People Beginning To Question The BSA's Vindictive Campaign Against Companies Using Unauthorized Software

from the a-bit-out-of-touch-with-the-times dept

The BSA is famous for overhyping its claims. It puts out completely bogus stats about how much unauthorized software "costs" the industry -- which count pretty much every unauthorized copy as a lost sale and doesn't count back in any of the benefits software firms get from people using copied versions of their software. The BSA is also the firm that hypes up how you can get a million dollars for turning in your boss for using unauthorized software, even though the details suggest that the firm rarely pays out more than $5,000. Now more people are hitting back at this program, not just for the bogus numbers, but because the BSA seems to take great joy from squeezing small businesses for thousands of dollars when they often simply couldn't figure out the terms of the software licenses they purchased. The Associated Press looked into the BSA's tactics and found that the organization makes a ton of money from going after these small firms, and also notes that its advertisements telling people to rat out their bosses for unauthorized software usage push employees to turn in their employers rather than actually fix the problem by making sure the firm properly licenses its software. Of course, when squeezing small firms is so lucrative, why would the BSA and its big software backers want more legitimate licenses? That just takes away from the ability to squeeze much more money out of small firms than they ever would have paid for in purchased software. And people wonder why more small businesses are looking to make use of open source products whenever possible? Update: Changed the link to a longer version of the AP story that includes even more details about problems with the BSA's tactics, including a couple of interesting points. First, it notes that the BSA keeps the money it gets, rather than distributing it to the software companies who support the BSA. In other words, the group has every incentive to keep squeezing money out of companies, rather than actually reducing unauthorized use. Second, the article points out that the BSA's actions are, indeed, driving more people to swear off the software of the BSA's supporters.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Freedom, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 9:04am

    Licenses need to be standarized...

    It's an absolute nightmare for small business to be in compliance with software licenses. For a business with less than 20 people, they generally don't have the resources/time available to fully understand the license agreement. In most cases, even the company issuing the licenses don't understand it as you'll get widely different answers when you call to clarify usage restrictions.

    There needs to be a standardized license setup that is easy to understand and follow:

    - Open License: Install on as many PCs and for as many people as you'd like
    - Restricted Device License: Install on x # of devices, unlimited users.
    - Restricted User License: Install on unlimited devices, limited to x users.

    The software companies can then build in compliance to check for users/devices out of range of the license count.

    We also need to start looking at activation standarization. This is the next big class-action lawsuit waiting to happen. Think of the situation where 15 years from now you want to use your copy of Microsoft Office 2003, but you can't because the activation center was taken offline and Microsoft no longer officially supports the product. You have a legal copy but can't use it.

    Whenever a company decides to use activation for license compliance they are handing the client a life-long support contract for activation and activation support which they probably can't cost justify after the first 5 or 10 years. While most folks understand that they don't own the software, just the right to use it, this essentially means that you are now leasing your usage rights to the software for x years.

    A better design would be to require all activation type software to automatically unlock after 7 or 10 years.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Ajax 4Hire, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 9:07am

    Open source rocks!

    I love the freedom and configurability of open-source software.

    I can use it to host a web-site; write "Word" like documents, balance my accounting books, blah, blah, you get the picture.

    The distant threat of lawsuit is also a big plus.

    Open Source and the Free Software Foundation rock my world.
    Yes I am a nerd and love it.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    mat552, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 9:13am

    Re: Open source rocks!

    Unfortunatly, open source will only take you so far. Free software is great, but you cannot eat or pay bills on the income of open source.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Urban Cubbage, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 9:24am

    All software sucks

    You may like open source or pay as you go. But it all sucks in operation. Open source is free to get but costs a bundle when you have problems. Pay as you go (Windows, Mac) costs up front but they support the product after you buy it. Whats the difference between the two, well basically nothing. Each has a cost associated with them. Windows/Macs are easier to use and have standards associated. Open Source roll your own has no standards an tech support is almost nonexistent. With Windows/Mac you are assured that your hardware will work with the OS with Open Source you have to depend on third parties for most drivers. I can trust Microsoft/Apple that the drivers are clean but third party drivers can be written by bad guys. Compatibality between PC's/workstations software is guaranteed with Windows/Macs but it can be a real pain in the neck to get Open Source to play friendly. Dont get me wrong I use all three and do not have a favorite. Just wish we could Pass laws that all software is interoperable with any OS that way we are quaranteed it will work.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Casper, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 9:26am

    Re: Re: Open source rocks!

    Unfortunatly, open source will only take you so far. Free software is great, but you cannot eat or pay bills on the income of open source.


    The problem is that people want to charge for products that are not really very difficult to reproduce. Maybe they should adjust their business models to focus on service generated revenue rather then overpriced boxed software. It isn't a new idea, and it works really well.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 9:47am

    Re: Re: Open source rocks!

    Free software is great, but you cannot eat or pay bills on the income of open source.
    I guess you never heard of Red Hat, Suse, or any of the many other companies doing just that.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Security, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 10:00am

    Software as Service

    Perhaps, as Web based software develops into maturity, this may be the answer for certain business applications and small businesses, especially as offline editing becomes a common feature.

    Some businesses are still uncomfortable with this software as service business model. Some are also uncomfortable with open source and want to stick to the mainstream.

    However, many users do not fully exploit the full features of their client based business productivity apps - and each new upgrade brings more features that rarely get used while consuming more memory.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 10:07am

    Free software is great, but you cannot eat or pay bills on the income of open source.
    I guess you never heard of Red Hat, Suse, or any of the many other companies doing just that

    Yes and how does that help wen programs like AutoCAD, in which there is no alternate of the same quality, are required to run your business.

    Most business make money from software by having it do a required job that supports some other activity other than writing or distributing software.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Exhumist, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 10:12am

    Severence Package

    If you work for a company that may be short a few licenses, Why try to fix the problem?? If you are let go for some reason, you have a nice $5000 severence package waiting for you. (As long as licensing software wasn't your responsibility)

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    I Like Mike, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 10:16am

    Death to Shrinkwrap

    BSA's tactics coupled with incomprehensible licensing is pushing more small businesses to drop shrink-wrapped software whenever they can. I have a friend whose small business was struggling to pay for the M$ Office and OS software licenses. We looked at what they did with their Office software and determined OpenOffice offered all the features they needed so they dumped M$ Office. Next, they figured out Google Mail was a much cheaper alternative and didn't require them to maintain a mail server - flush. Now they are looking to switch to Linux for their server OS. My bet is they are looking to dump their PC OS too.

    Granted, not all businesses can do this and there is a support/compatibility risk but when cost is nearly $0 many companies will examine these type of options. BSA's tactics will simply fuel the drive to switch.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Harry, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 10:16am

    Proprietary problem

    I got angry at Microsoft a long tome ago when media failure, not personal choice dictated the purchase of new software. Also vexing are M$'s schemes to tie licenses to hardware so when hardware dies the OEM license dies with it. It seems that whenever technology changes, proprietary software capitalizes on it.

    Someone should do a study to find out the money lost to customers from stupid things like

    1 defective media
    2 lost activation codes
    3 driver incompatibility
    4 Impossible re-installation situations
    5 End of product support
    etc. etc.

    Things could be so much easier if they weren't so jealous about protecting their own crappy code.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 10:20am

    Re: All software sucks

    Open source is free to get but costs a bundle when you have problems.
    So is proprietary software support. Ever bought support from Oracle? It isn't cheap. Even Microsoft doesn't give it away.

    Pay as you go (Windows, Mac) costs up front but they support the product after you buy it.
    Not for free. Unless you're on a contract with them they charge per incident for support.

    Windows/Macs are easier to use and have standards associated.
    Microsoft loves to use non-standard file formats and to do other things in non-standard ways. It's called "lock-in" and is a favorite tactic among proprietary software vendors.

    Open Source roll your own has no standards an tech support is almost nonexistent.
    Just the opposite. Open source software is far more likely to follow standards that proprietary software. "Lock-in" isn't a goal with open source. And if you want paid support there are companies offering that for open source as well.

    With Windows/Mac you are assured that your hardware will work with the OS
    There is a lot of hardware out there that no longer works under the newer versions of Windows. A friend of mine for example has to keep an old Windows 98 box around just because the video capture card in it will not work with anything later than 98. Tell me who assures that it will work under XP so that I can send him to them for a fix. Yeah, thought so.

    I can trust Microsoft/Apple that the drivers are clean but third party drivers can be written by bad guys.
    How do you know? Have independent experts had a chance to look at the source? Of course not. That's what makes open source more trustworthy.

    Compatibality between PC's/workstations software is guaranteed with Windows/Macs but it can be a real pain in the neck to get Open Source to play friendly.
    Who gives that guarantee? Certainly not Microsoft or Apple.

    Dont get me wrong I use all three and do not have a favorite.
    Could have fooled me. By the way you've been bashing open source I would've sworn you were a proprietary software shill.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 10:40am

    Ignorance?

    Now more people are hitting back at this program, not just for the bogus numbers, but because the BSA seems to take great joy from squeezing small businesses for thousands of dollars when they often simply couldn't figure out the terms of the software licenses they purchased.
    I am not really defending BSA, but when did ignorance become a defense?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    zcat, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 10:41am

    Free software can't support a business?

    Ignoring the businesses that exist just to sell or support free software, let's look at businesses that USE only free software.

    Example #1: Ernie Ball. Textbook example of how you can switch your existing business from Windows to Linux if you really get pissed off at the BSA. There have been others since.

    Example #2: Thawte. Remember that Shuttleworth guy? He got comfortably rich without ever booting a Windows PC.

    Example #3: Google. I think they're still turning a profit. I seriously doubt that it would be possible to scale any version of Windows server to an operation this size.

    Example #4: Akamai. Ditto.

    You want more examples? I'm sure I can find some..

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    old guy, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 10:47am

    You guys kill me. Why don't one of you go out and raise money for a startup. Then pay for rent, employee salaries, all that crap.

    Then start to advertise your product. That costs money too.

    Then, sit back when some punk kid posts your software with a hacked activation serial# for anyone to download. Then that get's blasted to Torrents and now tens of thousands of people are downloading your hard work/money for free.

    Ohhh, I can hear you kiddies now. "Oh, but each pirated copy gets someone to buy the real product"...or, "Things could be so much easier if they weren't so jealous about protecting their own crappy code".


    Yea. Uh huh. Sure...

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 11:02am

    Re:

    Then, sit back when some punk kid posts your software with a hacked activation serial# for anyone to download.

    Maybe because we're not that stupid. Sorry if you are.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 11:28am

    Re:

    "and now tens of thousands of people are downloading your hard work/money for free."

    That's great because that usually means that tens of thousands of people (if not more) are paying for the software.

    I despise it when old farts think that because it's freely downloadable means that no one is paying for it. If I really wanted to I could get Windows for free. Not hard at all. Do you see them losing money over it? How about Doom, Half-life, World of Warcraft? I can run my own server for warcraft and use it for free. Doesn't seem to be stopping blizzard.

    What you don't get is that if your software is good, people will pay for it (windows is probably not a good example). Yes people will download it. That will not change. (get that threw your thick skull) If you make your software harder for legitimate people to use then more people will go the easy route and download it. But as I said before people will still pay for the good stuff.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    zcat, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 11:29am

    New paradigm..

    The days or writing a program and getting paid every time someone wants a copy are on the way out. You need to find a new business model.

    Offering web services based on free software works for a lot of people.

    Running a completely unrelated business (like making and/or selling clothing, CDs, or guitar strings) on free software is possible, although not a lot of people are doing it yet.

    Offering support and training for free software is likely to be a growing market. A lot of businesses are taking a serious look at free software, and often the only thing holding them back is readily available suport and training.

    If you want to get paid for writing software, remember that even now 90% of software is written in-house to meet a particular need. For example, IBM employs thousands of full-time developers (I can't find the exact number right now) who are paid very well to write code for Linux and other open-source projects. They don't do it because they're philanthropists, they do it because it makes good business sense. IBM isn't in the business of selling software, they're in the business of selling hardware and solutions that work for their customers.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    I Like Mike, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 11:53am

    You sell services, not software

    You make money from selling services: enhancements, upgrade services, troubleshooting, production support outsourcing, productivity seminars, sponsored user group forums, etc. etc.

    Stop thinking of software as the product...the product is the service people buy to more productively use the software.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Kevin, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 1:02pm

    Re: Ignorance?

    I am not really defending BSA, but when did ignorance become a defense?

    It's not, because you don't have to be ignorant unless you want to. There's a funny thing about software licensing, and that is that the software company wants to sell licenses. And while their licensing schemes may be complex, they're not unintelligible. I know that the article is about the BSA, but the BSA is pretty much Microsoft's enforcement arm, and I know that Microsoft is pretty reasonable about helping people sort out licensing.

    The simple fact is that most companies, even those that make an effort to stay properly licensed, inevitably fall a few licenses short. But you can call someone at Microsoft Licensing and they will help you sort out what you need. I actually had an IT director once who was so frustrated with Microsoft licensing that they called MS and said "I need help." Microsoft paid to send a consultant to our site for a couple of days to help us understand their licensing schemes and set up a self audit. At the end of the audit we discovered (unsurprisingly) that we were short on some licenses. But instead of being fined all we had to do was purchase the missing licenses within 60 days. Microsoft got some money, we got straight on the licensing, and we actually got some really good information not only on how the product licenses worked, but also about other Microsoft licensing options that we hadn't considered before that provide more value.

    I think that's probably part of the problem. Most people just don't bother to learn what's out there for businesses. When your company is buying shrink-wrapped copies of MS Office from Circuit City, you're probably going to end up with a license deficit. But if you're buying volume licenses through on the their Open, Select, or Enterprise plans, you'll not only save money but you'll also get some tools that make keeping track of licenses a lot easier.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 1:31pm

    Re: Re: Ignorance?

    And while their licensing schemes may be complex, they're not unintelligible.
    To an expert. Or sometimes not even then. I've called Oracle's licensing department with the same licensing question six different times and gotten six different answers. If even they can't figure it out, how am I supposed to?

    I know that the article is about the BSA,
    More specifically, it is about the BSA and small business. Try to remember that.

    the BSA is pretty much Microsoft's enforcement arm, and I know that Microsoft is pretty reasonable about helping people sort out licensing.
    Oh yeah, that's what the whole story is about: How reasonable the BSA is.

    I actually had an IT director once who was so frustrated with Microsoft licensing that they called MS and said "I need help." Microsoft paid to send a consultant to our site for a couple of days to help us understand their licensing schemes and set up a self audit.
    That's nice and all, but most small businesses don't have IT directors and Microsoft doesn't fly consultants out to them either.

    When your company is buying shrink-wrapped copies of MS Office from Circuit City, you're probably going to end up with a license deficit.
    In other words, you're going to wind up BSA bait. That's why many are swearing off those products. Using them is a big risk liability they can't afford.

    But if you're buying volume licenses through on the their Open, Select, or Enterprise plans, you'll not only save money but you'll also get some tools that make keeping track of licenses a lot easier.
    Again, while I'm sure those things are nice for large companies, let me remind you that we're talking about small business. Those things aren't available to small business.

     

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  22.  
    icon
    Steve R. (profile), Nov 26th, 2007 @ 1:31pm

    Re: Proprietary problem

    Quite true. It's unfortunate that a consumers monetary/time costs are not considered when a company whines about their lost dollars.

    Recently, I bought my daughter a Samsung MP3 player, it has a proprietary USB cable. That is totally unnecessary.

    We had to replace our Belkin UPSs. We discovered that they are now proprietary. WindowsXP used to recognize them withtout installing any software. Now you have to install Belkin's proprietary software.

    Chargers, wouldn't it be nice to have one standard 12V charger that could be used on any device. We don't need a plethora of incompatible chargers for our electronics.

    Proprietary products suck.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Rich Kulawiec, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 2:11pm

    Yet another why open-source is superior

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Rich Kulawiec, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 2:26pm

    Yet another reason why open-source is superior

    (


    Let's try that with a comment-body and without a stack
    of reference books collapsing on the keyboard, shall we?)


    If you buy closed-source software, you're buying into the
    nightmare of licensing that the vendors will inevitably
    inflict on you. You're also buying into the myriad of
    reliability, bugfix, support, maintenance and security
    issues that go with it. It shouldn't surprise anyone that
    closed-source software's tradeoffs are all one-sided:
    the vendors want it that way, arguably must have it that
    way to survive.


    While open-source has its issues as well, at least it sidesteps
    most of these -- you won't find extortionist thugs like the BSA
    hounding you because you downloaded and used something
    that's GPL'd (or covered under another license). And as numerous
    businesses has shown (I see someone has already cited
    Ernie Ball) it's completely possible to survive without closed-source software. (Those who say it can't be done
    are really saying that they can't figure out how to do
    it. Clearly others already have and are thriving.)


    What we are seeing with the BSA is the same as we're seeing
    with the MPAA/RIAA: the desperate measures of those
    clinging to an obsolete business model, and trying to extract
    as much money from it as possible before it finally expires.
    They're just as disposable.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2007 @ 6:00pm

    Couldn't it be possible to have the employee's sign a document stating that if they turn them into the BSA without first telling the employer of the problems and giving them ample time to upgrade then said employee would have to pay the BSA and all legal fees it took defending against the BSA and to find out who the BSA paid

     

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  26.  
    icon
    chris (profile), Nov 30th, 2007 @ 2:03pm

    Re: Re: Open source rocks!

    Unfortunatly, open source will only take you so far. Free software is great, but you cannot eat or pay bills on the income of open source.

    i call bull. you can fully make tons off open source, ask any web host... ask google... ask pretty much anyone...

    oh, you want to work from 9 to 5 and write code all day without any im and get paid huge amounts of money like it's the 80's? good luck with that, those days are over.

     

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  27.  
    icon
    chris (profile), Nov 30th, 2007 @ 2:09pm

    Re: All software sucks

    but open source software sucks less.

    commercial software has the same problems that open source software has, only OSS has a community that will help you. try it some time.

    good luck finding help with a mac OS or windows problem. sure you can buy books, but they make OSS books too.

    check out freebsdforums.com or ubuntuforums.com, they are huge searchable repositiories for advice on open source software. in the windows world, nothing even comes close, especially when you are dealing with sever stuff like SQL or IIS.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    James, Oct 14th, 2013 @ 2:27pm

    Re: Re: Open source rocks!

    Depends, there is comercial opensource (mySQL, IBM WebSphere, Alfresco CMS, Oracle JAVA(it's opensourceish like Adobe or Apache Flex), ZEND PHP, etc.) and free opensource (like Apache web werver, PHP, Python, PostgreSQL, etc.).
    I make custom made software using free open source that interop with comercial closed source programs and i am doing well.
    Technology is growing faster than economy and politics, they're living in the past (they're like the old lady that uses an iPad as a chop table).

    Opensource opened the hole for people that got fired by companie's downsize to become their own business, there is so much to do for so many people out there.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    AC, Mar 25th, 2014 @ 12:18pm

    Re: Re: Open source rocks!

    'Tarded, eh?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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