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Software piracy – the BSA wants to help you to be compliant

by Jo Best

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is launching a 'software detox' campaign to encourage users to get up to date with software compliance and get rid of illegal merchandise.

The BSA's research has found that almost a third of companies aren't on the right side of software legality or just aren't sure if their licensing is up to scratch. In order to get companies onside, the BSA has launched an online software audit to enable businesses to check on the health of their organisations.

As well as cutting the risk of piracy or lapsed licensing, the BSA hopes the audit drive will help users reduce time and money spent on administration, prevent over-licensing and better identify ROI on their software. Last year's drive saw over 4,500 businesses download the tool and the association is hoping to improve on that figure.

The emphasis from the BSA this year, according to a BSA spokesman, will be to "help people rather than scare people".

The excuses among non-compliant companies seem to be that there isn't enough time to be compliant or they lack the proper processes, rather than a deliberate fondness for knocked-off software. "There is a desire to sort [compliance] out – companies just haven't reached that pain threshold yet. We don't want to increase their pain... We have said that if companies come to us for help, we won't pursue them."

Carrot rather than stick seems to be the emphasis here. The BSA is highlighting that pirated or out-of-date software poses security risks - for example, using an illegal copy of Windows means users don't get the same support or access to the latest patches. Being compliant can also cost less than letting licences lapse. A software review can turn up programs that aren't being used and licences that aren't worth renewing – leaving a few extra quid in companies' back pockets.

The legal issues are still worth bearing in mind, however. Among the penalties for companies not doing the right thing are fines and assets being seized. And it's the not the IT guys in the firing line – it's the bosses. Directors can face up to 10 years in prison if their businesses are found guilty of piracy.

First published February 10, 2004

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