Software Pirates Are Offered Amnesty
The Business Software Alliance (BSA), a software watchdog group, has launched a month-long grace period to give companies running unlicensed software the chance to become legal without facing past penalties imposed by the vendor group.
According to a recent study by the BSA, software piracy in 2000 cost the U.S. more than $5.6 billion in lost wages and resulted in a tax loss of close to $1.6 billion.
The BSA couldn't be reached for further comment.
This month, nearly 800,000 companies in Billings, Bozeman, and Missoula, Montana; Houston; Indianapolis; Nashville; Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia; Orlando; San Francisco; San Jose; and Oakland, California, will have the opportunity to become fully licensed and be excused from paying penalties for software violations occurring before January 1. Some of those penalties range as high as $150,000 per copyright infringement.
The BSA has sent information on the program to those businesses. This is the seventh such program sponsored by the Washington-based BSA since August 2000. BSA members include Microsoft, IBM, Intel, Apple, Adobe Systems, and Symantec.
"The Business Software Alliance recognizes that, for whatever reason, some businesses may not have managed their software assets properly, but ignoring the problem can lead to substantial financial exposure," said Bob Kruger, vice president of enforcement at the BSA, in a statement. "The grace period offers businesses a chance to catch up, conduct a software audit and acquire the necessary licenses they need to get legal--penalty-free. This is a great opportunity for businesses to resolve any compliance issues before they become subjects of a BSA investigation."
During the past nine years, the BSA has collected more than $68 million in penalties from companies using illegal software in 28 cities, the group said in a statement. To date, the BSA has offered the program to nearly 4 million businesses.
"I hear from customers that about 90 percent of companies have some exposure [to liability] because of noncompliance, and about 40 percent of those companies may have significant exposure," said Laura DiDio, an analyst at Giga Information Group.
However, DiDio said, she doesn't think companies are intentionally trying to cheat vendors by avoiding software licensing. Instead, she blames sloppy procurement practices and poor management of IT assets.
DiDio said it's unclear how much of an impact this type of amnesty program will have.
Businesses trying to determine whether their organization is using unlicensed software can download a free BSA Software Audit tool or call (877) 536-4272 for additional information.