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The Almighty Buck

Free Software Inflates BSA's Piracy Claims 332

Posted by timothy
from the vergin'-on-subversion dept.
crazney writes: "According to this article in The Age, the BSA do not count the effect of free software when calculating piracy rates. The article suggests that free software has made piracy statistics look worse and hence encourages governments to create harsher laws ... Could someone pass The BSA a cluebat?"
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Free Software Inflates BSA's Piracy Claims

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  • That suggests there is salvageable grey matter there. Might I suggest a LART?
    • Re:Cluebat? (Score:2, Informative)

      by umm qasr (72190)
      For those that do not know... LART == Luser Attitude Readjustment Tool. See e2 [everything2.com] for more info.
    • Re:Cluebat? (Score:2, Funny)

      by zdzichu (100333)
      I been long impressed by 'mam syslogd':

      5. Use step 4 and if the problem persists and is not
      secondary to a rogue program/daemon get a 3.5 ft
      (approx. 1 meter) length of sucker rod* and have a
      chat with the user in question.

      Sucker rod def. -- 3/4, 7/8 or 1in. hardened steel
      rod, male threaded on each end. Primary use in the
      oil industry in Western North Dakota and other
      locations to pump 'suck' oil from oil wells. Sec-
      ondary uses are for the construction of cattle feed
      lots and for dealing with the occasional recalci-
      trant or belligerent individual.

      do 'sucker rod' fulfill the definition od Cluebat?
  • by RAruler (11862) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:12AM (#3942973) Homepage
    The BSA is exactly that, a Business Software Alliance. It doesn't serve the end user, it serves the corporations, the difference between this and other 'agencies' is that it makes no attempt to hide this. The BSA supports draconian measures like the DMCA, they'd probably like even stricter legislation. They represent corporate greed, they 'blackmail' companies into paying for huge site licenses to cover all the workstations and then some, or face a 'software audit' in which they'll no doubt find some violations. Have a 100 machine site license and a hundred machines, but just bought that new desktop for the boss? Lost the paperwork for the server in the corner?

    Tobacco companies fund studies that find that Ciggarette smoking is less dangerous than playing golf in a thunderstorm, the BSA fudges facts to make Pirates seem like the scum of the Earth. The music industry and the 'software' industry have yet to realize that inflated prices lead to inflated piracy. Personally, i'm of the mind that if you make money with software, you should purchase that software. Some companies are alright with this as well, think of the thousands of script kiddies with their pirated versions of photoshop, they were never going to buy it in the first place.. Adobe cares about that printshop, or the graphics design place.. and most of these places wouldn't touch a pirated version of Photoshop with a ten-foot pole. They don't need the BSA to police them, at best the BSA makes a huge hassle, people decide that paying thousands of dollars a year to Microsoft for a site license is insane and switch to something free, many times open-source. Their draconian policies and scare tactics have probably won more converts than a slick red hat ad.
    • by Billly Gates (198444) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @04:10AM (#3943079) Journal
      "The BSA supports draconian measures like the DMCA, they'd probably like even stricter legislation"

      Do you know this for a fact?

      The BSA and the SPA are not the same as the mpaa. For example I know the SPA is very anti-Microsoft which I find surprising. They are also very pro technology and are probably against the dmca. Remember that software companies do not like closed computers unless they are in the entertainment sector.

      Here goes my karma( gulp).

      I know they sound really evil and are unpopular but they have a right to protect software companies. Remember that whether you like it or not software companies need to be paid and you cannot pirate or steal their work. This is especially true for corporations. Script kiddies are far from their minds. The BSA wont be slamming down your door anytime soon for bootlegging like the mpaa plans to, but corporations need to pay for the software they use. Especially if they can afford it. Using someone else's software without compensation is stealing. I know many of you reading this are college students who are poor and are scoffing at this but realize that hundreds of programmers at these software companies need a paycheck. How would you like it if your employer only partially compensated you for writing code?

      All that the BSA does is make sure the software companies are adequately compensated for their particular licenses. They do not have the intention of ripping off the public. To them if a software company is stupid enough to over charge then it's the software company's problem and not theirs. For example Oracle has ridiculously expensive and outrageous pricing. Guess what? They no longer even have %50 marketshare anymore. SQL Server, Mysql, and DB2 are catching up.

      If you think its too expensive or the license is outrages, then don't buy it. Purchase Linux or cheaper alternatives. I oppose piracy and I believe piracy is hurting free software rather then helping it. Borland as well as Linux would have greater marketshare if people stopped pirated Visual Studio and Windows. Remember that its not greed when a software company overcharges. Its stupidity. Oracle is a prime example of that.

      • Don't mean to rain on your ideology, but you're missing the point. Nobody (who is worth listening to) opposes software engineers who wish to be paid, from getting paid.

        Hell, I don't even mind record executives exploiting a market that's skewed by an obscure, ~50 year gap where society's level of technology adoption happens to suit them, as long as they recognise when the party is over, as it clearly is.
        All that the BSA does is make sure the software companies are adequately compensated for their particular licenses. They do not have the intention of ripping off the public.

        I think it's fair to paraphrase your point as "The BSA et al have their hearts in the right place".

        Their operational practices don't support your assertion. The BSA operates within the US (and other) legal system(s) which allow for various dirty tricks, essentially boiling down to "it will cost you more to fight us, even if you're right, than it will to pay what we tell you to pay". This is nothing new, or specific to software, but that doesn't make it morally acceptable.

        The point of the article, which you seem happy not to have read or understood - is that the BSA promotes statistics about piracy in ignorance of the truth, in order to further their agenda of legislative reform.

        I oppose piracy and I believe piracy is hurting free software rather then helping it. Borland as well as Linux would have greater marketshare if people stopped pirated Visual Studio and Windows.

        I'd probably agree with you. But it isn't going to happen because two conditions exist: 1) piracy is possible, and 2) commercial software exists. Meanwhile, the BSA is hurting people, in much greater measures than some people with 98/103 required licences are hurting software company people. Which can be more readily stopped - the BSA bullying me, or commerical software ceasing to exist and piracy being eradicated?

      • They do not have the intention of ripping off the public.

        That's debatable. What isn't debatable is that the vast majority of their income is derived from the huge fines etc that they levy even if their victim then buys a site licence.

        The motivation is all wrong: the BSA (and in Oz, the BSAA) stand to make more from hurting people than from helping software companies.

        Here in Oz at least, when they send an audit demand, the correct answer is `ummm...' followed by some hurried quick checking. If the checking ain't too disastrous, you proceed to `OK, send your guys around when you're ready' - you see, the EULA gives them the right to audit, not the right to force you to audit.

        If they do bother to come around, you make everything as difficult as possible, e.g. by only allowing them to audit a machine when the user is present (privacy regulations, you see), then arranging for a skeleton staff when they do arrive so that the minimum number of computers are available for checking, and make finding out who `owns' a computer as difficult as possible. Meanwhile, all the time, so sorry, wish we could hurry things along a little but can't break these rules.

        Depending on your situation, you should be able to cut them down to six computers a day or less. Over 3 working man-weeks to audit a hundred-screen shop. Make them earn their fines. And keep harping on about your reliable Linux servers, your bulletproof OpenBSD network machines, and how you're testing Linux Terminal Server technology for your desktops and wondering whether it's worthwhile cutting over to it...

      • The Exception (Score:2, Informative)

        by extrasolar (28341)
        Software development isn't cheap. Anyone can tell you that. Programmers make quite a bit more money than I do.

        And I can definitely see your point of view. Since I now use entirely free software, I don't have to worry about copyright anymore. But copyright is an issue with proprietary software. For the most part, it isn't right to pirate software (such an awful term) because copyright is the law and these industries are honest in basing their business on the law. But there is a rather large ethical exception to this, in my opinion.

        Its when developers use copyright as a means to force upgrades. Believe it or not, people don't always upgrade their software because of some compelling feature or improvement in the software. Some people are being charged an arm and a leg just to remain compatible with everyone else. Thankfully, some clear-minded people have decided to use free software in the infrastructure of the internet. But we still have the same problem in other areas. People upgrading to the next version of Word so that they can read the files they recieve. And what about in third world countries. It sounds like they can not even install a proprietary operating system, simply because the price is not adjusted to their economy. No wonder piracy is such a large problem there. I see no ethical problem here, either.

        Also there is the matter of the technical divide. I honestly don't know a lot about it, but it seems that the difference between the haves and havenots is also one of technology. Now computer prices have gone down quite a bit, but software seems to have not have. Is it legitamate to pirate the software in this case? I'm not really certain.

        Also, there's the problem of when your friend wants to borrow your Windows CD because he lost his or he has to reinstall the OS that came with his computer. If I'm not mistaken, some software licenses won't allow you to resell the software, or disassemble it. At this point, its no longer an issue of copyright but of control.

        The law it seems is relatively well defined compared to the ethical issues copyright raises. So if you want argue against piracy on ethical grounds, there has to be more than "look at all the hard work and expense they put into this software." And it should be noted that free software removes all these ethical problems since the effects of copyright are reversed.

        When software was a luxury, things were a lot more excusable. But people need softwarwe. If they can't afford it, they will take it. And a system that says "if you can afford the software, pay, if not, just take it" wouldn't work either (who decides?).

        (I hope no one takes this an in depth analysis because its all off the top of my head, and I'm rather baffled by these problems, personally)
        • Re:The Exception (Score:4, Insightful)

          by MrResistor (120588) <`peterahoff' `at' `gmail.com'> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:00PM (#3946814) Homepage
          And what about in third world countries. It sounds like they can not even install a proprietary operating system, simply because the price is not adjusted to their economy. No wonder piracy is such a large problem there. I see no ethical problem here, either.

          Many third world countries have no copyright law, and so discussions of piracy are totally inappropriate there. Without copyright there is no piracy, regardless of what is actually happening. This is another way that the BSA, et al, distort the truth of piracy. They list all this activity going on in countries that have no copyright law and call it piracy.

          Anyway, just a thought I figured I should throw into the mix.

      • RAruler said:
        The BSA supports draconian measures like the DMCA, they'd probably like even stricter legislation
        Billly Gates replied:
        Do you know this for a fact?
        From any of the number of BSA press releases [bsa.org]:
        The DMCA was designed to promote a safe and legal online world while advancing the dynamic change that is synonymous with the Internet. Since the DMCA's enactment the evidence of the abundance of creative content available online is proof that the DMCA is working.
        Going through their press releases you'll even come across others promoting stricter legislation.

      • All that the BSA does is make sure the software companies are adequately compensated for their particular licenses.

        ...by sending threatening letters, forcing expensive audits, and assuming that failure to locate a license equals theft.

        Businesses should darn well acquire their software legally. If the software they want is commercial, it should be paid for. However, the BSA assumes that every user is convicted thief who must be monitored. The cost of an audit can devastate a school district or city.

        If can go to Best Buy and purchase a DVD player, a PS2 game, a big screen televison, some music CDs, some magazines, a car stereo, some speakers, a phone card, a strategy guide book, and some computer software. How I pay for each of things looks identical. Only the computer software attempts to change the sale into a license after I get it home and try to use it. With the exception of the computer software, I'm free to modify or copy any of these things (Assuming I'm capable of copying them) for my personal use. And only the computer software exposes me to the possibility of having to pay to have an audit prove that I didn't steal it.

        The BSA is leading this charge, "You're a thief unless you can prove otherwise." They damn well deserve all the flak they get.

    • Then who they serve, some of us might wonder.

      In case you haven't been 'harrassed' by BSA before, they'll first send your company a letter to offer 'free audit' of your computer system, failure to comply might result in legal action. They seem to have their way to get the local government(even outside US) to their side and they could really get the court warrent if they like. Therefore most companies would let them in.

      They wouldn't take immediate action when they caught your company using software you are not licensed for(well, it always be the case in a big company). However, within three days M$ would mysterically 'see' your difficulities and offered you a 5 years lock-in contract in order to waive your legal responsibility of using unlicense software. Great, you don't need to face that 2 years jailing and $5000 fine for each unlicensed software used.

      How nice they are...but wait, how did M$ know my situation, where did they get our information? It shouldn't be BSA, they promised to our government that the information they got from our Government are kept confidential, and M$ sales said they just do the cold call it. Well, is that my guardian angel save me again by giving an emergency call to M$?
    • What if someone with some free time and willing to donate some work would put a website that:

      1 - calculated OOS installed based (using their same methods or the ones that'd fit us best)
      2- estimated a price similar to one of closed source alternative in other plataforms, that achieved the same tasks
      3 - calculate estimated total sales in a BSA likewise fashion

      We would then be able to say:

      * How much money corporations and customers are saving by using OSS
      How much productivity is OSS contributing to the US economy

      * How much taxes is OSS producing (based to the fact that 35% of all savings turn into Income Tax + all the indirect taxes collected due to the 65% remaining income beign either used for consumption or investment)

      Someone could contribute another posibles good uses of these figures, to fight back BSA arguments and better inform our politicians and the media.
    • by Lord_Slepnir (585350) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @07:21AM (#3943478) Journal
      they 'blackmail' companies into paying for huge site licenses to cover all the workstations and then some, or face a 'software audit'

      I can personally testify to this. My company, a fabric manufacturer with sites worldwide, was recently approached by Microsoft with an offer for a 'maintainence plan'. Since we have a full IT team, we didn't need it. A week later an e-mail appears in our CIO's mailbox saying that we're being audited by Microsoft. Now every morning, he walks into work and says "Alright, what can we do today to get rid of more windows boxes".

      • A week later an e-mail appears in our CIO's mailbox saying that we're being audited by Microsoft. Now every morning, he walks into work and says "Alright, what can we do today to get rid of more windows boxes".

        You can't buy advertising for free software as good as that. And just think, Microsoft is giving it away for free. As long as Bill keeps donating to the free software cause like that, I think the future is pretty bright for Linux and the gang.
      • I have to tell you this...

        That is purely awesome and sad. I have always said that the biggest advocates for changing to linux,BSD or Mac's has been Microsoft it's self and the BSA.

        I hope your shop can become a shining example of sucess and profitability due to your switch from microsoft.

        The best of luck to you!
      • by schmaltz (70977) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @11:22AM (#3945086)
        On the one hand, Microsoft attacks free software (mainly because it's bad for Microsoft's business plans, so it seems.) On the other hand, while free software has a strong hold in certain sectors -and a bid for certain desktop uses- Microsoft continues to aggressively price upward their offerings to businesses.

        They're driving IT departments toward free software. Self-defeating in other words, particularly considering today's economy and business climate, where IT budgets are not faring well.
  • Go BSA! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I think I read it in some /. comment a while ago - Shouldn't people be encouraging the BSA (as long as they're not lying)? The reason everyone uses proprietary data formats and protocols is because 90% of the world runs on warez copies of MS Office or whatnot. If people had to pay for that cr&p, joe public wouldn't think it's such a good deal anymore.
    • Re:Go BSA! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by yatest5 (455123)
      The reason everyone uses proprietary data formats and protocols is because 90% of the world runs on warez copies of MS Office or whatnot.

      Insightful my ass. 90% of HOME users may use copied Microsoft Office, but they do that to use WORK documents which are created on LICENSED Microsoft Office.

      If the world's offices used StarOffice, that's what people would run at home.

      It is absolute bunkum to suggest that piracy is helping MS be successful on the desktop. MS being successfuly on the desktop may be helping piracy, but that's the total opposite.
      • Re:Go BSA! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by fferreres (525414) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:54AM (#3943051)
        Yes and No.

        Yes. Also, people lets Word before they even find htier first job. Of course, that may mean the use Word because that's what their employer will value.

        No. Your boss uses Word and probably has a pirated copy at home. Every office runs Word because they know employees (high or low rank) will be able t pirate Office to make the homework.

        So that leads me to the conclusion that if NOBODY ever had even the slightest chance of getting an Office without actually paying for it, you'll have like (my guess) 80% of the computer-litetare US population outright complaining about this overpriced piece of crap being imposed to them.

        BUT OF COURSE ... MS knows they can easily charge "corporation X" and not "citizen X", so they don't ever "audit" peoples homes. But they will when they evaluate they can get value added from it (ie: discounted cash flow triggered by anti-piracy@home [including all side effects such as riots, bad PR, etc.]). If they haven't done so, it's because they are better off charging corps than everyone.

        And you can't (sucessfully) argue that Openoffice would greatly benefit from BSA starting an large scale antipiracy crusade at companies AND home users.
      • Insightful my ass. 90% of HOME users may use copied Microsoft Office, but they do that to use WORK documents which are created on LICENSED Microsoft Office.

        ***

        This is wishful thinking. The fact is that most businesses simply cannot afford the software needed to run their business, and thus they pirate. In fact, a large majority of small business owners do not even understand what piracy is. I have a friend who thought that since he bought a copy of QuickBooks, he has the right to install it on whoever's computer he wants, as long as he uses the original CD!

        The fact is, the true cost of software is gargantuan. The TCO studies tend to poo-poo it, but if you look at the _real_ costs rather than the ones in the studies, it is huge.

        For example, most people aren't aware that if their computer with preloaded software dies, and they move their hard drive to a new computer, they no longer have a license to use any of it.

        Anyway, don't assume that businesses aren't pirating software, because the majority of small businesses sure as heck are.
    • as long as they're not lying

      where did you get your 90%?

      remember 57,3% of all numbers are made up.
      and 50% of all statistics are lies.

  • by KNicolson (147698) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:18AM (#3942990) Homepage
    The article says:

    "We ask respondents to choose from a very long list of specific software titles, reporting which ones they regularly use. This means we identify Microsoft Word versus, say, WordPerfect," says Metafacts principal analyst Dan Ness.

    Open-source competitors are not included as alternatives, he says.

    So, do they assume that because x% of users say they don't have a licenced copy of one of Word/WordPerfect/etc, then some percent of this percentage MUST have an unlicenced copy of one of the above? What about people who just don't use Word Processors, or Spreadsheets, or whatever? Seems to be some fishy maths going on here! The article doesn't clarify what's going on.

    • So, do they assume that because x% of users say they don't have a licenced copy of one of Word/WordPerfect/etc, then some percent of this percentage MUST have an unlicenced copy of one of the above? What about people who just don't use Word Processors, or Spreadsheets, or whatever?

      The statement you quote specifically exludes people who don't use use Word, WordPerfect etc.

      To re-iterate, with my added emphasis:

      "We ask respondents to choose from a very long list of specific software titles, reporting which ones they regularly use. This means we identify Microsoft Word versus, say, WordPerfect," says Metafacts principal analyst Dan Ness.

      Cheers,
      Ian

  • by evbergen (31483) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:20AM (#3942995) Homepage
    ... given that the BSA has defined piracy as "downloading software without paying for it" before. Having a bit of a narrow view on the world, aren't we?

    Of course, software (and everything else) should be payed for. Nobody should give something of value away and not charge for it -- you're underselling if you do, and that's unfair to the good people who are trying to make a profit here. How else are we going to have a healthy ecosystem of goods and services?

    In these tight times, citizens should not be harming the economy that way. All those ways in which a good transaction is still wasted today! People playing music for their friends, without purchasing records. Walking in parks with just trees and no shops. Reading books without advertising. Come on people, these models are just not viable anymore.

    We should teach people that giving things away is stealing from the economy. It's simply unethical.
    • We should teach people that giving things away is stealing from the economy. It's simply unethical

      Sorry bud - downloading copyrighted music is stealing, it isn't giving things away. No-one is tryign to ban the downloading of free music.
      • Blockquoth the poster:
        Sorry bud - downloading copyrighted music is stealing, it isn't giving things away.
        Sorry, bud, but downloading copyrighted music is not stealing. It's "copyright infringement". No theft is going on, since no physical property is being lifted. It's still a crime, but it's a different crime.
  • by allanj (151784) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:30AM (#3943015)

    that they didn't factor in Open Source. It would have lessened their argument, and it's bad enough as is. Besides, piracy figures from the BSA and similar bodies have always been - at most - one notch above reading tea-leaves.

  • Statistics (Score:2, Funny)

    by af_robot (553885)
    Seems like BSA followed usual business plan:
    stage 1: Post biased annual piracy statistics in media
    stage 2: ???
    stage 3: PROFIT!!!
    • Re:Statistics (Score:2, Insightful)

      by H3XA (590662)
      ???

      is this "steps to profit" the next lame replacement for "imagine a beowulf cluster of these"

      - HeXa
    • Mhhh, nah, they used the short version, as in:

      stage 1: Post biased annual piracy statistics in media
      stage 2: PROFIT!!!

      It's much easier than the usuall plan, though a bit boring :)
  • Harsh (Score:3, Redundant)

    by Mr_Silver (213637) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:40AM (#3943035)
    They represent corporate greed, they 'blackmail' companies into paying for huge site licenses to cover all the workstations and then some, or face a 'software audit' in which they'll no doubt find some violations.

    Harsh. If you purchase a product then the very least you should do is purchase the correct number of licences. This is the nature of commercial software after all.

    Have a 100 machine site license and a hundred machines, but just bought that new desktop for the boss? Lost the paperwork for the server in the corner?

    Then you're one hundred percent in the wrong. When you're an organisation you should be keeping detailed records (after all you probably do when it concerns money owed to you).

    You can't use lazyness and sloppyness as an excuse for violating a licence. Whatever that licence is.

    If someone used that excuse as a reason for violating the GPL, I doubt it would wash - so why do you think it should the other way?

    • If someone used that excuse as a reason for violating the GPL, I doubt it would wash - so why do you think it should the other way?

      nino@bonsai:~$ cd /usr/src/linux
      nino@bonsai:/usr/src/linux$ rm COPYING

      I guess I'll have to flee the country now before Linus raids me for my unlicensed copy of Linux.

      • I couldn't find the post you were replying to, but just remember that you DO NOT have to accept the terms of the GPL to use the software. The GPL is much different than traditional license agreements, because it _adds_ rights ON TOP of your normal copyright rights, while most license agreements REMOVE them. Therefore, if you remove the COPYING file from the distribution, you are actually making the software more restrictive, rather than less.
      • Actually the end-user can remove it if they like, but they cannot distribute Linux without it. This is like the tags on furniture and pillows.

    • Harsh. If you purchase a product then the very least you should do is purchase the correct number of licences. This is the nature of commercial software after all.
      I don't find that harsh at all. Some of the licensing programs and ultimatums (akin to purchase a site license or we audit) are wastefull at best and outright blackmail otherwise.

      You can't use lazyness and sloppyness as an excuse for violating a licence. Whatever that licence is.
      I have to agree there. In this day and age, if you have software that you simply can't keep track of, switch to software licensed in a manner that it doesn't make such demands on you. This will either provide a windfall for Open Source software and smaller software companies willing to make more allowances, or it will cause the larger software houses to start backing off. The consumer would ultimately win.
    • Re:Harsh (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rseuhs (322520)
      If "you should be keeping detailed records" is so important how come that now TCO study I've seen so far has accounted these costs in?

      What about the risk of getting busted? Some part-time employee installing pirated software can cause the company to pay huge fines or even go under.

      Again, when do studies start to calculate these risks in?

    • 1) They don't need a warrant or anything like it. While I don't neessiarly think they need something like a search warrant, they should ahve to present a case to a judge showing that they have sufficient reason to believe that you do indeed have pirated software. Also, they should be limited (as in the case of a search warrant) to auditing the software packages they have evidence are pirated and nothing else.

      2) You have to pay for it. When the audit happens, your people have to prove to them that you have paid for your software. This costs money. They should be required to reimburse you for all staff time spent doing the audit. After all, they are the ones that want it done.

      3) There needs to be a reasonable age limit on software they can audit. I'd say no more than four yeats. You just can't keep records forever, after awhile they need to be destroyed to make space. I work for a university department that isn't too big (say 100-150 people total) and four years of our finincial records occupies a filing cabnet, several huge binders, and a number of boxes.

      Also, I don't know what they BSA accepts as "proof" but I feel that it needs to be whatever kind of record your company keeps (within reason). So if you have POs that show orders for the software, they need to accept that. Many software does not come with adiquate physical documentation of a liscence and for large orginazition there are no reciepts other than the PO papework often.

      Basically, from what I've read about BSA audits, I just feel they have too much authority. They should need to go to a judge, present convincing evidence that you have pirated software. All the software they want to audit must not be more than four years old. Then the judge issues an order for an audit, limited ot the software they presented a case for. Then, the BSA orders teh audit, and pays the costs. They are then reqired the accept the documentation your present, so long as it is reasonable (ie not handwritten notes).

      So if an employee reported that their company was pirating Windows 98 the BSA would have to take their sworn statement to a judge, the judge would then allow an audit for Windows 98 only. If then during the course of the audit the company produces credit card recipts proving they indeed purchased all their copies, the matter is over and the BSA has to go away, after reimbursing them for audit costs.

      If a system like this was the case, I'd have no real trouble. They couldn't then use audits as bully tactics and would only be able to go after people they had some reason to believe were breaking the law. I do think it's only fair given our country's presumption of innonce laws.
    • Re:Harsh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by imadork (226897) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @07:58AM (#3943657) Homepage
      Have a 100 machine site license and a hundred machines, but just bought that new desktop for the boss? Lost the paperwork for the server in the corner?
      Then you're one hundred percent in the wrong. When you're an organisation you should be keeping detailed records (after all you probably do when it concerns money owed to you).

      In that case, since you're an expert as to what organizations do, I'm sure that you have proof of purchase for every piece of office furniture that you have in your office, don't you?

      After all, by your logic, if the Office Furniture Alliance comes and does an audit, and finds that you're missing the proof of purchase for that one file cabinet in the small office that nobody uses, then somebody must have stolen it, right? Because if you can't prove you own every piece of furniture, you're one hundred percent in the wrong. When you're an organisation you should be keeping detailed records (after all you probably do when it concerns money owed to you).

      • In that case, since you're an expert as to what organizations do, I'm sure that you have proof of purchase for every piece of office furniture that you have in your office, don't you?

        Yes.

        It came in bulk and we have the receipts filed away. If anything goes wrong then we have proof that we purchased it, from who and when. When suppliers try to weasil out of giving you a replacement (and they will try) they often find that they can't argue much when you have the receipts in front of you.

        Next question?

        • Re:Harsh (Score:3, Insightful)

          by imadork (226897)
          You, sir, must have one heck of an office manager in your workplace. I know there's a process in place where I work to keep track of things like that, but things do get lost, although not very often. Especially after a few office moves and personel changes, like we've had here. Sometimes people move from department to department (I'm in a big company) and bring their office furniture with them since it was bought with their ergonomics in mind; in your workplace, you obviously must transfer the reciepts for their equipment (and all their pencils) as well. I bow to your mad foo powers.

          Anyway, I think you took my response a little too literally. I was trying to point out the absurdity of having some outside agency assume that if you can't prove you bought something, than you must have stolen it. Because that's what the BSA does on a routine basis. The Government is bound by this silly notion that you are innocent until proven guilty; luckily for us, in the BSA's world, we're all guilty of theft until we can prove we've bought every tool, chair, and pencil. I feel so much safer now.

          I have no sympathy for business who try to cut corners by engaging in mass copyright infringement. But the BSA often goes too far in the other direction, and treats well-meaning businesses who are trying to comply with the rules with the same hardball tactics as the businesses who don't care about licensing.

    • You can't use lazyness and sloppyness as an excuse for violating a licence. Whatever that licence is.

      Prove to me that the license is legal and that I have agreed to it by tearing open the shrinkwrap to read the license/clicking on ok/looking at the box sideways, and I'll conceed the point.

      Unfortunately, by a strict interpretation of contract law, most software licenses are illegal. Note that the GPL is not a software license - if you don't agree to it, you still get to use the software... You just can't redistribute the software or modifications of it. (IE, your rights default to those granted by copyright law.)

    • I know not of one company that chould account 100% of it's assets. Sure they know where the buildings are, but can they accurately account for every chair, adding machine (calculator), etc.. Accounting for assets of less than $500 in most cases would cost them more than the theft.

      This is where I would place most software. It's easy when everything is new but as time goes by you tend to missplace things. I could bet that if Cannon or TI would ever walk into a company and request for the receipts for the adding machines they would have a hard time finding them. I could for a fact tell you that I do NOT know where the receipt for the chair in which I'm sitting on right now is. Nor the one for this clunky adding machine, and I bet it cost more than MS$ office when it was purcahsed.

      Windows 95 is over 7 years old in most jurisdictions you would no longer need to keep the receipts for the tax man. So all I have to say is GET REAL.

      • Windows 95 is over 7 years old in most jurisdictions you would no longer need to keep the receipts for the tax man. So all I have to say is GET REAL.

        One of the things about buying commercial software is that you know that the BSA may ask for an audit. It's horrible, it's nasty but by purchasing commercial software you understand that it might happen.

        If you still run Windows 95, you still should keep the licences for it. Whether it's 1 year or 7 years old. Period.

        Office equipment is different. You keep it for the lifetime of the warrenty and guarantee and then it doesn't matter whether you have the receipt or not. Office equipment cannot be copied or downloaded from the internet, it is a tangible item.

        Software is not, and as long as you purchase it, you have to accept that the BSA can (and will) chase you up for proof that you obtained it legally.

        This is where free software has it's advantages. No cost, no BSA and no requirement to keep licences.

        • You see I have a P75 IBM laptop. I received no documentation with it. as a matter of fact it had no Win 95 CD and no licence appeared on start up.

          At the time I did not know of the BSA and no I never agreed with any terms. But I could care less it was running NeXT within two days of purcahse.

  • by 91degrees (207121) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:46AM (#3943041) Journal
    The actual piracy rates are a wild guess as it is. Its based on the number of applications they expect to sell. Since piracy has been around for at least as long as computers, this figure has never been calculated from a static value.

    While it is true that they ask people what software they use, a lot of people genuinely don't know. They'll say Word when they have StarOffice
    • I have a feeling that _actual_ piracy rates are much worse than speculated, but the real numbers would be such an embarrassment to the software industry that they keep them quiet. The fact is, almost every single Windows user runs pirated software, and a lot of it. How many people do you know that actually paid for WinZip? In addition, many small businesses think that simply buying a single copy makes it legal to run on all 10 of their computers, and their computers at home.

      If we knew how much piracy was going on, I think it would actually show what a farce the software industry is. They are already making monopoly profits, and then to say that they are "losing" so much money means that their product is obviously way overpriced, and that the public thinks that the current piracy laws are idiotic.

      In all honesty, the public believes in piracy, plain and simple. I choose to just use Free Software. What I find really funny are those people who think Linux people are pirates. What the hell would we pirate, anyway? Linux people are the most stringent adherents to licenses, because it makes their case so well.
    • Its based on the number of applications they expect to sell.

      Expected sales always match real sales, right?

      In that case, my flying car and moon realestate businesses are the future! Invest now! Send one dollar for your free investor kit to...
  • by g4dget (579145) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:49AM (#3943044)
    The BSA knows exactly what they are doing and they are very smart. They simply interpret the facts in the most convenient way they can to advance their agenda. Open source software is a threat to their members, so why should they make any allowances for it in their statistics if they don't have to?

    I suspect the BSA is run by rampant free market ideologues. If you pressed them about their philosophy, they would probably say something like that open source software is a threat to the free enterprise system and mostly copies commercial software; while open source may not be illegal, maybe it should be.

    Don't expect to be able to reason with those people. Oppose their claims with facts whereever you can, and expose the irrationality and inefficiency of their model of software distribution.

    • > I suspect the BSA is run by rampant free market ideologues. If you pressed them about their
      > philosophy, they would probably say something like that open source software is a threat to the free
      > enterprise system

      Could you please explain how open source is in any way contradictory with the free market ? In the contrary : by favorising more efficient usage of ressources and lowering barriers to innovation, it makes the market more dynamic. Maybe you should rethink your own ideology and open up your vision a bit. The BSA has no ideology nor philosophy, and no hidden agenda : they are just protecting special interests and they are very open about it, like any self-respecting mob syndicate would be...
      • The BSA is not hear to make the market more dynamic, they are hear to make more profits for their sponsering organisations.

        Remember that every piece of viral, comunistic, open source software used is one less sale.

        Also if you have a competitor who gives his software away for free it forces you to develop new products / inovations, RnD costs money, therefor less profit.
        • >The BSA is not hear to make the market more dynamic, they are hear to make more profits for their sponsering organisations.

          That's exactly what I said.

          > Remember that every piece of viral, comunistic, open source software used is one less sale.

          Actually, that's good for the whole market because the ressources not spent on that software can be more efficiently reallocated. It may be bad for whoever sells software, but it's actually good for the rest of the actors.

          > Also if you have a competitor who gives his software away for free it forces you to develop new > products / inovations, RnD costs money, therefor less profit.

          Sure, but it increase the utility for the consumer, and that's the ultimate goal. Sufferance of a particular actor is meaningless in face of the greater good... It sounds inhumane to some, but it's actually how most societies work.

    • Terminology (Score:5, Informative)

      by ratamacue (593855) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @08:09AM (#3943709)
      I suspect the BSA is run by rampant free market ideologues. ... they would probably say ... while open source may not be illegal, maybe it should be.

      As a "rampant free market ideologue" (Libertarian), I will be the first to point out that you have confused the meaning of free-market economics (i.e. capitalism), which implies the absence of government interference (coercion) in the market, with a hypothetical regulation, imposed through coercion, which happens to favor one particular group over another. Capitalism does not necessarily imply profit but only the absence of coercion in the market. Free market economics is grounded in voluntary cooperation, not coercion (which is the definining prerequisite of any government). Hence, open source software falls squarely into the category of free-market enterprise, and in fact, to a greater degree than any software vendor which relies on patent law to sustain a business model. (Patent law, you may be surprised to know, is contrary to the true principles of free market economics, because it is derived from coercion.)

      See free-market.net [free-market.net] if you are interested...

    • Open source software is a threat to their members...{snip}

      Well, when your tactics hit below the belt, I suppose turnabout is fair play.

      {SEG}
  • Napster?!? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Johnny O (22313) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:54AM (#3943052) Homepage
    Im sorry, the article mentions Napster as a source of software?!?! Not only does napster not exist anymore, but it never shared software....
    • Not quite true if I remember correctly. There was something called Wrapster that "wrapped" software, images and movies as mp3's to allow napster to find it.

      Play Hattrick [hattrick.org]

      .haeger

      • photoshop.tar.gz.uu.mp3

        Heh, they days of USENET binaries groups are starting to seam pleasant by comparison :)
  • BSA is a business (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Alain Williams (2972)
    The BSA's primary interest is it's own bottom line and the continued employment of it's staff. This is more important to it than the profits of BSA members.

    Thus the BSA will generate stories and statistics that ensure it's continued existance.

    BSA is not that different from many commercial organisations.
  • Better yet (Score:3, Funny)

    by mizhi (186984) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @04:03AM (#3943064) Homepage
    Could someone please use the cluebat on the BSA?
  • Here's one (Score:3, Insightful)

    by heikkile (111814) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @04:15AM (#3943090) Homepage
    Could someone pass The BSA a cluebat?

    Have someone inform BSA that the FSF office is actually using pirated word processors for all their work. Let them ask for an audit, and try to force the matter. Immediate self-lart, with lots of publicity for both parts!

  • Isn't this good? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ultrabot (200914)
    All the laws against piracy actually benefit the Open Source community. Now the companies are starting to realize how expensive commercial software is, when they actually need to start paying the full price for all the seats. This is just what we *need*. One might even hypotethize that MS doesn't want BSA to be too strict, in order to prevent mass migration to greener pastures.
  • In the article they mention that Open-source solutions were not on their "list" of applications that people use; that actually makes sense - those apps are not produced by BSA-affiliated entities, so the BSA isn't interested in apps people use that aren't the IP of one of their gang.

    What I would like to know is if the Open-source s/w is being lumped into those dollar estimates, what price value do they give to, say, Star Office?

    Since that app isn't on their list, how can they lump it in with the values given? I would have guessed that Star Office would occasionally get the MS-Office box checked erroneously, but they are careful to mention that the applist is VERY specific, so how can this happen?

    Just wondering, since this doesn't seem to make sense.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @05:30AM (#3943210) Homepage
    The BSA is NOT a government agency, they have no real abilities outside of having a fleet of overpaid lawyers and a buttload of money to blackmail or assult a company with. remember these words... the Business Software Alliance is Nothing but another Company.

    And this company is paid to make money for the companies that pay them. Of course they are lying about how much piracy is happening. Of course they publish false and misleading information about the amount of money lost due to piracy. Of course they include linux, BSD, Open BeOS, Samba, Open office, Abiword, Gimp and everything else that is 100% free AND popular in their numbers. It inflates them and makes the lies they publish previousally look even better.

    Remember the Business Software Alliance is nothing more than a paid extortion racket. If they threaten your company you should never let them in without a judge-signed search warrant.

    They ARE NOT A GOVERNMENT AGENCY! Unlike OSHA who is, they have ZERO legal power and ZERO rights above what you have. Fight the bastards and make them spend their money to get in your building, and then be sure to sue for lost revinue, destruction of property, and public defamation.

    Thank you, This post is brought to you by the Council to stop freeware piracy. "Remember every time you pirate a freeware program you hurt...Ummm... well you hurt someone!"
    • The BSA is NOT a government agency, they have no real abilities outside of having a fleet of overpaid lawyers and a buttload of money to blackmail or assult a company with.

      With said fleet of lawyers and buttload of money, they can obtain court orders against other companies suspected in violation of software license and request the use of armed peace officers/LEOs in assisting in software audits.

      Support or oppose their position, this image of the BSA is one they use in reality and like to keep fresh in the mind of both willful violators and those frantically searching for the software license to that copy of Excel 3.0, lost in the fourth move in seven years.

      Fear is a great motivator.
      • Perhaps they can obtain a court order, but if you ahve alwyers you can fight that order. Indeed if they find a violation, but the court order was incorrectly obtained, you may get off.

        Remember, they have alwyers, but so should you.

  • Chuckle.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by TheCrunch (179188) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @05:42AM (#3943230) Homepage
    BSA Guy 1: The piracy figures keep increasing. Watch as I subtract the number of windows registrations from the number of computers.
    BSA Guy 2: Dear god, you're right. Look how many stolen copies of Windows are in use. Piracy is terrible! Must inform government now!
    Monkey: Well actually, not all of those are Windows. A proportion will be free software, like Linux.
    BSA Guy 1: Linux, eh?
    Monkey: And friends.
    BSA Guy 2: So who uses Linux?
    Monkey: Well, geeks and monkeys, mostly.
    BSA Guy 1: Geeks, eh? Excellent. Sound like modern-day pirates to me.
    Monkey: Brooooow.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    a link to this excellent discussion [netcom.com] of how the BSA piracy statistics misrepresent reality. It is from a few years ago, but the principles have not changed, nor have the motivations of the parties involved.

    What? You thought that their numbers were everything anything other than a publicity gimmick which they know doesn't match reality? Shame on you! Those numbers are distorted to be as high as they think they can get away with.
  • They're good for open source software. Every time Mr. Business hears about a BSA organized raid on some poor SOB that didn't keep all of his paperwork for his small company computers, they'll be thinking about ways to avoid that fate.

    They can file away every receipt and licensing agreement that they get or they can use software that doesn't come preloaded with BSA bullshit.

    I would suggest that when you buy software that you check first to see if the software company who holds the copyright has entered into an agreement with the BSA and if you find that they have put the box back on the shelf and walk out.
  • by pieterh (196118) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @06:02AM (#3943271) Homepage
    The point made by some previous posters here deserves highlighting. The BSA are a potent weapon in the drive to get every software user to pay for their software. The most widely used software is Microsoft's stuff.
    The pain barrier on MSFT software is only acceptable to most people because they can count on getting a cracked, copied, or borrowed copy of Office to run on their home PCs.
    I predict that the BSA will be a strong force in the adoption of free software. My company moved wholesale to OpenOffice exactly because it was the easiest and cheapest way to avoid upgrading to Office XP (the alternatives being to use illegal packages or pay the licenses).
    Support the BSA and fight piracy! When commercial software is pirated, people do not appreciate the value of free and open software.
    • I whole-heartedly agree, in fact, this is part of my problem, my dependence on commercial software. If forced to pay for all of it, I would have no choice but to run free OS, free software, etc. Unfortunately it is far too easy to get what I want for free, illegally. I'm getting better, though, and I definately appreciate open source/free software much more than I did before.

      Especially at work, where it's not an option to pirate a copy of windows for a server. So when I recommend free software, it really does make a difference to our bottom line, and the PHB's do appreciate that.
  • Picture a balloon, filled with air. The balloon itself puts pressure on the air.

    Now the balloon is not tight, some air can escape through the hole, but airflow is not very high.

    But as the balloon gets smaller because air is escaping, pressure goes up, since the elasticity of the rubber dictates that more force is applied to the air when it gets smaller. Result: more air molecules seek the freedom from outside the balloon, resulting in the balloon getting tighter and tighter.

    Now the balloon is almost empty, since all air has escaped. Sure, there's still some air inside, but since the balloon is completely deflated, the rubber no longer wants to shrink, hence there is no more pressure.

    Didya get it? didya? didya? didya?

    Dave
  • Are any free software companies BSA members? Why would the BSA account for software created by non-members?

    Now that business auditor integrity is being questioned by congress post-Enron, I'd love to see the BSA's practices put under the microscope. These guys are enforcing copyright law, and are supported by their very members. I'd hardly call the BSA an impartial auditor. It wouldn't suprize me if BSA members pressure the BSA for "results" or threaten to not support ($$$) the BSA.
  • Just like Axe make makers don't take into account the effect of an axe murder? I thinking I'm beginning to see...
  • Investigator: Mr. Kruger, do you have current legitimate licenses for every single software title on each and every computer you own or use?

    Bob Kruger: Uhh.. well, we uh..."

    Investigator: Mr. Kruger, have you or anyone else currently in the employ of BSA ever used software for which you did not possess a valid legal license?

    Bob Kruger: Bblblb-b-b-plplpppht blub..blubb...

    Investigator: ...then shut the f*ck up, go away, and take the BSA with you!

    Vortran out
  • by jpvlsmv (583001) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @09:06AM (#3944050) Homepage Journal
    Read their "State Piracy Study" [bsa.org], particularly page 5 where they define their statistical methods.

    About their estimate of the "demand" for software:

    • "PC shipments by state were estimated from a detailed review of the employment and population of each state and market research that surveyed the PC penetration rate of each state."
    • "These estimates of software applications [...] were allowed to vary slightly by state. They were then applied to the state PC shipment estimates to form state-specific software demand estimates."
    About their estimate of the "supply" of software:
    • "This data was compiled only for software applications that were studied in the "2000 BSA Global Software Piracy Study". [...] The resulting shipment data was uplifted to reflect shipments for the entire software industry."
    The difference between "supply" and "demand" is defined to be the "piracy".

    For the retail value of the software (the larger number often quoted by the media) they added 22% on top of that.

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