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Texas Company pays for unlicensed software

By: Billy Mau, Courier staff

A Conroe (Texas) company has learned that Internet music downloading is not the only form of software piracy experiencing a crackdown.

Multi-Shot, an oil industry service company, paid The Business Software Alliance (BSA) $50,000 Thursday in a settlement over claims that the company had more copies of computer software than were allowed in its licensing agreement.

The BSA also reached a $60,000 settlement Thursday with Progressive Systems LLC, a Houston company, over similar claims.

Representatives for Multi-Shot were unavailable for comment to address the settlement.

While not as publicized as the music downloading controversy in which major record labels have recently targeted teen-agers in lawsuits, business software piracy is a major issue.

"One in four computer programs are unlicensed," said Bob Kruger, National Vice President of Enforcement at BSA. "Globally, piracy costs companies $13 billion in revenue and hundreds of thousands of jobs. It has a severe global impact."

In Texas, 18.6 percent of all business software is unlicensed, costing the state more than $82 million in tax revenue, according to the International Planning and Research Corporation's "2002 State Piracy Study." The BSA is a non-profit watchdog group made up of many leading software manufacturers. The organization works with government policy makers to improve software piracy laws and with businesses to help prevent many problems with office piracy.

Many cases handled by BSA involve companies that were not even aware they had software problems, according to Kruger.

"Most cases could have been avoided if the companies had programs in place to keep track licensed programs," said Kruger.

BSA encourages companies to treat software the same as other assets and adopt effective software management programs to ensure that illegal copies of programs are not made.

The money collected in piracy settlements is used to fund BSA programs from investigations to awareness programs of businesses.

"We don't do this to embarrass companies," Kruger said, adding that the purpose of BSA is to keep businesses from having to go through the embarrassment of investigation and settlement.

"If a company doesn't take software licensing issues seriously, they can expect to face fines," said Kruger.

First published April 17, 2004 ©The Courier 2004

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