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The Almighty Buck

How the BSA Squeezes the Little Guys 341

netbuzz writes "Actually, 90% of the Business Software Alliance's revenue is squeezed from small businesses accused of using unlicensed software. A lawyer who represents some of them says his clients often suspect that it was the IT guy who just left — and was responsible for maintaining the licenses — who ratted them out for a big BSA reward."
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How the BSA Squeezes the Little Guys

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  • Thanks (Score:5, Funny)

    by niceone ( 992278 ) * on Monday November 26, 2007 @12:05PM (#21480609) Journal
    I would like to thank editors for giving us all another chance at first post on this story. I missed it a few hours ago [slashdot.org] - wish me luck this time!
  • This is News? (Score:2, Insightful)

    I thought that this has always been the BSA's standard business model.
  • Other Reasons... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pwnies ( 1034518 ) * <j@jjcm.org> on Monday November 26, 2007 @12:09PM (#21480667) Homepage Journal

    The BSA contends that small businesses are most often targeted because small businesses most often use unlicensed software.
    But of course it's not the fact that the small businesses don't have a legal team. That wouldn't have anything to do with it.
    • Sounds to me like another compelling reason for a small business to be up-to-date on all of their software licenses.

      Com'on folks, I know it's fun to bash M$ and their... associates, but this is a no-brainer. It's like trying to get by with not having all of your company vehicles insured; just don't do it!
      • by Volante3192 ( 953645 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @12:47PM (#21481255)
        You're seriously overestimating the ease of the software licence world.

        This is not a world of 'One Disc, One Key.' This is a world of volume licencing, OEM licencing, per user/per device/per server licencing, student licencing, licencing servers, terminal servers. Some licencing agreements let you use a copy of a program at home that you use at work.

        That OEM copy of Office that came with your Dell? Well, you can't put that on another system if you get rid of that old Dell. That's not exactly common knowledge, nor is it out in the open; it's buried in the EULA.

        When you have companies who's sole purpose is to keep track of licences, there's something dreadfully wrong with the current system.
        • Re:Other Reasons... (Score:4, Informative)

          by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @03:02PM (#21483105) Homepage Journal
          That OEM copy of Office that came with your Dell? Well, you can't put that on another system if you get rid of that old Dell. That's not exactly common knowledge, nor is it out in the open; it's buried in the EULA.

          This is a problem that's fairly widely known among charitable organizations. People often offer to donate computers to them, thinking that it's a valuable donation. But if it's a Microsoft system, such a donation only covers the hardware. You can't legally donate the software. If the charitable organization doesn't purchase their own copy of the software, wipe the disk, and reinstall their legal copy, they are in volation and can be victimized by the BSA or the software companies. And they'd better save all the receipts, because otherwise any software found on their disks will be assumed illegal.

          I know of a number of organizations that have a policy of wiping contributed disks and installing linux (usually Red Hat, but Ubuntu is getting popular). But many don't, and are using the software that came with the hardware. If you're involved with a charitable organization, you might check into this, and try to explain to them the dangers of using software from Microsoft or other such corporations. The best approach might be to ask them if they can show you their receipts for every proprietary program on their disks. If not, they're risking being hauled into court and fined a lot of money.

          Has anyone here been involved with a charitable organization that has dealt with this? It might be interesting to hear your story.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Pig Hogger ( 10379 )

            And they'd better save all the receipts, because otherwise any software found on their disks will be assumed illegal.
            Guilty until proven innocent? What a novel legal concept!!! You ought to patent that, there's potential for billions there!!!
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            exactly, the whole thing is legal hostage taking if you ask me. Like you said, even with a straight business Dell with OEM office installed and the machine stickered properly, it's still not "enough" for the BSA if you donate it! The OEM licenses are transferable with the exact hardware, but if the next person doesn't have the actual bill of sale and paid receipt for that computer it's not "legally" been transfered. How likely are you to give out the paid receipt with your CC# on it as well as a letter of
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            I had a customer a few years back, which was a non profit organisation. The director just rang up Microsoft and they sent her a big box containing 5x Windows XP Pro, 5x Office Professional, Windows 2000 SBS and various other goodies. No charge. YMMV, but it appears that Microsoft has a no cost licencing program for non profit organisations and charities. All that is required is for the organisation to ask.
      • by Divebus ( 860563 )

        The bigger problem is that not having a receipt, box and/or specular label for software you actually bought lets these whores call you a "software pirate", even if the software is 10 years old. They say you're stealing when you're not.

        The worst they have you for is breach of contract. There's a giant gulf between that and piracy in a real court of Law. That's why they settle everything out of court. They'd have to prove you stole software and they can't - but they can bully you with threats and that almost

  • I could've gotten a reward when I left? Damn, I wish I'd known that at the time... : p
  • Of course, the "IT guy" probably doesn't have any recourse if management decides to obtain unlicensed software while employed. Personally I think it's fairly idiotic for businesses to not be completely above-board when it comes to software licensing.
    • Exactly. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I went thru three different employers where upper management *ORDERED* the IT guys to install the same copy of MS Office on all computers in the building. At the last job, I snagged an email off the server where the CEO was discussing the issue with his CFO and basically said that if they ever got caught they would feign ignorance and lay the blame on the IT guys "doing stuff behind their backs" and installing software without their executive permission. This was a few years ago, about the same time that th
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cfulmer ( 3166 )
      The problem though is that the BSA's standards can catch even companies that are completely above-board, but haven't kept their receipts. The BSA's claim is that "If you don't have your receipt for this software, then it's pirated."

      Now, whether that would stand up in court is a separate question. It seems to me that if you have a retail box for every piece of software, that should be good enough to convince a jury. Of course, the cynic says that the BSA is going after small companies because they're much
      • My first question has to be, what's a valid receipt? There's some pretty small shops that sell Windows. Some of them just use Excel or some other spreadsheet to print out invoices and receipts. What happens when the shop you bought it from closes, and all you have is some receipt that is printed from an Excel spreadsheet? Would the BSA just argue at that point that it's a fake receipt? According to the information from Microsoft, there's a lot of places that will sell you a non-genuine copy of Windows,
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Receipts aren't always what they're looking for, but they can help. For Microsoft applications and system software, they're often looking for the Microsoft 'Certificate of Authenticity' with the hologram on it. Only small businesses, many of which use whitebox PCs, often don't save their CoA's because no one told them to.

        Anyway, small-to-medium businesses are easily the most likely to pirate software internally because they often don't have the budget for doing software audits and the like. Plus, in ord
    • I hate to shout "Amen!" but...AMEN! I work in accounting and dabble in computers at work, and it is so much easier and cheaper to have everything above-board come audit time than need to pay fees or back taxes. It is also dramatically less stress on the origination as a whole when the accounting and IT department are saying they are not worried about any impending audits. Every one has a moral boost because they know things aren't going to explode because of illegal practices. It also boosts the over al
    • Of course, part of the problem isn't being "above board" (as in legal), but whether you have all your proper documentation handy and all your usage constantly audited. BSA is capable of bullying a small business even if that business has made good-faith efforts to remain on the right side of the law, particularly because smaller businesses don't have the resources to devote to jumping through every possible hoop.

      Even when it's all said and done, when you're the little guy and a big guy comes after you, it

    • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
      Personally I think it's fairly idiotic for businesses to not be completely above-board when it comes to software licensing

      And I think it's idiotic to use software, licensed or unlicensed, that could get them raided by the BSA if (and big if of course) there's free or open source alternatives.

      Windows: $400
      MS Office: $400
      Linux: $0
      Star Office: $0
      Being BSA-free: priceless!

      -mcgrew
      • If you really think businesses pay that, you're crazy.

        A typical Microsoft volume license (even for a relatively small shop) is between $150 and $200 per seat, and that includes the OS, Office, SQL Server or other CAL's, etc..

        Sure, still more than $0, but the license cost is nothing compared to the costs of rolling out a whole new platform.
  • by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Monday November 26, 2007 @12:11PM (#21480717) Homepage Journal
    My experience with small/medium businesses has been that the CEO/CFO don't want to spend the bucks necessary to get everybody legal and the poor IT guy gets stuck having to ignore the problem or find a new job. To the defense of C-level guys, I did work for one 1000-person company that had a very ethical CFO who insisted on being compliant. The exception that proves the rule, I guess.
    • by asuffield ( 111848 ) <asuffield@suffields.me.uk> on Monday November 26, 2007 @02:56PM (#21483023)

      My experience with small/medium businesses has been that the CEO/CFO don't want to spend the bucks necessary to get everybody legal and the poor IT guy gets stuck having to ignore the problem or find a new job.


      About once every two months, our director comes to me saying that he wants MS Office installed on some box or other, and I quote him the current list price for it (£320, last I checked). He says that he's already got a copy. I tell him that you have to buy one copy per box. He says that he's got an old copy that didn't have that restriction. I tell him that the rule has always been there, and the only thing that's changed is that the new versions have the silly "activation" nonsense added. He says he never knew that.

      Two months later, we do this again. Bizarre.
  • I am certainly not saying that all software should be OSS, but at what point do companies decide to get out from under the hell that that we call Microsoft? I mean I dont remember Apple pushing out BSA nastygrams? Oh wait, Apple actually upgrade their products routinely with features that people are willing to actually pay for....
    • Hate to interrupt your Apple gushing, but Apple is a member of the BSA. Kinda like record labels and the RIAA, or the movie studios and the MPAA, Apple subsidizes and strengthens the BSA to enable these kind of activities.

      I know I shouldn't feed the trolls, but as far as your Apple upgrading is concerned, explain to me why I can buy a gen 1 Zune and upgrade it for free to use gen 2 firmware (opening up wifi access and getting all the normal goodies) but I can't get the latest firmware on my 5th gen 30GB iP
      • Everyone has their own opinion... I am certainly not an Apple freek, but I can say that they have done wonders for the technology industry... Right now they are the one who are pushing the innovation in the technology industry... IPod.. IPhone.. Also, Apple certainly has a history here...

        As far as looking for your iPod firmware, why would you need to look for it? It would have been automatically pushed thru iTunes? Also, Apple traditionally is one who does not release a product most of th featues are func
  • 1. Get fired for sloppy licensing.
    2. Rat your ex company out to the BSA.
    3. Profit!
  • by Tim Ward ( 514198 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @12:17PM (#21480793) Homepage
    A lawyer who represents some of them says his clients often suspect that it was the IT guy who just left -- and was responsible for the maintaining the licenses -- who ratted them out for a big BSA reward.

    (1) BOFH tells bosses they really should pay up for legal licences.

    (2) Bosses tell BOFH to make illegal copies.

    (3) Repeat a few times.

    (4) BOFH gives up and finds another job.

    (5) BOFH shops former bosses.

    If this is a surprise to bosses who instruct BOFHs to make illegal copies of things then really it's amazing how they're bright enough to stay in business!
    • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @12:35PM (#21481091) Homepage
      Have you read BOFH? No way it happens like that.

      (1) BOFH tells bosses they really should pay up for legal licences.

      (2) BOFH bosses agree and cut a cheqeue

      (3) BOFH and PFY book junket to Las Vegas trade show to look into problem, fudge purchasing system to make it look like bosses bought new company cars, hookers and ski trips

      (4) Repeat a few times

      (5) Bosses ask why their computers appear to be empty cardboard boxes

      (6) BOFH rats out company to BSA

      (7) Corporate executives go to jail and pay fines since paper trail says BOFH has been asking for licenses for non-compliant management

      (8) New boss gets hired

      (9) BOFH tells bosses they really should pay up for legal licenses since last bosses wouldn't

      Repeat the whole process.

      This the the BOFH -- if there's no embezzlement happening, and if he's not blaming it on someone else, it's a non-story. :-P

      Cheers

      PS - now, for a normal IT person with a desire to do well, your scenario might be applicable. =)
    • Actually, it's more likely that this is the case.

      (1) OWIG (over-worked IT Guy) tells bosses they need to buy licenses for the 5 new computers they just bought.

      (2) Bosses tell him "not in the budget" and not to bother him, just "make it work".

      (3) OWIG knows if he doesn't give the people the software they need, he will be fired

      (4) OWIG is forced to install pirated software to keep his job, conveniently allowing bosses to stay "blissfully ignorant".

      (5) After a while, OWIG decides to find a new job

      (6) Rats out
  • by AHumbleOpinion ( 546848 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @12:19PM (#21480811) Homepage
    "... his clients often suspect that it was the IT guy who just left -- and was responsible for the maintaining the licenses -- who ratted them out for a big BSA reward ..."

    People responsible for licenses in some manner are not eligible for the reward. IT guys doing this are disgruntled and just trying to "get even".

    Keep in mind that small business was not chosen merely because they have fewer resourced available to defend themselves, but they were also the worst offenders. Betting that their size would keep them under the radar of Microsoft, Word Perfect, Lotus, Borland, etc back in the day. I'm not defending the BSA's actions, but their targeting is not entirely devoid of reason.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @12:31PM (#21481023) Homepage
      While I'm sure there's quite a few speculating in that, small businesses also rarely have that much license management in place. If you're the kind that bought one odd PC here and one there because a new guy was hired then they rarely go into the huge asset and license management that bigger companys have. Your assets are what's in the office, and your licenses are whatever's on them. Once you start moving past that level and have PCs bought in bulk by a purchasing department (or even just one guy responsible), a lot more of the paperwork tends to get done and the reciepts properly filed. From what experience I have had, I think almost all small businesses would be burned by a BSA audit, whether they were actually legit or not.
    • by alan_dershowitz ( 586542 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @12:45PM (#21481233)
      The person reporting the violation is eligible for the reward, it's not tied to position. The reason these small businesses are LYING is to cover their own butts. The IT guy said "you need X licenses" and the owner said "just install the same copy on every machine." The reason this happens ALL THE TIME is because the same owner who bullies his computer guy into pirating Photoshop on all their machines is a jerk about a LOT of things, which gets him reported in retaliation after he alienates his staff into quitting. I have seen it numerous times, and they were always reported by a disgruntled ex-employee. Instead of whining about it, they should BUY their software like the rest of us. I have seen this happen on numerous occasions, and I should note that I have never seen a business get fined or sued. They get sent a nastygram, requiring X number of days to prove compliance. The business hurriedly buys the required licenses, proves they are in compliance, and nothing more happens. Ultimately, they just want people to pay for their software.
      • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @01:38PM (#21481931)
        The IT guy said "you need X licenses" and the owner said "just install the same copy on every machine."

        Here, it was "I need X licenses." The owner said "OK, just submit a work order." The IT guy thought it was easier to just illegally copy software than actually get the stuff approved, so he never officially asked for it. Then, when he left, he called the BSA and we paid fines. He's the one that coppied programs without permission. He lied to the owners that were happy to do the right thing. Now all computers have tracking software and must be left on all night for the midnight scans of all company hard drives. And if you are in IT and are ordered to do something illegal, you are a criminal if you do it. Period. Doing it then turning them in doesn't make you not a criminal. Telling them to send you the request in writing so you can document it will either get you something to report them before it happens (or get you a large settlement if you are fired for not doing it) or they will be unwilling to write it out and tell you to do what's legal. I know IT people that pirate Acrobat because explaining the free PDF writers is more trouble than just stealing, and they don't tell anyone what they did. The IT people are usually the cause, not the innocent saps caught in the middle. I've never seen anyone ordered to pirate software, but I've seen numerous companies do it after the IT person offered it as a solution or did it without telling anyone.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rtechie ( 244489 )
      The only reason they target the small businesses is because they can't defend themselves, period. Large businesses are generally MUCH worse offenders, but they are MUCH more likely to defend themselves with lawyers because it's more cost-effective.

      Another point is that flexible license terms and the tools needed to manage licenses are often only made available to large businesses. Large businesses can get "site licenses" so they don't have to track individual licenses. They are often given the software or o
  • Basic psychology (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ErikZ ( 55491 ) * on Monday November 26, 2007 @12:20PM (#21480831)

    When when you skimp on salaries, make a hostile workplace, and generally make life hell, don't be surprised when your employees (or ex-employees) are not looking out for your best interest.

    • by kwerle ( 39371 )
      not looking out for your best interest

      Hm. Where "not looking out for your best interest" means not ratting you out for software piracy? I'm not even sure which side of that could have to do with best interests.
    • and quit not because of who they are working for but because they pissed off all their coworkers already and new faces to start over again. Hell there have been many people we practicaly CHEERED when they finally left.

      Its hostile because they, the quitter, made it that way. Tell me which is more likely, an office full for twenty hostile people and one good person or the other way around? Which one quits and then turns in the company for fraud?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Infinitely more likely it was the poor I.T. guy, denied access to funds to legitimise the software in the company, and unable to do anything about it with the threat of no job over his head, who finally either found a way out, or was creatively dismissed, and is now either being scape-goated, or maybe he was that pissed off he really did turn them in.

    I don't believe for a second the company wouldn't know if large amounts of their software wasn't paid for. It's very common for small time I.T. guys to be, for
    • by kardar ( 636122 )
      While I understand that some companies may actually put the IT folks under pressure to do stuff that is not above board, the flip side of that is that most businesses don't even realize they're not in compliance.

      1. You have to have an invoice. Period. If you lose it, you're a software pirate and owe them at least 3x retail + 3500 legal. No ifs, ands or buts. Being genuine doesn't count. Having the original CD with the hologram or what not doesn't count. You MUST have the invoice.

      2. The invoice has to be IN
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rtechie ( 244489 )

        You absolutely positively have to hire a lawyer (well, not really, but you should) - if you get audited.

        You hit part of the nail on the head. The trick of dealing with audits is to NOT deal with them.

        Never, ever, ever, agree to an audit by the BSA under any circumstances. It's the same as admitting liability. If they threaten you, hire a lawyer and threaten them back. Increasing the cost of the audit keeps it from being profitable and eventually they back off. If you keep stalling, you can drag the process out for years.

  • How does the BSA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jasen666 ( 88727 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @12:24PM (#21480913)
    force a company to allow an audit or "investigation"?
    What do they do when a small business owner says, "I use strictly Linux on my computers, no, you can't come in and look around, go pound sand."
    • Re:How does the BSA (Score:4, Informative)

      by malraid ( 592373 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @12:36PM (#21481109)
      They can't force you to have an audit (unless you signed a contract). They can submit the case to the police and the have them investigate. They can then raid the office and check your licensing. If you are 100% linux, then the case gets dropped. The BSA is just a proxy to sue people, so in case you sue back, you can't hurt the ones that are actually trying to extort you. Same as RIAA, MIAA, etc. Can they knock on your door and say "we want to audit you" ... Yes, but you can refuse.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jasen666 ( 88727 )
        Wouldn't they need to have some kind of proof of wrongdoing for the police to get involved? Especially since software licensing is a civil matter.

        I was trying to google a story/example of a company who fought against an audit, and what happened, but come up empty.
        • by malraid ( 592373 )
          Well, of course they should have to provide some proof of probable wrongdoing , but I'm not sure that they can say that to deny an audit is proof of probable wrongdoing . Software licensing is a civil matter, but copyright violation is a criminal matter. Of course this opinion is made drawing from all my previous law experience, in other words, no experience at all.
        • BSA is not law enforcement.

          go tell them to pound sand.

          they have no more rights to 'invade' your company than any other private non-LEO entity.

          the only way anyone should 'force' their way in is via a law enforcement officer WITH warrant in hand. and read the warrant, too, just in case.

    • Works if you don't actually have a sizable number of MS licenses, too.
    • Affidavit + subpoena. At least in the US.
    • Re:How does the BSA (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 26, 2007 @12:44PM (#21481231)

      I know someone that was audited by the BSA and decided to fight it. Basically they countered by stating they wanted full disclosure of who reported them so as to determine the validity of the claim prior to wasting internal resources and dollars.

      They also argued that the reporting tools are a violation of privacy. Yes, they expected them to place some software on their network which scans their entire network not to mention each machine's registry.

      Third, they also argued that even if they were in violation of license, the license is between them and the vendor (after all, the license does not allow for the BSA as having legal proxy interests) and unless the vendor in questions decides that they'd like to personally pursue the issue, the BSA does not have legal authority or the legal grounds to pursue the action.

      Furthermore, they argued that even if something odd was discovered and they lost, only the government has the right to impose fines on legal matters as such and they would be within their legal rights to simply purchase any outstanding licenses or settle directly with the vendor in question and completely dismiss the BSA altogether thereby eliminating the need to pay any fines or added fees.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jimlintott ( 317783 )
        How did that work out for them?
      • by FellowConspirator ( 882908 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @02:31PM (#21482715)
        While you're generally correct, the third item is not correct. The BSA is a duly designated representative of the copyright holders with power of attorney to prosecute infringement claims. So, that part is perfectly legitimate (under US law, anyway). It's no different than hiring a private law firm to do the same thing.

        Also, the BSA doesn't impose fines. The propose settlements (as they are empowered to do by their member companies). Again, this is as legitimate in the USA. In the USA, if there was a copyright infringement, the law permits the copyright holder to seek statutory damages up to $150,000 per incident. They are not obligated to license the software to you, and purchasing a license wouldn't absolve or indemnify the infringer with regard to the prior infringement.

        The argument that you could ignore the BSA on the grounds that it isn't the copyright holder is baseless, because the BSA is a valid agent of the copyright holder.

        The argument that you could simply come into compliance and that would eliminate any liability for prior infringement is also incorrect. The liability remains until it's legally settled -- either by out-of-court settlement or as the result of going to court (which could incur much higher costs and damages).

        Also, I'd point out that users of software from BSA-affiliated companies generally agree as part of the license to submit to audits on demand as a condition of the license.

        Using proprietary commercial software is a huge legal and fiscal liability for a company. If the company cannot devote sufficient resources to dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's to be 100% certain it's compliant, it probably shouldn't touch the stuff. Clearly, certain software will be necessary for certain businesses, but it behooves those companies to familiarize themselves with the issue and absorb the costs as part of the cost of doing business.
    • They file suit using the signed affidavit they got from the employee that turned them in. Then they show up using their newly acquired subpoena and seize all the computer gear. After they have this evidence of infringement they then tell the company that the fee schedule for voluntary compliance no longer exists and they are going to for the full $150K per violation. Given that the average small business typically owns one set of licenses on 10 or more computers the BSA typically goes for damages in excess
    • by numbski ( 515011 )
      Nothing, save for fear of a lawsuit, and the BSA's uncanny ability to con local law enforcement into thinking they have authority that they really do not...
  • I think this brings up a bigger point or perhaps a few. I don't argue for a second that most the reports might be from employees who just left the company. But what I don't agree with is the person themselves didn't keep the licenses up to date. They might have been responsible on paper but did they have the budget, process and resources to do it, this is the key question. I've seen it more times than I wish to recall that a new project or new employee is brought on board and the IT person has only a coup
    • I go through this fight several times a year with our department. Mid-year rolls around and some department gets approval to expand by 20 people, and it becomes IT's problem when we can't install all of the software these 20 new people require. Luckily I have the backing of our CEO here, so our policy is to never install software without a license.

      In previous jobs that was rarely the case, and the executive stance was usually "just make it work, we can buy the software next year". Of course, rarely is th
    • Another problem is that license servers (including Windows client licenses) don't always work reliably, or if they work they don't actually match the license you're actually using (either because they don't support it, or you can't figure out how to configure it, or they won't let you reconfigure it if you get it wrong).

      So even if you're in compliance with the license, the servers think you aren't... so you either buy more licenses or you bypass it.
  • Hmmm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @12:29PM (#21480989)
    Wouldn't it be cool if some disgruntled worker gets fired from the BSA and then turns around and rats the BSA out to the BSA? He'd have to get a reward, and the BSA would have to charge itself a hefty fine.
  • So yah, we just had a discussion less than a few hours ago on this [slashdot.org].

    This is a slightly different slant on the other article, but it's funny how this [slashdot.org] comment about cheap clients plays into this new article.

    So the IT guy leaves and rats out the business for stealing software. First thing that pops into my head is it must have been some pretty fucked up bosses to work for to motivate someone to take it as far as snitching.

    Of course, i'm going to get the normal "OMFG YOU'RE NOT A SLASH FANBOI!" dipshit comments
  • Of course, companies are always going to blame the "disgruntled former employee." But how many of those ex-ITs were responsible for the software BUDGET? Most companies have a policy: They limit employees to licensed software and budget accordingly. But others, with a more lax management attitude, are no doubt telling IT what they want installed and "just do it." Yeah, the former IT person is going to know the company isn't properly licensed. But I'd bet that 98% of the time, he/she didn't have the authority
  • Shareware was made by programmers when the terms "open source" or "free/libre software" were unknown. There was no such thing as the Internet, or e-mail. Programmers coded for a living, and sold programs for a living. I remember the times where all PC computers were 386, ran MS-DOS, had 32MBytes of RAM. Programming was mostly considered a hobby except for large enterprises (i.e. Lotus, Borland, Microsoft, and such). Most hobbyists didn't pay for programming languages - they were pirated because they were too expensive.

    You logged into BBS's whose phone numbers you found on specialized magazines. Meetings were held with the 5 or 10 people in your area, and paid-for software was seen as a valuable treasure. Owners of that software would share it with their friends, and the original discs were treated as some kind of ancient artifact which belonged in a museum.

    That's how you learned to program back then. You pirated the language, and eventually you began producing stuff worth selling. Then you bought your first legitimate copy of the language.

    That's how things were done those days. It was rough, primitive, but fun at the same time. It was the way of the Old West.

    In the files sections, you downloaded all these utility programs (hard disk optimizers, text editors, quit-smoking organizers and such) that expired in around 30 days, and you could register them for 5 or 20 bucks. It was cheap, and reasonable.

    These small-scale programmers were defenseless against crackers and pirates, who didn't retribute them for their effort. So they turned to the BSA to help them punish the thieves who just stole their software.

    It was how business was done back then. Getting organized at a national level to make good software for free was unthinkable. You had to charge for your code, and it was OK. To program, you had to actually buy software. I remember how expensive was to purchase a copy of Borland/C++ or Turbo Pascal (with Turbo Vision!) so you could make decent programs. It may sound like heresy in the G++ times of today, but that's how it was.

    It was rough, primitive, but fun at the same time. It was the way of the Old West.

    But times have changed.

    We have GNU and the Free Software/Open Source licenses now - and software is being developed by teams of independent programmers working for a common goal: Freedom (I'm relatively new to GNU/Linux, and I was awed at the amount of Free/Libre Open Source Software for Linux). I compare my GNU/Linux box to my close friends' windows boxes - often filled with "freeware" and paid-for/cracked shareware developed in Visual Basic most of the time, and I can't even start to describe the difference. It's all chaotic and primitive in the Windows world.

    When I go to a webpage and see a Windows app for say, transferring your ipod files to your computer, or ripping/burning a CD, I see the price tag and think: "Are they kidding me? They charge for THIS STUFF?"

    The BSA and old software business models (just like the RIAA and MPAA's) are going the way of the dodo bird. They have no place in the open world of today.
  • Of the $13 million that the BSA reaped in software violation settlements with North American companies last year, almost 90 percent came from small businesses, the AP found.

    To paraphrase Anatole France, "The BSA in its majesty makes no distinction between rich and poor; both are forbidden to install unlicenced software."

    Of course they attack small business. Big business has the money to fight back with armies of lawyers.
  • by StressGuy ( 472374 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @12:45PM (#21481237)
    They are a manufacturer of guitar strings. I seem to recall an article (perhaps even posted to /.) about them getting stung by the BSA. The responded by deploying Linux and going to open source software.

    As I recall, it worked out well for them.

    Then again, perhaps I should take the time and google "Ernie Ball" and see if my memory is correct ;)
  • I have occasionally heard the Business Software Alliance (BSA) commercials on late-night talk radio on AM radio stations. It offers listeners large cash rewards for turning in software piracy offenders such as their employer. I don't recall all the details, but it sounds like an offer that would be especially appealing to disgruntled employees or recently fired employees (assuming their employer uses pirated software). Any small business owner hearing that commercial would probably wonder if they have an

  • by cliffski ( 65094 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @12:55PM (#21481381) Homepage
    How is prosecuting people for stealing your software 'extortion'?
    This is taking the slashdot pro-piracy meme too far. I run a (one man) company, I use legit software. It can cost a lot, but you weigh up the pros and cons and you buy it. Poser cost me $600 plus maybe another $300 of add ons. Its the cost of doing business. It's no different to paying for the desk, my PC, the heater in my home office or the phone bill.

    I have zero sympathy for small businesses that would try and undercut me by stealing software. Fuck em. let them be prosecuted. It's not like people really do not realise that photoshop or visual studio isn't freeware.

    I'm all for slashdot readers posting about how companies should use open source free software so they don't have to deal with this, but how can you defend people who KNOW there are free alternatives, but decide to steal a copy of an office suite anyway...
    • by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @01:05PM (#21481517) Homepage

      So how is it piracy to buy a computer with Windows included from a major vendor like Dell or HP and not have a receipt with Windows broken out as a seperate line-item? How is it piracy to cut a check so the IT guy can run down and buy an emergency replacement PC in a hurry and have the receipt have his name on the top and not the company's? Both of those are piracy by the BSA's definition (the company can't produce a receipt in their name showing payment for Windows).

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by cliffski ( 65094 )
        it's not. but to spin every case as being like that, when the truth 9as we aLL know) is that there are just thousands of companies using warezed copies of software is just delusional. The BSA exist for a good reason. They shouldn't prosecute in cases like those you describe, but they sure as hell should where there is blatant piracy.
    • by Ajehals ( 947354 )
      I agree with you 100% if you use it, pay for it.

      The only thing that slightly perturbs me in this case is the fact that a disgruntled employee / competitor has the potential to cause administrative stress for the company he/she has left (especially if the requirement to have receipts is correct). But then personally I wouldn't agree to an audit from the BSA (and nor would my board..) that would presumably be the end of it, primarily because there is no unlicensed software in use within my organisation and I
  • ...Wish I'd thought of that. I really wanted to shove it to my old boss.

    Oh well.
  • The BSA considers software pirated if a company can't produce a receipt for it, no matter how long ago it was purchased. Software boxes or certificates of authenticity are no help.
    And some times the certificates of authenticity or the key on your systems case is the only receipt. What about software / hardware makes you send in the receipt for rebate or warranty?

    What even happened to innocent until proven guilty?
  • Small org or large, why do they continue to labor under the mistaken assumption that they are well served by dealing with vendors who treat their customers like criminals? All the more reason to switch to friendlier vendors and/or open source software.
  • Doing some actual research into how they do the rewards, it is hardly ever a $1 million reward as they advertise. It is actually scaled based on the settlement the BSA makes with the offending company. If the settlement is $15,000-$100,000 you are only eligible for a $5,000 reward. Not as much motive there when you read the fine print. The company has to pay a settlement of $15 MILLION or more for you to be eligible for the $1 million reward. Also there are all kinds of stipulations and abilities for t
  • While I would agree that the small business owner plays a role, the IT staff play a bigger one. Most shops of less than 10-20 people will not have their own IT staff. In these cases, you often have someone come in and create the network and set things up, but nobody is there to do day to day tasks. A side effect is that no employee is likely to even know that they should be keeping detailed records of software purchases and use. You can see this even more in companies that grew from a single person.

    Ex: A se
  • I'd just like to point out this Google Ad on the Slashdot homepage as I was reading this:

    Company Steals Software?

    Earn up to $1 Million for Reporting Software Piracy - All Confidential
    www.BSA.org/reportpiracy
  • by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @02:09PM (#21482395)
    "How the BSA Squeezes the Little Guys"

    For a second I thought the title of this article was very, very disturbing.
  • by kilodelta ( 843627 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @07:40PM (#21486397) Homepage
    Six years ago I was the I.T. Director for a manufacturing firm. I had numerous arguments with the company president about software licensing and how we were dancing on the edge of disaster. I finally left in disgust.

    Once I'd left I contact the BSA and told them what I knew. A few days after my first contact they called me and told me they weren't going to pursue. The reason they weren't going to pursue is because the company was on shaky financial ground.

    So if you're going to pirate, make sure you're financially unstable.

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