BSA, Microsoft scare tactics target small fish

By Ed Foster, InfoWorld |  Business

Although the targeted companies were small, other readers reported bigger fish that got away. "Over two years ago, I informed the BSA about a company that was in clear violation of all sorts of licenses," wrote another reader about a large company at which he'd been the IT manager. "At the time, I had just been let go from that company because I refused to go along with their piracy. During my time, they purchased over 150 laptop computers without any software licenses for them. ... For the next two years, BSA has been in 'negotiations' with the company. They refuse to give me any status updates, except to say that negotiations are ongoing. They haven't filed any lawsuits and from what I see, the company has gotten away scot-free. ... The BSA has no teeth."

If you look through the settlement announcements in the BSA's press release archives, you get the impression that they only pick on little guys. But Bob Kruger, BSA's vice president of enforcement, says his organization investigates every tip it receives. "We investigate them to the hilt, and we'll go wherever the evidence takes us," he says, adding that the BSA's press releases account for only a fraction of its settlements. "Very often we don't announce settlements, and one of the reasons we don't announce every case is that we don't want to saturate the media. Our goal is to get publicity, and there is a limited amount of interest in the media in reporting our message."

So what have we learned from this? How much is the BSA's campaign really about fighting piracy, and how much is it just more marketing hype for Microsoft? And how can you avoid becoming the next subject in a BSA release? I'm not sure. I'd like to say, "Make sure you don't pirate any software and you're OK," but that may not be enough. If you're not a big company, get big. And it wouldn't hurt to move to an area where the media's been saturated with stories about the evils of software piracy. If you're really worried, go open source -- you won't have to worry about associations of big software companies that want to count your licenses.

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