BSA ǀ The Software Alliance: a friend to software companies or an enemy to advancement?

The BSA ǀ The Software Alliance, formerly known as the “Business Software Alliance” and also known as the “BSA”, is a trade group established in 1988 for the principle purpose of trying to stop copyright infringement of software produced by its members. The BSA is supported through membership dues based on the member company’s software revenues and with powerhouse software developing members such as Autodesk, Adobe, IBM, and Microsoft, the Software Alliance does not have to worry about a lack of funding.

The Software Alliance relies on many different options to gain knowledge, locate, and ultimately file copyright infringement charges against businesses who are allegedly using the software of a Software Alliance member illegally. Members of the BSA have the luxury of being able to sit back while the Software Alliance conducts audits on companies, receives tips about purported illegal use, and investigates. Using the usual methods that other companies and third parties may use such as audits, peer to peer network sniffing, header probing, and the torrent honey-pot method, the Software Alliance is able to find and take care of any suspected illegal use of its members’ software.

Unlike other companies however, the BSA has conducted massive public campaigns in an effort to have citizens feed them information on the possible infringing use of its members’ software. One of these campaigns, named “Play It Cyber Safe”, is used to target students and features an anti-piracy ferret for a mascot. The Software Alliance stated that the objective of this campaign is to help students understand and appreciate the importance of using legal software, the meaning of copyright laws, and why it is essential to protect copyrighted creative works such as software.

Another campaign that the Software Alliance runs focuses more on disgruntled employees and is aptly named “Bust Your Boss”. This campaign appears on billboards, printed publications and the internet with the following suggestion: “ Is your current or former employer using pirated software in their office? Hit ‘em where it really hurts – report their illegal software use today.” This campaign attempts to persuade the public to help the BSA by being their in-office watchdogs in companies all over the world. However, some of the BSA’s enforcement practices against small to medium-sized businesses have come under fire for offering reward money up to $200,000 USD to disgruntled employees that report current or former employers for alleged violations of a BSA member’s software license. Remember those deep pockets that were mentioned? This is what they are used for.

The Software Alliance has taken it one step further by creating a Facebook organization page which shares its goals with anyone willing to click the “follow” button. On their page, the BSA shares stories of new software and different political movements as well as regulations that are proposed in the realm of copyright infringement. While on the BSA’s Facebook page you may not be prompted to “Bust Your Boss”, one click on the link to the Software Alliance website will take you directly to the homepage where the words “report piracy” are promptly displayed.

The Software Alliance is a large member group with deep pockets that are used to keep its members’ software free from piracy. While some of the methods and data that are used by the BSA may be heavily criticized, the results speak for themselves. So in the battle between the freedom to advance technologically and the corporations rights to protect its creative software, the BSA offers frontline protection and backline defense all in one. Is your business in the BSA’s line of fire?

Dorman Bell is a business and technology focused law firm based in Dallas, Texas and has a dedicated section to defend organizations against software license audits from software publishers and their trade organizations, such as BSA│The Software Alliance and Software and Information Industry Association. For more information, call us at (214) 736-7168 or visit our contact page and we will get back with you as soon as possible. We look forward to serving you!!!