Using pirated software or abusing your software licenses for your business is heavily frowned upon. However, many software companies, in an attempt to protect their products, have unleashed a practice that can actually reward those who let it happen in the first place.
To begin, we want to say that we feel that nobody should use pirated software. However, while we don’t condone software piracy, we also can’t say we’re comfortable with the tactics that are used to combat this piracy, either. This is especially true when we consider the kinds of activities that the BSA | The Software Alliance, engages in.
A Bit of Background
The BSA is an international advocacy group for the proper licensing of business-centric software solutions, with a member list that includes IBM, Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, Trend Micro, and many others. The organization, according to their website, “pioneers compliance programs that promote legal software use and advocates for public policies that foster technology innovation and drive growth in the digital economy.”
This would be all well and good if it weren’t for the tactics that the BSA has used in the past to accomplish their other goal. Pirated software is the BSA’s main target, and they work to make any business found with any unlicensed software installed pay, and pay a lot.
Their Preferred Tactic: Bribery and Social Media Guerilla Marketing
The BSA has a history of targeting businesses under suspicion of having unlicensed software in use. However, in order to catch these businesses in the act, the BSA targets its employees.
The BSA also has a history of leveraging social media marketing to target the employees of companies directly. These ads have promised a cash bounty in exchange for turning in their employer for software piracy. A now-seemingly-defunct Facebook page for a campaign run by the BSA would entice users to turn in businesses in exchange for a cash reward.
However, who would know if a business was using unlicensed software better than one of that business’ employees?
The BSA seems to have known this from the start, running ads that read, “Nail your boss. Report Software Piracy,” before taking a more subliminal, covert approach through targeted social media efforts. These efforts are targeted towards those whom you have employed and attempt to sway them into blowing the whistle on you for software piracy by offering a bounty.
These bounties are scaled to the value of the settlement that the reported company has to pay the BSA. If the company had to pay anywhere between $15,000 to $100,000, the whistleblower could receive up to $5,000. If the company had to pay over $15,000,000, the reward could swell to a $1,000,000 payout. However, the BSA “reserves the right to deviate from that schedule in its sole discretion.”
Or, in other words, pay less of a bounty while still collecting retribution from the company.
Why You May Have a Problem
Unfortunately, there are plenty of ways that you could be left on the hook if the BSA were to ever come knocking on your door, and many of them are completely due to your employees. For instance, if you’re caught with unlicensed software installed on your system, you’re the one responsible, not the employee who installed it.
The same is true if an employee installs the same software license on multiple devices. If that employee were to leave with bad blood, they could report you for it, even though they were responsible for it being on your systems.
How to Solve the Problem
You need to be sure that you have no unlicensed software anywhere on your network. Running an audit is a simple way to identify and dispose of any software that might trip you up with the BSA, allowing you to solve the problem before dealing with the circumstances that come from actions done without your approval.
Exact IT Consulting can help you run this audit, and deal with any software that doesn’t meet the requirements set by the BSA.