by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
bogus numbers, piracy, software

Techdirt Still Doesn't Have To Pay Out Up To $1 Million Since The BSA Hasn't Paid Out Either

from the up-to-trickery dept

The BSA sure does love to use bogus numbers. Usually, it's with its stats on "piracy" that are so ridiculously misleading it's amazing that the press reports them as fact so often. However, it also gets away with a silly gimmick where it promises to pay out "up to $1 million" for snitching on your employer for using pirated software. Except, of course, the fine print reveals that the "up to" part is really important. Basically, the BSA gets to decide how much it pays out -- and you can bet that it's not anywhere close to $1 million. In fact, in response to the BSA's program, we promised to pay out up to $1 million to anyone who could prove the BSA paid any individual $1 million. It looks like we're safe again. In 2008, the BSA paid out -- in total -- $136,000 to 42 different people, making an average of $3,200. The BSA is now pitching that as a way to make some extra money in a down economy -- though, I would imagine that losing your job after tipping off the BSA might create a bit more hardship than $3k covers.

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  • icon
    Geoffrey Kidd (profile), 22 Jan 2009 @ 4:19pm

    One Other Problem Here

    Its must losing your job for narcing on your company. No references, and possibly having the NEXT company you try to work for calling your current company up and asking why you left.

    1 earful == 0 chance at a new job

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2009 @ 5:10pm

      Re: One Other Problem Here

      Most astute people do this ahead of time with a friend.

      Should they say something disparaging, well, there's well documented legal recourse.

      I'm still trying to figure out how this relates to Mike's story about BSA issues.

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

    • identicon
      boost, 25 Jan 2009 @ 6:46pm

      Re: One Other Problem Here

      It's illegal for your former employer to tell a prospective employer anything besides whether they would or wouldn't hire you again.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2009 @ 4:55pm

    Targetting the Laid Off Employee


    I remember this story when I was growing up. This company was a mile away from my parent's house. The "tip" allegedly came from a disgruntled employee. I knew a few folks who worked there and the story they told was that UE kept the original install disks for their software in a storage area that was well known to employees. The employees treated it like they treat the Office Supply cabinet.
    The local papers treated it as though UE was buying one copy of an application and installing it everywhere, but I had some friends who worked there. The story they told(and you only have my word to go off of, so don't trust it) was that employees were taking disks home with them and installing these applications for their personal use. The company didn't approve of this but didn't do much to prevent it (in 1994? ... in the auto industry? They had no IT department and the owners probably didn't know what piracy was ... they didn't own a boat).

    The issue is that in a "down economy" any company is a potential target of a recently laid off employee. EULAs are so complex and it's so difficult to manage pseudo-property that the choice becomes: Pay a bunch of lawyers and programmers to build a custom system to manage licenses, or just buy a new license every time the software is installed.

    Then mix in the typical corporate purchasing policy and you end up with this:
    - Every license we purchase, we include Upgrade Maintenance for 3 years, meaning we are legally allowed to upgrade to whatever version is available up to three years after we have purchased the original version (this is about 1.5 to 2 times the cost of the regular license)
    - Upgrade maintenance is great as long as your staff knows it's available and your staff numbers never change. Unfortunately, staff and purchasing managers don't understand maintenance agreements so a new purchase every time a new version is released ... with the same maintenance agreement. Top that off with the fact that when an employee leaves, most companies treat it as though the licenses left with them. No attempts are made to reclaim those licenses.

    The company I work for went from 13,000 (peak) to 3,000 at its worst, but our purchasing behavior never changed.
    Nobody "reclaimed" those licenses like we reclaimed the monitors and computers that we collected.

    At worst we've purchased 16,000 licenses for a given application that about 5,000 are using (current headcount). We do everything possible to prevent anything resembling the appearance of piracy despite the fact that we could probably employ several hundred more folks if not for over-purchasing software licenses.
    I'm going to go out on a limb, but I'll bet that the BSA doesn't offset their "piracy" numbers against the number of licenses that companies like mine over-purchase.

    And yes, we've looked at several "license management" applications. None of these applications provides the intelligence needed to manage several hundred variants of EULA terms without hiring a team of lawyers to verify that we're clear in every variant. And the consequences for screwing it up are exceptional. We've been audited by a few vendors and came out on top after months of wasted man-hours. That clause that says the software vendor will reimburse you if you're complaint is a fantasy. In a large shop, they'll find a PC with a cracked version of "something" under the BSA umbrella. Forget that you've purchased a few thousand more licenses than are needed, reverse engineering is a violation of the EULA. Put that in front of a jury of 12 non-technical folks and now you've wasted money on the audit and the litigation.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2009 @ 6:40pm

    The real threat is people who just got laid off and know something. I Imagine that narcing on Microsoft for all it's unlicensed software isn't going to gain much. Google, Yahoo and Intel have more to worry about.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2009 @ 7:22pm

    Rat to the BSA (bullshit association)

    Really - but what type of person does this ?

    It's not like they are doing this for the betterment of society, stopping an egregious crime, or ..... whatever

    It is because they are sick. These people need professioanl help and they will not seek it out on their own. So, if you meet one of these types, it is your duty to inform them that they should seek professioanl help.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2009 @ 7:45pm

    Mad sometimes?

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

  • identicon
    Peter Beruk, 23 Jan 2009 @ 8:30am

    $ Million dollar payouts for reporting piracy

    The individuals who have decided to report software piracy to the BSA are more often than not, doing so because they know that it's illegal. Yes, some are motivated by the money but many opt out of the reward. They report piracy without fanfare and are content with simply doing the right thing.

    If your company is using illegal copies of software, you can report piracy today at www.nopiracy.com or 1-888-NO-PIRACY.

    Peter Beruk
    Sr. Director, Compliance Marketing
    Business Software Alliance

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

  • identicon
    alternatives(), 23 Jan 2009 @ 6:52pm

    Simple answer

    Don't use closed source licensed apps.

    Only use open source.

    That is why when the BSA sent me a letter for my business I wrote them back that they could go fuck themselves. And, if they DID come by, they'd have to have a court order.

    Alas, the BSA didn't visit.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jan 2009 @ 6:20pm

    BSA member companies need to embrace new business models. Seems to me they should release their products for free and look to touring and concerts to make their dough.

    Oh...wait...they do not tour and give concerts.

    Back to the drawing board, I guess, for another model.

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

  • identicon
    Jay, 23 Mar 2009 @ 8:58pm

    M$ days are numbered

    the B$A have successfully coerced/paid local police and they're sending letters to businesses and threatening raids! I can't wait until we're done migrating our internal systems to a web-based one so we can throw Win98 licenses (YES LICENSED!)to the trash can!!!! our servers (all dozen of them) have all been migrated to linux years ago.

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

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