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.

Filed Under: bsa, copyright, software


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  1. identicon
    Kevin, 26 Nov 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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