Has Anyone Received the BSA's $1M Software Piracy Reward?

More than a year after increasing its bounty from $200,000 to $1 million for qualified reports of software copyright infringement leads, the Business Software Alliance (BSA) has yet to reward a million dollars to anyone reporting on his organization's intellectual property infractions.

"The BSA hasn't yet paid out $1 million, although we are very willing to do so if the opportunity arises," writes BSA spokesman Rodger Correa in an e-mail. "That's how serious we take our mission of [intellectual property] protection."

In the first quarter of 2008, the BSA paid out just $58,000 in rewards to 14 separate individuals, Correa notes. However, he says, "we don't comment on the size of any one individual reward."

The Business Software Alliance is a formidable organization, acting as "the voice" of the world's commercial software industry and its hardware partners before governments and in the international marketplace, Correa notes. The BSA speaks for vendors such as Apple, CA, Cisco Systems, Dell, EMC, HP, IBM, Intel, McAfee, Microsoft, SAP, Sybase, Symantec and many others. And its message is clear: Use our members' software legally, or we will come after you.

The BSA's "Press Room" on its website is eerily similar to a hunter's "wall of game" that he has killed and stuffed for public viewing. A recent sampling, delivered with a certain amount of marketing flair, includes such trophies as: "BSA Puts the Brakes on Los Angeles-Area Car Dealership Group"; "Los Angeles-Area Engineering Company Pays $250,000 to The Business Software Alliance"; and "Dental Services Provider Fills Cavity in License Management Plan."

Correa notes that its marketing initiatives, such as the online exhibit and the $1 million reward offer, serve to draw further attention to the BSA's mission. They appear to be working.

According to the BSA's fifth-annual study on global software piracy, of the 108 countries that are covered in the May 2008 report, the use of pirated software dropped in 67 countries; in just eight countries did the piracy rate increase. (For more, see "BSA's Annual Study Shows Software Piracy Declining in Many Countries.")

To Julie Machal-Fulks, a partner at Scott & Scott, a law firm that specializes in helping companies both reactively and proactively deal with software audits and compliance projects, the BSA has been effective in meeting its stated goals. (Scott & Scott is well known for its commentary on the "questionable practices of software industry enforcement programs.")

"While some of their tactics have been questioned in both the media and by industry groups," Machal-Fulks says, "I think the BSA's reward program is successful for what it's trying to accomplish: which is to get disgruntled employees to make reports against employers in order to provide at least an initial modicum of evidence that the BSA relies on to begin an investigation."

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