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The Almighty Buck

Business Software Alliance "Grace Period" 490

Posted by chrisd
from the well-that's-awfully-good-of-them dept.
The BSA is running (until January 31) a "Grace Period" for "voluntary compliance" in the cities of San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, Houston,Norfolk/Richmond, Nashville, Indianapolis, Bozeman, and Orlando. Small businesses recieve a card in the mail, having been assigned a tracking number, so you know you're in their files. In previous press releases they state that they send out up to 700,000 of these cards simultaneously. Scanning their reported settlement victories, they then seem to pick 2-4 business to destroy. If the businesses don't go along, the BSA hires the Federal Marshals as mercenaries to help ensure compliance with their extortion. Microsoft, unsurprisngly, is a big supporter of this and pushes it to vendors as a chance to strengthen customer relations. (this is a powerpoint document, but thankfully you can also have it: translated via google). CD: Here is a link to the press release on this matter.
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Business Software Alliance "Grace Period"

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  • BSA (Score:5, Funny)

    by nurightshu (517038) <rightshu@cox.net> on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @05:16AM (#2840867) Homepage Journal

    Am I the only sleep-deprived person who read the front page blurb thinking that the Boy Scouts of America would be sending storm troopers into the homes of 700,000 random citizens?

    Guten Morgen! Ve are from ze Boy Scouts, und ve must this home search! After we have zis done, ve vill force you...to tie knots!

    • by krmt (91422)
      Perhaps this is their Eagle Scout project?
    • Re:BSA (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Allnighterking (74212) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @07:08AM (#2841140) Homepage
      Sieg Hiel ...... Seig Hiel ...... Sieg Hiel.....

      Couple of notes. According to the Federal Marshals office. They aren't going to coperate unless proper court orders are issued. According to my local police department... call us and we'll boot there Nazi asses outa town. (can't say what dept it is since it's an off the record quote.) Oh and by the way BSA is a trademark of the Boy Scouts of America.... seems that they are violating Trademark and Copyright laws themselves.
      • Re:BSA (Score:3, Informative)

        by nathanm (12287)
        Oh and by the way BSA is a trademark of the Boy Scouts of America.... seems that they are violating Trademark and Copyright laws themselves.
        Trademarks can be the same if they're in different kinds of business. That's why there could be both Apple Records & Apple Computer.

        Doing a search for BSA at the US Patent & Trademark Office [uspto.gov] yielded 64 trademarks with BSA in it, including this BSA, the Boy Scouts, & others.

        Copyrights only protect a specific document. So if you write an article about the BSA (acknowledging their trademark of course) the article's copyright belongs to you. Just look at the bottom of each page on /. where it says "comments are owned by the Poster." So this comment is © Copyright 2002, me.
        • So if you write an article about the BSA (acknowledging their trademark of course) ...

          Unless you get a thrill out of being a lackey of trademark lawyers, you have no obligation to acknowledge their trademark in any way when you're simply writing an article about them. Have you ever seen a trademark indicated in a newspaper article?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @05:20AM (#2840872)
    OK, let's say you steal $50,000 from the bank, and the police come to your house and say "Give us the $50,000 or we'll throw you in jail." Is that extortion? Hardly.

    Why do people think that illegally copying software is a right? If you don't want to pay for software, use open-source software instead. Isn't that why we're all here -- to promote open source software solutions? Why are we hell bent on also trying to legitamize bootlegged software, when doing so does nothing but make "free software advocates" look like a bunch of freeloaders?

    I wish people would understand that free software is exactly the opposite of freeloading -- it's giving your work away for the public good. Articles like this one put me in the same group of people that are on the side of the illegal theft of intellectual property that someone has chosen not to make public. It's someone else's right to ask me to pay for software, just as it's my right to give it away for free.

    Go write free software. Go use free software. Go evangelize free software. But please, don't be so fucking petty as to complain about someone enforcing the fact that their software isn't free.
    • by Anonymous DWord (466154) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @05:34AM (#2840916) Homepage
      How about the fact that the BSA (I get the BS part, anyway) sends out these cards without discretion? OK, let's say you run Linux or BSD or whatever, and the police come to your house and say "Give us the $50,000 you owe us for software you're not even running." What about companies that legitimately purchase licenses for all their software? It ain't free to audit an organization with 20,000 users, no matter how much documentation you've saved. Who do you think foots the bill for that, even if they're compliant? It sure isn't the BSA, savior of the software industry.
      • So under what terms do they force this audit? Is this part of the large site license agreements that companies sign onto?
        • Re:forced audit? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @06:00AM (#2840987)
          No.

          I'm speaking here as someone who, a couple years ago, was working in the IS department of a company which was hit by one of these threatening letters.

          Generally, they instruct the target company to run their auditing software to "prove" that they are in compliance with all software licenses on site. Such letters of instruction usually include a threat of legal action if the company does not comply. The threat is their standard operating procedure - it doesn't matter if you are 100% legal.

          Since most companies would rather not pay to defend against a frivolous lawsuit, or risk an oversight of some software than Joe Employee may have installed, they end up performing the audit. The BSA doesn't offer any compensation for IS hours lost due to this audit.

          They also arrange penalties for any discovered "violations". Some of these can quickly get out of hand. For example, in my case, a copy of WordPerfect 5.1 (yes, in 1997!) was lying around on a Netware server which 350 people had access to. Nobody even knew it was there. Guess how many times that violation stacked up, even though no one was using the software.

          Although Slashdot's writeup sounds biased, it really IS extortion taking place.

          - SEAL
    • >OK, let's say you steal $50,000 from the bank, and the police come to your house and say "Give us the $50,000 or we'll throw you in jail." Is that extortion? Hardly.

      Yes that is a perfect example of extortion. Non-extortion would be to uphold the law which means an unconditional arrest.
    • by daemonc (145175) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @05:39AM (#2840938)
      The difference is this:

      Situation 1 - The police come to your house with a warrant, because you are a suspect in a crime, and they follow rules of search and seizure as mandated by the constitution.

      Situation 2 - Someone from a non-profit organization that you've never heard of (which happens to be a front for a certain Software Company, which has been found in a court of law to illegally maintain its monopoly on the software industry) comes to your house and demands to see what you have installed on your computer.

      The first situation is called "enforcing the law". I don't know what you would call the second situation, but under some circumstances it might be "extortion".
    • OK, let's say you steal $50,000 from the bank, and the police come to your house and say "Give us the $50,000 or we'll throw you in jail." Is that extortion? Hardly.

      But going to every house and saying this, which is a far better analogy of what the BSA is doing, most certainly would be.
    • by Monte (48723) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @08:53AM (#2841315)
      Why do people think that illegally copying software is a right?

      Why do trolls (BSA included) assume we've been stealing software?

      HTH. HAND.
    • by LittleGuy (267282) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @09:37AM (#2841487)
      More like:

      "We think you have stolen merchandise in your home. We're going to search it, and if you don't have a receipt for everything here, we're going to assume it's stolen, so you'll have to pay for it again, plus pay penalties. And remember, the proof is on you."
      • Good, but with one correction.

        "We think you have stolen merchandise in your home. You're going to hire or pay people to generate a list of all of the items in your home, and if you don't have a receipt for everything here, we're going to assume it's stolen, so you'll have to pay for it again, plus pay penalties. We won't compensate you for the search."
    • by Wntrmute (18056) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @12:15PM (#2842354)
      OK, let's say you steal $50,000 from the bank, and the police come to your house and say "Give us the $50,000 or we'll throw you in jail." Is that extortion? Hardly.


      Actually, if the police bust down my door without a warrent, or with an illegally obtained one, it *is* illegal.

      Let's say $50,000 has been stolen by someone in the city of, say, Orlando. The police most certainly cannot knock down doors of every house in Orlando without a warrant. If they do, the evidence is illegally obtained, and inadmissable in a court of law.

      If they BSA were to show up at my door, I can first tell them to piss off, as they are a private organization with no law enforcement powers. Next they come back with a warrant, and get in, and find an illegally copy of FooBar 1.0. If our legal system actually worked, I could challenge the legality of the warrant on Probable Cause grounds, arguing that they had no reason to believe that I had illegal copies, thus making the search illegal, and the evidence inadmissable. (Refusing entry to your private space to someone without a warrant is not grounds for Probabale Cause either).

      Unfortunately, I believe in some civil cases (which copyright infingment is) illegally obtained evidence can be admitted. So, they'd be able to sue me based on evidence concidered illegal in a criminal court.

      Extortion? Maybe not. Flying in the face of at least the spirit of due process and the Constitution? Most definitly.
  • by Lokni (531043) <reali100NO@SPAMchapman.edu> on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @05:22AM (#2840875)
    I run a one person operation out of my house and I got one of these letters. What do they do, go down the list of businesses in an area and figure EVERYBODY is pirating their software? I am ingnoring everything they send me. If they want to send a federal marshall to my house, I will see their ass in court. I haven't run windows for about 2 years now, and have never had any employees to rat on me for using "illegal software." Pirate my ass. More than anything this makes me want to start doing file sharing on every piece of software I own.
    • by Anonymous DWord (466154) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @05:29AM (#2840898) Homepage
      You should provide them with an "anonymous" tip about all the software you're "stealing." Have you ever seen the online form they have for reporting piracy? There's a little section on it that you can check- "I believe that this company would attempt to eliminate the pirated software if they were informed beforehand," or something like that. Check that off, and then sue them when they bust in and steal all your Linux boxen, depriving you of work.
      • You should provide them with an "anonymous" tip about all the software you're "stealing." Have you ever seen the online
        form they have for reporting piracy? There's a little section on it that you can check- "I believe that this company would
        attempt to eliminate the pirated software if they were informed beforehand," or something like that. Check that off, and then sue
        them when they bust in and steal all your Linux boxen, depriving you of work.


        I am not a lawyer, but that sounds a little like entrapment.
    • I run a one person operation out of my house and I got one of these letters.

      Similar story here. We got one of their letters a year or so ago. Small family business, non-existant for the last few years. I can't imagine what obsolete list they were using.

      Well, at least it was good for a chuckle before permanent storage in the circular file for future reference.

      -
    • I heard a radio ad here in St. Louis yesterday soliciting tips from disgruntled employees. It had the tone of "If you want to get back at your boss, report him for piracy!" I really hate radio to begin with, but that was the first time something I heard on it actually made me sick to my stomach.

      My dad's company was targeted by this about a year ago. They think it was an employee that left a little before that, but I wonder about that now, because the guy they suspect was always trying to bring pirated and "student" versions of software to work, and the company kept trying to stop him. Their lawyer finally sent the BSA a letter demanding certain things, proof of pirating being the key thing, and they still haven't heard back from them in 9 months. It seems they shut the hell up if you try to stand up to them.
      • Similar kind of scare tactic here in Chicago last summer.

        The radio spot said something to the effect that the BSA gets most of its tips from former or current disgruntled employees. Then went on to add, If your company has no former or current disgruntled employees, you can disregard this announcement. Otherwise, contact blah blah blah during this grace period. The BSA *will* be returning to the Chicago area later this year to follow up on all anonymous tips it receives, and you can save yourself and your company big headaches by making sure you are in compliance *now*!

        Man, that sounded really out of line. It is one thing to try to get companies to pay for all the software it uses, yet another to use tactics like these.
    • IYes, that is exactly how they work.

      You do need to be careful with your strategy, though. I don't know what the exact position is in the US, but bear in mind that where they can, the BSA have whichever local law they bring in with them *confiscate* your computers as "evidence". How long it's going to take you to get them back I leave as an exercise to the reader. How long your business will stay afloat without your computers ditto.
    • You are a registered business?

      You don't have a registered WindowsXX (Office, etc.) license?

      => You are obviously a pirate!

      The logic is quite simple. (and scary)
    • Here's what you do:
      1. Get an old POS computer and monitor.
      2. Install Linux, including X.
      3. On a buddy's Windows machine, make a bitmap of the whole screen, with several MS applications prominently featured.
      4. On the POS Linux box, run X with no window manager and don't run any applications.
      5. Set that bitmap as the background on your POS Linux box.
      Let the marshals confiscate that box, while they pass by your own, super-leet computer that doesn't even look like a computer.
    • Simple : Tell them you don't own a business, since you're at home. Then tell them to fsck off before you sue/shoot them. Or you could just go straight to shooting without warning (they are trespassing, after all).

      The BSA is just an incompetent bunch of tie-wearing thugs. They handle M$ and others' dirty work every once in a while, just to scare the others.

      They don't own any software, they don't have any licensing contracts with you, and they don't give you a plushie if you're compliant. Bottom line : they have no legal right to enter your premises, even less so to futz around on your PCs and collect data. Time to load that shotgun!
  • by Barbarian (9467) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @05:22AM (#2840877)
    So how exactly does this work? If you're a business in that area, do they send you a "card", and demand you reply with a statement saying that you're 100% compliant or they'll sue the pants off of you?
    • Actually, it's really more like if you're a business in that area, they send you a form letter, and hope you panic and buy a bunch of licenses to make sure your ass is covered, and they never do much of anything to anyone. At least, that's how it went down in Atlanta when they did this last summer...
  • by Paul Johnson (33553) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @05:26AM (#2840888) Homepage
    ...mercenaries to help ensure compliance with their extortion...

    Or in other words making people pay what they agreed to pay when they started using the software. Its not like they didn't have a choice.

    Emotive words like "mercenaries" and "extortion" don't help, any more than words like "piracy" and "software theft".

    Meantime this is an excellent time to stop preaching to the choir and start telling those businesses about open source software. Issue press releases. Get interviewed by radio and TV.

    Paul.

    • The point isn't about piracy.. it's about harassing the hell out of everyone without any legal backing. True, buying proper licenses is the "right way", and that's how it should be.

      That doesn't mean these guys can just walk in and raid your office however they see fit. I don't let the cops in without a warrant, so I wouldn't let the BSA in without a cop AND a warrant. They have no reasonable proof that I _MAY_ be using unlicensed software, so in theory they _SHOULD_ have no way of getting a search warrant. Anonymous tips on their web site don't count as 'reasonable proof', because no one can be held accountable. What they are doing is cooperative fraud, teaming with the megawhores of software. If at least they stood up for the small guys (like all the cheap fucks who used cracks and keygens on my old doorgames), then maybe I could find some sympathy for their extortionary tactics, but they don't and I won't.
      • On warrants. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mindstrm (20013)
        Actually... and I have no idea whether this is the same in the US or not...
        But technically, if a private citizen (not a cop, I mean) showed up with a warrant, you'd have to let him exercise it, just as if he were a cop.

        I know of one person anyway (This was in Calgary, Alberta, Canada) who, years ago when his credit card was being used fraudulently to look at porn, and he tracked it back to a local ISP... he went to the cops. The cops said "We don't really have any idea how to proceed.. sorry, nothing we can do (this was years ago)"

        So.. he went to the courthouse, went to a Justice of the Peace, and filed for a search warrant. The Justice said "I don't think I can do that sir (it had never come up before)". The guy cited relevant sections of the law, and the judge politely asked for some time to review it.
        The next day, he had a search warrant, to search the logs of the ISP in question to find out who the user was.
        Now.. not wanting to piss anyone off, like the cops, he then took the warrant to THEM, and again requested their assistance, as he already had a warrant. They sent a couple guys with him, no problem.

        What you say about proof is absolutely what the problem is. It's like the police sending letters to everyone saying "Please prove there is nothing illegal going on in your house", and then getting warrants for everyone who doesn't respond properly.
  • ...I just heard one these ads on a local AM talk radio station. The announcer said "you only need one former or disgruntled employee to pick up the phone" and gave Jan. 31 as the date by which you should buy some software. Even after visiting the BSA web site, it is still unclear to me how one obtains this amnesty - surely just buying some software and saving the receipt isn't enough? (i.e., when the marshals storm your office, showing them a receipt from Fry's probably won't cut the mustard.)
  • See the last story. [slashdot.org]

    If they can do this, shouldn't we ask that they be held liable for faulty products?

    {I know that software isn't perfect, but they believe their data is worth that price... what do you get when they are responsible for losing yours?}
  • by 4im (181450) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @05:29AM (#2840899)

    Do these BSA guys realise what they are doing? Scaring off their customers? Being extremely arrogant and intrusive? What about that old adage of your customer being the king?

    I guess _this_ is one of the best reasons for switching away from vendors that are members of the BSA: None of those license troubles with free software. None of those expensive audits to do (is that included in those MS TCO calculations?). None of those guilt assumptions. No insecurity.

    • Go BSA! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheFrood (163934) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @05:49AM (#2840966) Homepage Journal


      Do these BSA guys realise what they are doing? Scaring off their customers? Being extremely arrogant and intrusive? What about that old adage of your customer being the king?

      I guess _this_ is one of the best reasons for switching away from vendors that are members of the BSA: None of those license troubles with free software. None of those expensive audits to do (is that included in those MS TCO calculations?). None of those guilt assumptions. No insecurity.


      I think one of the main reasons free software hasn't caught on is that most people get their software (beer-)free anyway, whether it's supposed to be free or not. After all, why install and learn, say, Mandrake+KDE+KOffice when you can just install someone else's copies of NT and MSOffice and not have to learn anything new?

      So as a free/open-source supporter, I'm all in favor of the BSA cracking down on copyright violators. If they make sure everyone pays full price for their proprietary software, people will start giving serious consideration to the truly free alternatives.

      TheFrood
    • You're quite right that a BSA "audit" causes nothing but fear and resentment.

      Who else does audits? The IRS. And when was the last time you heard anyone preaching their love of the IRS?

      But with the IRS, you have no choice. You must pay your taxes, and they'll do what they have to get them, public relations be dammed.

      Monopolies don't have to worry about customer service. Where else are you going to go?

      Now hand over the money, slave.

      DG
  • by IvyMike (178408) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @05:30AM (#2840903)

    A while back, for work, I had to download something from Microsoft that required "a Passport account." As it turns out, they accept hotmail accounts for this purpose, too. The particular hotmail account's used here had a "real" name of "Stumpy McGee". However, when I signed up for the account, I did use my real USPS mailing address.

    Flash forward six months. I start receiving random mailings from Microsoft, Adobe, etc., warning Stumpy McGee of "Fancy Schmancy Puters" that he's probably got pirated software in his company, and that disgruntled employees are lining up to report him, probably. The letter left little doubt that Stumpy was headed for big trouble. But of course, Stumpy could run the "Self-Audit" software and they would take it easy on him.

    My question: Has anybody actually run this self-audit software? (I don't think they have a Linux version, so I was out of luck. Did I say "I was out of luck?" I meant Stumpy was out of luck, not me...) What exactly does the spyware do on your system?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

    • That Stumpy. Never thinking ahead. He should never have pissed off ol' KnickKnack Wotherspoon, his disgruntled employee. No wonder he got reported.

      I love automated letters. You can always tell who sold their mailing list when you start getting mail for "Firstname Lastname."
      • I love automated letters. You can always tell who sold their mailing list when you start getting mail for "Firstname Lastname."

        I *never* use "Firstname Lastname". I always work something to do with the company whose list it is in there, and none too subtly either, so that if it turns up in spam I know who to bitch at. I'd like to see the look on their face when "Firstname Lastname" turned out to be "Microsoft Corporation". ;)

    • by wideangle (169366) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @06:35AM (#2841065) Homepage
      You mean Belarc Advisor? [belarc.com]

      It's free, and doesn't report anything back to anyone.
      In other words, it's not spyware or adware.

      Actually a pretty useful tool.
      Not only tells you what you have on your system,
      but reports free memory slots and current CPU speed as well.

      Print the output, use as a handy reference.
      Should you ever reformat, the list might come in handy.

      You'll likely discover software you didn't know you had.

  • by onion2k (203094) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @05:33AM (#2840909) Homepage
    ..the BSA hires the Federal Marshals as mercenaries to help ensure compliance with their extortion..

    Well, thanks for that nicely impartial journalist attitude there. Its amazing what a simple line can do to affect the inflection of a story.

    Instead, how about..

    'the BSA hires Federal Marshals to ensure the hard work and effort by its members is not stolen by parasitic scum who steal like common thieves.'

    I develop software for a small company. I'm quite lucky to be where I am now, doing what I want to. I also work on OSS as a hobby.. (Such as a perl port of PG+ [ewtoo.org] that runs Uberworld [telnet].) Trust me, if ever I meet someone offering me a 'warez' copy of something I wrote I certianly won't be giving them a big cheery grin..
    • Unfortunately, it's not the job of Federal Marshals to be "hired" and enforce software licensing for a company convicted of overcharging for its products. Is there no other crime that can be targeted, that we have to have Federal Governmental police support for a company?
  • by xxSOUL_EATERxx (549142) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @05:33AM (#2840910)

    Note the use of Orwellian doublespeak euphemism in the BSA's chilling press release:

    ...for whatever reason, some businesses may not have managed their software assets properly
    Translation: Robbers! Sinners! Repent, O ye unclean ones!

    The Grace Period ...is a great opportunity for businesses to resolve any compliance issues before they become subjects of a BSA investigation.
    Translation: the Gestapo is on the way. Grab your ankles and smile.

    The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is the voice of the world's software and Internet industry
    Translation: The BSA is out to squeeze every last possible dollar out of software users

    BSA worldwide members include Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, Bentley Systems, CNC Software/Mastercam, FileMaker, Macromedia, Microsoft, Symantec, and Unigraphics Solutions
    No comment necessary.

    Those who scoff at Open Source/GNU should consider whether they want to live in a world where the tentacles of the BSA and their ilk -- and in an increasingly digitized world, expect, oh yes, do expect similar organizations to crop up defending the interests of digital text publishers, media broadcasters, etc.-- extend, oozing, slimy and cold, into every crevice and opening of what we used to quaintly refer to as our "private lives".

  • I know that I've signed up for magazine trials using business names, my mother's house is even registered at Microsoft because I wanted something for free from them many years ago.

    Will they call me? What happens when they show up and see my blank CDs sitting next to my PC? I don't use them for piracy, but I'm betting they will be all over me like flies on shit.

    I hope ZDNet hasn't sold them their list from PCWeek magazine, or the like. Do you know how many web sites make you put something down for 'company' or 'job title'. Plenty of sites want that data for marketing, but it doesn't always apply.
  • by mpawlo (260572) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @05:36AM (#2840923) Homepage
    From a business perspective the copyright proprietors need to protect their revenue sources. Thus, scaring companies to pay for their product through BSA is one method of achieving this.

    Under current copyright and contract law, BSA is free to represent its members and do what's described in this article.

    However, I find its methods too severe and too aggressive. BSA should consider helping the companies to comply with licenses rather than scaring them and send in the police. If BSA developed a good license administration tool and released it under the GNU GPL or any open source license with the source code, I think many companies would improve in their license compliance.

    Some companies will steal anything they can, but most companies are serious and should not be treated as criminals. Doing a good license audit today is very costly and hard to administer for a small or medium sized company. BSA should treat the potential costumers of its members with respect and appreciate this problem. Developing an administrative solution and perhaps a license crawling spider - with very open code - is a much better way of helping the companies than by using cease-and-desist-letters.

    Hence, BSA should consider a different and more customer friendly policy. We, the public, should consider an evalutation of the copyright system [newsforge.com] for computer programs at large.

    Regards

    Mikael

  • by bani (467531) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @05:37AM (#2840928)
    And let me explain why.
    (moderators: this is not a troll.)

    The harder the BSA come down on companies like a ton of bricks, the more attractive open source alternatives will be.

    The microsoft licensing schemes are so convoluted that even if you buy stuff from legit resellers bundled with your PCs, you still may be technically in violation of m$ licensing, depending on how your software is being used.

    It's almost impossible for large corporations to be 100% sure of total compliance, even if all their software is purchased legitimately. And the BSA knows this. It's exactly like the mafia's "protection" racket.

    Fortunately corporations now have a legit means of escape. Replace NT servers with Linux ones. The cost of switching to Linux might be high, but often the cost of having to "get compliant" is higher. And Linux is a one time cost, whereas you can be assured the BSA will be knocking on your door regularly if they think they can get away with it.

    So I say bring on the BSA gestapo! They will be inadvertently helping promote open source alternatives, it's better promotion than Linux could ever buy (though we can exploit the situation if we choose :-)
    • by krmt (91422) <therefrmhere@yaC ... minus physicist> on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @05:48AM (#2840964) Homepage
      The flipside is that if they comply, and the majority will, they will find that they have invested enormous amounts of money in the software now, and they are damn sure going to get their worth out of it! This will close up chances for Free Software on these kinds of systems, because no business is going to replace their brand new expensive software with Linux after paying out the ass.

      I'm more scared about this personally. These companies, particularly Microsoft, are so well entrenched that they can do this. It means that they have the majority of companies by the balls, and they can do what they will to them. Sure, Free stuff will seem attractive, but the bottom line is that they will want to get the maximum value out of their investment. Scary.
      • You're right. About 4 years ago our company was about 50 people small, and we got an opportunity to become a MCP (Microsoft Cerified Partner), because an MCSE joined our company. At that stage it sounded great, the marketing people really liked the idea of being a "Microsoft Partner" and on top of it we got a buch of software licenses with the deal. It included (but was not limited to) an exchange server with 50 CALs, SQL server with 50 CALs etc etc. So ofcourse when later that year we started investigating a new mail server exchange was the obvious choice. It had everything we need, plus a buch of other "cool stuff". Up till then we were a Novell / Linux shop on the server side. So we basicially start using exchange 'cause we can do it for free and exveryone's happy (it's actually quite stable any everything). The next year, however, we want to renew our MCP program. Only this year we only get 1 Server (instead of 5) and 10 CALs. Which means for us and our branch office we have to buy 2 licenses of WinNT + Exchange + 40 CALs. Quite expensive for a small company. Forward back about 3.5 years and we are 250 people and MS sends us 'scare letter' and we have to buy about 200 NT + exchange CALs. Also a lot of money. In any case, there's no way getting rid of exchange now. Worst decision I ever made.
  • RIAA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by inKubus (199753) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @05:37AM (#2840930) Homepage Journal
    Imagine if the RIAA sent a card to every person in America asking them to sign a statement saying they don't own any pirated music, and if they don't sign, you can be raided by federal marshalls for suspicion of piracy. A long time ago, I thought 2002 would be a good year. Finally peace on Earth, regular space missions, a moon base, etc. Instead we have endless bickering over a few dollars worth of binary digits that somehow do something that is expected to be traded for money or something else of value. A few dollars worth of binary digits that, if you refuse to Opt Out of a legal battle by signing a statement, will mean you are subject to illegal search and seizure. This would be like the Government sending a card for everyone to sign stating they "don't have any illegal weapons" and if you don't sign, you are immediately suspected of owning illegal weapons. Whatever happened to the 5th Amendment? Whatever happened to being innocent until PROVEN guilty? Are they going to take that right away now?
  • by Wee (17189) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @05:38AM (#2840931)
    Whatever you do, don't forget to indoctrinate the kids [bsa.org] as part of your campaign for social justice for software licensing. And remind the kids what they can do when they find a pirate [bsa.org]. You may think of a pirate as mom or dad, but they are really thieves who should be reported immediately. As Chad Codemaster knows, there can be no innovation if software is copied [bsa.org]. God forbid what would happen if the actual source to a program got released to the thieving masses. How would a developer eat?

    -B

  • by Nicolas MONNET (4727) <nicoaltiva@gmaOPENBSDil.com minus bsd> on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @05:47AM (#2840961) Journal
    They offered to help me track down potential license infrigements. And certainly, I could provide him with a list of software I'm using.

    The comical effect was lost as the clueless telemarketer could'nt find "lunix", "apache" and "perl" in his list.

    "It's open-s... nevermind, I have a meeting bye"
  • I don't know how the law in America is, but I believe the marshalls would need a judge order to invade a business place, wouldn't they ? Or can they simply break in any place they feel like and confiscate everything?

    It's also my understanding that this judge order would require some kind of piracy proof to be issued.
    Wouldn't it create the chicken-and-egg problem ?

    How does it work ?
  • by GoRK (10018)
    No matter how you hype it, it's just not legal for a company to own (or sometimes not) a single copy of Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Office and run it on 10's or 100's of computers. Somebody has to enforce the law or it breaks down. Incedentally, it's the same copyright law that keeps your GPL software free that they are protecting!

    If they scare off their customers, GOOD! The companies have the option not to use proprietary licensed software, maybe if they get some fines, they'll consider the alternatives.

    Jesus christ, they aren't sending Federal Marshalls storming into a business for no reason. That could not happen without some sort of precident. I don't believe that the BSA has ever done this and not uncovered mountains of software license violations.

    Some of you editors are such fucking hypocrites to cry foul and hire in the gestapo when some company viloates the GPL in *A SINGLE CASE* yet you bitch and moan about your rights and privacy when Microsoft hires BSA to uncover *TENS OF THOUSANDS* of violations to their licenses. What's worse is that I probably hate M$ more than you do, but if there's one thing I can't stand, it's a stupid person. michael and chrisd are topping this list right about now.

    ~GoRK
    • " No matter how you hype it, it's just not legal for a company to own (or sometimes not) a single copy of Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Office and run it on 10's or 100's of computers. Somebody has to enforce the law or it breaks down. "

      This somebody is supposed to be the "police" and "justice", or it breaks down.

      "Incedentally, it's the same copyright law that keeps your GPL software free that they are protecting! "

      The GPL uses the copyright system against itself. Without copyright, there would be little need for GPL.
    • by Cryogenes (324121) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @06:31AM (#2841055)

      Jesus christ, they aren't sending Federal Marshalls storming into a business for no reason. That could not happen without some sort of precident. I don't believe that the BSA has ever done this and not uncovered mountains of software license violations.

      Did you read in the article that the BSA were sending like 700.000 of these threats at a time?
      Obviously, all the evidence they need for sending someone a letter is that they run a business.

      OK, now suppose your business has a clear policy of never using pirated software. So what can you do?

      1. You run the self-audit software. It is closed-source spyware, you have no idea what it will report, and you cannot expect any compensation if it breaks your mission-critical machine. This is an ugly option and there is no good reason why a honest businessman should be subjected to it. And nobody, guilty or innocent, would subject themselves to this voluntarily.

      2. You "refuse to cooperate". Then you will get a visit from law enforcement, probably greatly disrupting your operation. Moreover, if they find anything wrong - your sysadmin made a mistake, or some stupid employee downloaded a serial number for Winzip - then you will have to pay for the exercise. Even if everything is actually perfect, something may be construed against you and you will face further expenses defending yourself.

      Now tell me again that this is only fair.
    • by mpe (36238)
      No matter how you hype it, it's just not legal for a company to own (or sometimes not) a single copy of Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Office and run it on 10's or 100's of computers.

      ?Acually there is a fairly obvious situation where this would be perfectly "legal" That is where the company in question has the relevent licences.
    • by Hard_Code (49548)
      Perhaps you want to live in a society where everybody has free reign to invade your life to verify that you are indeed not breaking any laws, but I'd sure as hell live in one where I was presumed *innocent* before proven guilty, not the other way around. The BSA should not be able to use scare tactics to single out and destroy arbitrary companies. Do you think this is a good thing? They should either bring lawsuits against ALL companies, and either lose the suits or engender so much bad will that nobody will every want to use their products, or not bring any at all. Any one company should not be allowed to scaremonger and arbitrarily cripple other companies by yelling "fire" in the free market.
    • by haruharaharu (443975) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @11:11AM (#2842012) Homepage

      Jesus christ, they aren't sending Federal Marshalls storming into a business for no reason. That could not happen without some sort of precident. I don't believe that the BSA has ever done this and not uncovered mountains of software license violations.

      Actually, they are. The last time this ran, someone recounted how the BSA raided their company (with federal marshalls), shut it down for 3 days, destroyed several Sun workstations while trying to run their software on them and then tried to walk away. Oh, and they didn't actually find anything.

  • Extortion? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chasuk (62477) <chasuk@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @06:10AM (#2841006)
    Let's put this perspective. Let's say that I own a business manufacturing foo X's, and I have a friend who manufactures a related product (foo Y). We know that we are being illegally deprived of millions of dollars annually, but the law doesn't adequately protect us. We have been in our particular industry for a long time, and we each know of many other businesses in a similar situation. We form an alliance with all of these businesses, and we work with the government to help stop the crimes against us.

    Suddenly, by announcing a grace period for these criminals, we are extortionists? Since when did extortion include benevolence?

    The legal definition of extortion is: the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right. 18 U.S.C. S 1951(b)(2).

    The key words here are wrongful use. Is it wrong, when someone has stolen something from you, to offer them a conditional amnesty? You steal from me, and not some hypothetic company, and I'll do everything I can to see you put in jail.

    Calling this extortion is akin to the robbery victim who pleads on the news for the return of his wallet - no questions asked - and all will be forgiven: is the victim then the extortionist?

    I note that Borland, the developers of Kylix, is a member of the BSA. Are they evil for expecting people to pay for some of their products? Or, because Microsoft is also a member, does that mean that OF COURSE it is extortion, and OF COURSE the federal marshals are mercenaries? Or will the federal marshals be exempted when they are protecting your ass on an airliner?

    Is that the equation? Federal Marshals On Airlines = Good Guys, Federal Marshals Helping Microsoft/the BSA = Bad Guys? And if the BSA are really extortionists, does that make the marshals guilty of aiding and abetting?
    • Re:Extortion? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by banky (9941) <.moc.gnihsaboruen. .ta. .ggerg.> on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @07:28AM (#2841175) Homepage Journal
      I think the difference is, that they're a private individual (corporation) going after another individual (corporation) and because the former (BSA) has more money than the latter (me), they can buy sufficient legal strength to potentially deprive me of my rights; the government could not use the tactics the BSA does without getting in big trouble.
    • Re:Extortion? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by nolife (233813) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @10:01AM (#2841610) Homepage Journal
      We know that we are being illegally deprived of millions of dollars annually.

      How do you just "know" this and how do you know who much or what the extent is? How do you know WHO is doing it and to what extent? Are you going to try to use averages to justify searching everyone?

      I'll do everything I can to see you put in jail.

      Including searching the business before even knowing that they are running your software?
      So how do you know what companies are running your software? Should you just assume every business is and then make them prove they are not?

      You are innocent until proven guilty in the US. You can not search without proable cause. You do not get probable cause because you are a business that some company targets software at. Even if past experierence shows 80% of companies searched had some fubar license issues does not give justification to search more. It plainly shows that 20% of your "probable cause" claims are completely false.

      Imagine a MLA (Media License Assoc.) Imagine getting a letter in the mail stating a MLA rep will be by your house later in the week to examine ALL of your video tapes, audio cassettes, CD's, players, cable boxes, Macrovision removers, computer HD's, etc for unauthorized media. Would you let him in? After all, they got an anonymous tip stating you copied a Shrek DVD onto VHS so the kids could watch it in the van but they left it playing in the family room when they went for a trip in the van. I bet there is a better chance a consumer would have some form of illegal media then a business has illegal software. Does this simple fact give probable cause to search everyones house?
    • Re:Extortion? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bubbasatan (99237) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @10:22AM (#2841730) Homepage
      Let's start this off here:

      "We know that we are being illegally deprived of millions of dollars annually..."

      Wrong. You are guilty of assuming that the people who pirate software would otherwise pay your company for that software. I can guarantee you that the guy who steals cars would not otherwise pay GM, Ford, Toyota, etc. the value of those cars. The millions that you and the BSA and others like to flaunt as damages or deprivations are a bunch of crap, only touted to try to win sympathy for a bastard cause.

      Next:
      "The key words here are wrongful use. Is it wrong, when someone has stolen something from you, to offer them a conditional amnesty?"

      Uh, yes. It is wrong. It is indicative of the fact that the BSA knows that what they're doing does constitute extortion under any legal or other definition of the term. The BSA has no legitimate power of their own. None. Zilch. Nada. They are not a law enforcement agency. Tbey are not a court of law. The only thing they are is a kangaroo court full of fools. When they attempt to use their illegitimate power to threaten me, "under color of official right," they commit extortion. Plain and simple. They have no right to interfere in any matter pertaining to me or my business. I do not have any contract with the BSA whereby I grant them license to extort my money/property. Perhaps they would like it if I investigated them for something animal poaching. I have no right to do so, nor any proof that they are actually illegally killing animals, but I'll surely grant them amnesty (conditionally, of course) if they will pay me a few hundred thousand dollars!

      And finally:

      "Calling this extortion is akin to the robbery victim who pleads on the news for the return of his wallet - no questions asked - and all will be forgiven: is the victim then the extortionist?"

      There's a big difference. A robbery victim can usually offer pretty good evidence that he/she has actually been deprived of property. The BSA cannot. Instead, the BSA sends out hundreds of thousands of notices telling people/businesses that they are probably guilty of stealing, but they can be forgiven -provided they are willing to break out the checkbook. Isn't that what Jim Baker and the other televangelists used to do -- selling forgiveness? To further your analogy, the BSA is not pleading on the news for the return of their property. Rather, what the BSA is doing would be akin to rounding up a group of thousands of potential suspects, even though only a few may have actually committed the robbery, and telling them all that they could purchase amnesty for the low low price of $$$bling-bling. It doesn't mattter that the overwhelming majority are not guilty. All that matters to the BSA is that they collect enough money to remain solvent until next year's extortions begin. The BSA acts as though you are guilty until proven innocent, there's no way are you gonna sell me that vaporware.
  • What is it like? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by labradore (26729) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @06:11AM (#2841010)
    I suppose BSA members have decided for themselves that they would rather attack people and instill fear and loathing to acquire money rather than to share what they have at no cost to themselves. On that basis the BSA activities sound immoral. The BSA member would seem to choose distrust of fellow men over community, generosity or respect. The BSA member does have a legitimate need to get a return on investment. Would you attack others as the BSA does to extract money if you already had what you needed? If you had more or much more than you needed? The wealthiest companies in the BSA are highly immoral by this standard.

    If you were a struggling proprietary commercial software developer would you join the BSA? Would you want to be associated with the immoral wealthiest companies and individuals in its ranks?

    I think a better tactic to use to keep the majority of your user group in the paying customer category is to make your product worth buying and to make your product more valuable when it is purchased from you. By virtue of its (limited) success RedHat seems to be a company that exemplifies this tactic since its product is available free almost everywhere but people and companies still buy its products and it is very nearly profitable. A proprietary software developer should have no problem finding ways to make its product more attractive to buy than to copy, since it doesn't have the handicap of selling Free software.

    • "The BSA member does have a legitimate need to get a return on investment"

      while copyright is a legitimate right, there is NO such thing as a right on ROI. What next, companies sueing you for NOT buying OR illegally copying their software, therefore cutting off their main supplies of income, sales and litigation? Methinks not.
    • If you were a struggling proprietary commercial software developer would you join the BSA?
      Is Microsoft a member of BSA? Are they struggling? Seriously.
  • by LadyLucky (546115) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @06:14AM (#2841019) Homepage
    I'm a software developer. I write java web applications. I would be extrememly pissed off to find out that someone is pirating my software, somewhere. If they do that, they deserve everything coming to them.

    People will always find some excuse for piracy, but until someone is pirating YOUR software, i really dont think you have any right to excuse yourself. It's theft of intellectual property. Don't do it, even if you have philosophical problems with Microsoft.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I write games. There are ROMs of my old games on the net. I don't care. I've already been paid. Perhaps they will create interest in a sequel. If the sites hosting them have glowing reviews and name the developers it boosts my ego. The company that published the games very likely *does* care, because it will want to release those games again, on new hardware (especially Game Boy Advance). Sheesh, the copyright holders have rereleased Pong and Gridrunner and Super Mario Bros 2 recently! Look at how many cover songs there are out there (and how song-writers are raking it in from back catalog, unlike games developers).
  • These guys are nothing more than SPAMMERS.
    So they have a database. Big woop; so do SPAMMERS.
    Our company took the path "Oh SHIT. Buy licences for all our software, and QUICK!". Of course I managed to make a 30% saving by installing StarOffice 5.2, and then 6-beta. I suggest everyone else do the same. There are issues; there's no denying that it's 100% compatible etc. But for God's sake, it's sooooooooo close that it doesn't matter. So everyone find a friend who has downloaded StarOffice 6-beta (the beta period / download is over), or better yet have a go at OpenOffice [openoffice.org]. It rocks. And you'll never have licensing problems again. Still not convinced? How about searching on Google for StarOffice + pdf and following the instructions for setting up your own PDF writer via Ghostscript. It works like a fucking charm! People email us and say "Hey. That must have cost a bit...". And we say "Yes. Actually it was all free." Good stuff.
    If someone can't find the PDF instructions, reply to this post and I'll email you the instructions.
  • by t0qer (230538) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @06:30AM (#2841052) Homepage Journal
    I went to the BSA site, and was reading the recent raids when I read this exerpt
    Raided were Espina, Perez-Espina & Associates, an architectural and construction company located at the 2nd floor, The House of Architects, Juana Osmeña Ext., Cebu City, and, Arlington Engineering Services, an engineering design firm in Green Valley Subdivision, Lahug, Cebu City.

    The NBI, after securing search warrants from Judge Benigno Gaviola of Cebu City Regional Trial Court, found four PCs of Espina, Perez-Espina & Associates allegedly loaded with unlicensed Adobe, Autodesk and Microsoft software. The NBI seized 13 PCs allegedly loaded with Autodesk software from Arlington Engineering Services. Total assets, including hardware and software, confiscated from the two raids was valued at almost P5 million pesos.


    Well this just gives me terrified thoughts of the frito bandito crashing through my window screaming "BADGES? WE DON'T NEED NO STINKIN BADGES!"
  • by maroberts (15852)
    I have this idea for a Linux commercial for any distributor who wants to run it...

    Scene: People working at PCs in Office
    Suddenly the door bursts open and in come a group of lawyers accompanied by Federal Marshals

    Lawyer: "Business Software Alliance! We're here to check all your software licences. If you are running illegal software you may be fined thousands of ponds and go to jail for 5 years. Here's our search warrant"

    Manager: (smug grin) "Go ahead - we're all running Linux!"

    Exit BSA....
  • French BSA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mirko (198274) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @06:45AM (#2841089) Journal
    In France, the BSA had no legal presence (though they usually "spammed" people with their piracy-detection floppies and other funny letters.).
    That's why an influent French Editor [acbm.com] created an alternative organization : the Bidouilleurs Sans Argent [www.bsa.lu] which promotes the Free and/or free software.
  • by Ice Tiger (10883) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @07:23AM (#2841161)
    Recently the management in the company I work for has started to talk about using Open Source software a lot more. Not because it is "better" but because it makes the bottom line look good.

    I suppose the fact that the "bottom up" approach of getting OS software in has something to do with it as well. One of the few projects that went in on time and on budget used java and OS instead of MS languages and tools, the fight we had to get the go ahead for not using MS tools was unreal.

    Now I have management high up wanting to move our web based systems to OS, also we want to run Linux on our mainframe. Strangely enough we now have the capacity since fronting the former proprietory middleware with an OS based XMLRPC system. :)

    It's slowly changing from fighting to use OS into becomming a no brainer for the higher ups. Especially as a lot of recent licencing changes have stung our bottom line.
  • About counter ads (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thogard (43403) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @08:00AM (#2841231) Homepage
    Someone like Red Hat need to run an ad in the business section of each towns local news paper with a copy of the threating letter and let people know there is a better way...

    They are fools if they don't use MS marketing when they can.
    • Re:About counter ads (Score:2, Interesting)

      by redGiraffe (189625)
      I completely agree.

      We (the developers) have been pushing linux for a year now and use linux for our desktops/servers (java/mobile/web stuff). The rest looked down their noses at us, then along comes mircosoft with audits and gee, all of a sudden the md has redhat on his laptop! He does complain about document formatting, but its not a big deal, people seem to be moving to .pdf documents, be interested to see a survey..

      If the distributers of linux don't takes advantage of this opertunity RIGHT NOW, it would be business suicide, because, ah, commercial OS manufacturers are going to spread a LOT of FUD to keep the market in check (watch this space).
  • I'd love to help people ensure compliance by installing Linux and Linux apps across the board. In the long run it'd cost less money for those businesses to do that. Probably in the short run too.
  • by Boiling_point_ (443831) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @08:18AM (#2841258) Homepage
    50 comments already at +2 and nobody's posted a copy of the actual note. Did they mention a penalty for reproducing that, too??

    (for comparison, here's six months ago's effort [slashdot.org])
  • One of the things that angers me about this is that the software companies are such hypocrites. Most of them deliberately don't do very much to make it difficult to copy software, because they know that preventing all copying would be disadvantageous for them, and yet the accuse many otherwise perfectly law-abiding companies and organisations of the serious crime of theft. If I leave my front-door open I deserve to get robbed.

    There are lots of techniques that they could use which would make it impossible (for Joe User at least) to install software on multiple machines, for instance by providing a floppy or USB dongle with the installation CDs which must be inserted the first time the software is installed and which won't let the user install again. They don't do this because they don't want it to be difficult to copy their software. So, by my way of thinking, to an extent they deserve the copying that occurs.
  • Yipper, pirate central of Montana fer sure!
  • A few months back I received 4 of these cards in the mail telling me that my business could comply within X days without penalty, blah blah blah.


    Only problem: I have no business, I'm a random college student. So, to summarize, they sent sent three duplicates of the nasty-gram, and to someone who isn't a business owner. I wouldn't worry about them being on to you if you get one of these...

  • by swb (14022) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @11:02AM (#2841969)
    That's what this is all about. You'll notice they never send these cards out in October or May or other times of the year. It strikes me as purely a gambit to get dollars in the first quarter when many businesses (especially in this economy) are really holding back on capital spending until later in the year.

    By sending these cards out they'll get extra revenue they might not have gotten. It's just like the middle ages -- when the king's coffers were low, he sent his soldiers to the villages to collect extra tax.
  • by imadork (226897) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @12:01PM (#2842283) Homepage
    I am 100% behind the concept that business should pay what the vendor wants for the software they use, and should be held responsible if they don't. But I find the BSA's methods to be less than agreeable.

    Why?

    • Because it puts the entire burden of proof on your business to prove that you comply.
    • Because many licensing agreements are overly restrictive and you may not realize you're violating it. (Did you know that Apple's "Free" OS X 10.1 upgrade can only be run on a single computer at a time, according to their boilerplae license? Will the BSA bust you for only getting one copy, even though Apple gave it away for free in CompUSA, and all of your OS X installations are legal?)
    • Because there is a difference between willful piracy (using 1 license of Office for 100's of workstations) and accidental "piracy" (losing track of the fact that an old, obsolete application is still on your server, and losing the licensing documents from 1992 in your last move).

    In short, BSA tactics turn member companies' customers into adversaries, and scare said customers into giving them money rather than go through the time and trouble to "prove" (at the customers' own time and expense!!!) they own all their software. It sure sounds like extortion to me! In any case, I dare someone to argue that threatening to sue ALL your customers and cause them added expenses, even if they did nothing wrong, is a good way to develop a customer relationship!

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @04:20PM (#2844334) Homepage
    Suprisingly they dont dare try this with companies like AT&T, IBM, or other Giants. why? because these companies have the power to stomp them out of existance. Try and enter any of the above companies with your "storm troopers" without a court order. and you had better find something as they will be sued for lost time,expenses,lost work and profits and probably sued for huge damages in a very messy public affair.

    Please BSA, try to strong arm a really big company.

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