesses negatively impacted by the reward program.

The BSA's dramatic reward increase was announced in conjunction with the release of the organization's new nationwide radio and internet advertising campaign, entitled "Blow the Whistle," which incites businesses' employees or former employees to report employers who allegedly run unlicensed software products.

The BSA's practice of paying reward money to confidential informants raises many questions about the organization's enforcement practices.

In our experience, business owners targeted by the BSA frequently believe that the person suspected of making the report to the BSA either was responsible for failing to maintain compliance or maliciously installed software without the owner's knowledge.

In its announcement, the BSA claimed "a 'million' excuses will not protect a company caught with unlicensed software." Scott & Scott believes the software industry, acting through the BSA, is taking a very shortsighted approach to the issue of compliance.

Many companies, particularly the small to mid-sized businesses targeted by BSA, often do not have the resources necessary to invest in costly compliance programs; and the software industry as a whole has failed to do its fair share to reduce the burden of compliance for well-meaning but resource-constrained businesses.

The software industry and its trade groups have not done enough to ease the burden of compliance management on its customers. This leaves the onus of compliance entirely on the customers - the very businesses that the software publishers actively pursue through trade groups such as the BSA.

These facts lead our firm to question whether the Business Software Alliance, an organization created and supported by software publishers to protect the intellectual property of its members, is actually encouraging software piracy by giving disgruntled employees a chance to become a millionaire.

Posted by: Rob Scott | July 14, 2007 8:58 PM

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