Beware – the software copyright police are watching.

The Business Software Alliance (BSA), a software industry led and funded organization dedicated to raising awareness of software piracy issues – and forcing compliance – has settled with Scarborough, Ont.-based Promobiz Solutions for $106,791 over allegations of unauthorized copying of copyrighted software.

According to the BSA, it was alerted to the unlicensed software use through a confidential report made via the snitch function on its web site, www.nopiracy.ca.  As part of the settlement, Promobiz agreed to delete from its computers all unlicensed software, acquire any licenses necessary to become fully compliant, and take measures to ensure its future compliance.

“Under-licensing is a significant contributor to the overall software piracy market in Canada and affects all industry sectors,” said Jacqueline Famulak, Chair of the BSA Canada Committee, in a statement. “Software piracy hampers technology companies’ ability to innovate and create much-needed jobs and government revenues during these challenging economic times.”

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According to the BSA, most of its software investigations begin with a tip, usually from current or former employees. BSA contacts the company to explore the matter further by asking them to perform an audit of its software assets and, if a settlement cannot be reached, the matter may go to the courts.

What’s your take?

Is a confidential snitch line to inform of unlicensed software use a necessary step to protect copyrighted intellectual property, or an unwarranted and distasteful intrusion? Let us know in the comments.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rob-Harmer/674126316 Rob Harmer

    We have been against whistleblower reward schemes for the last 20 years as they are not the answer to solving the problem. Sure, they flush out bad practices but sometimes the business is vulnerable due to a number of reasons.

    One of these issues is they are small as in SMB.

    It seems that many have forgotten that the “S” in SMB stands for small, all lower case!

    Most SMBs including the one that is listed at http://tinyurl.com/d49eoqd started out with a few employees.

    Most SMBs actually start with 1 one employee, with one PC.

    They typically buy their initial assets at FPP retail incrementally.

    SAM is NOT on their radar in any shape or form.

    As the business grows it adds 1, 2 3, 5, 10 employees in all sorts of bundle numbers, and they still typically buy at FPP or discounted prices for volume, BUT they still don’t have SAM or a LAR on their radar.

    Nor do they run an IT department, they rely on the local guru (some techno head) who knows computers” to “manage” their systems in conjunction with their day job.

    “Manage” is a very loose term at this stage.

    In an SMB in the early stages the tech-support guy/gal is usually the designated go-to person to keep the systems up and going and fire-fight, rather than orderly SAM planning and deployment.

    By this stage a network is likely to be in place, usually happening after 2 or more PCs are peered together as a workgroup.

    SAM is still NOT on their radar in any shape or form.

    …… and so on until such time as the organization gets to the S-Medium-B stage.

    What number makes it a “medium” instead of small?

    No hard and fast rule here but usually it’s the stage that requires a full time in-house IT support person, as they realize that paying a retail tech shop at hourly call out rates/fees can be better invested by employing someone in-house.

    Does this person become the SAM? Still the answer is no…..

    I can keep going with the lifecycle of an SMB BUT the bottom line is the outcome is still the same.

    SMBs do not have SAM on their radar until they get to a significant “Medium” size that warrants it. Cost/benefit trade-off applies here and SMB management is quick on its feet to work this out as they are agile when it comes to cost of running a business.

    By then it’s too late and lots of hard work needs to be done to reconfigure the landscape. All of this is at an overhead cost. SMBs are lean on cost, so wasted time is wasted money.

    Does the LAR help do this? Rarely, as they are keen to sell an enterprise agreement and don’t usually hang around to help wash up the underlying landscape to establish a configured baseline. Sad but true.

    The LARs that do, charge a fee for service, as they too run a business often as an SMB.

    This is why MORE needs to be done for SMBs in terms of establishing the base level accurate inventory on installation and only the software OEM can do this with certainty by providing specific OEM vendor tools that track and summarize the deployed inventory, so that the owner can then match inventory summaries to proof of purchase records.

    The guys who started this at http://tinyurl.com/d49eoqd have forgotten what it is like to be an SMB.

    It’s hard work out there as an SMB and vendor audits playing hard ball over a situation that is unmanageable from day 1 is not reasonable.

    http://www.pcprofile.com/Why_Should_You_Succumb_To_An_Audit.htm

    and

    http://www.pcprofile.com/free_software_audit.htm

    • Stranger

      Rob,

      your argument is ridiculous. You cannot justify theft because you cannot afford it. You simply wait until you can afford it and start your venture then; or does common sense not apply?

      Furthermore, defending small companies because the are small is absurd. I just attended a private college to study Software Quality Assurance. Not only was all of the software provided pirated, including HP QC & QTP, VMWare Workstation Pro, Windows Server 2000, not to mention that even the course criteria was pirated from another website, but we were also told that we can keep the applications after the course is complete and use them for personal use.

      Being it that QC & QTP are thousands of dollars for the seat license, if I decided to use said software at a future employer, I not only put myself at risk, but I put my company at risk as well. We were under the impression this was all legit so tell me why they should get away with such behavior simply because they are the ‘S’ in your ‘SMB’? I am also months behind my studies waiting for another course to start when I should already be certified and working?

      So let me get this straight, an “S” can create a business model that is comprised of stolen goods, and the justification for why it is okay is because they are small? This is ridiculous, and it sounds like this issue is something you got slammed with in the past to take so much time and detail to explain your views…It sounds like you are reiterating what was stated as your defense in your court case…and wonder how well that went for you?

      So again, I am months behind in studies, I (and potential future employers) were put at legal risk, and our personal computers were compromised with torrented software (torrent files were still included when it was given to us, along with a list of pirated keys), and you feel I do not deserve a reward for reporting them? I have taken a much larger loss then what I would (potentially) receive in return? Who do you feel is responsible for my monetary loss due to their illegal actions? I should also point out that as part of our job as a Software QA rep, we are responsible for requirement gathering; which includes items such as licensing, and was taught to us by them while they continued to give us pirated licenses…

      So let me get this straight…

      With your logic I should sell crack-cocaine to the kids to fund my way through my Pharmaceutical Sciences course…Because It’s okay to sell illegal drugs instead of legitimate ones as I’m still studying and not an actual Pharmacist or Pharmaceutical Scientist just yet. It’s even more okay because I’m an ‘S’ and only sell small quantities, and only M’s & B’s are on the police’s radar… It’s even more more more okay because at some point in the future, you know, after I graduate and can actually afford it, I plan to go legitimate…So um, at what point in this story is the part where you care about the lives of the crack addicts? Their lives were destroyed along the way, but I guess it’s just their life lesson to learn….right..?

      Let me give another example in the form of a pop quiz…

      I want to go on vacation to Thailand but I can’t afford it…. Does that mean I should go steal the rest of the money so I can afford it, or does it imply I should hold off on my vacation until I have saved up enough money of my own??

      If you cannot afford the licenses, then find some investors or wait until you have saved enough money to start your venture in a legitimate fashion…

      P.S. I would like to say thank you for one thing, your post has just motivated me to finish filing my report on an ‘S’….Unfortunately your ignorant views proved counter-productive to your intent…

  • Rex

    The software industry takes a major hit from piracy, and other methods of enforcement would be an ever further cost. Offering a potential percentage of settlement to whistleblowers turns any disgruntled employee into a threat. This may not seem fair to companies, but what is fair? If you have legit software you have nothing to worry about. But, if you are in the wrong, running pirated software, you really don’t have the right to complain about ‘how’ they catch you.

    “Snitch” sounds a bit underhanded, like a paid informant. This is more whistleblowing, as at the time or reporting, there is no guarantee of reward, and the person reporting is doing it more so to ‘do the right thing’. It is understandable that most reports come from ex-employees, as who wants to risk their job while still employed?

    Hopefully this keeps companies in check 2 fold.
    1. Don’t use pirated software.
    2. Make sure you treat your employees well.
    Too many companies out there don’t handle departures correctly, fire people for no reason, refuse overtime pay, threaten or belittle staff, and ultimately create this problem for themselves.

    You could say its amazing this doesn’t happen more frequently, but this actually happens more often than we realize. The BSA only publishes some of their cases (likely as part of their settlements). More recently for example, PNH Solutions, a printing company in Montreal & Toronto settled with the BSA for using pirated software. The long term upside is that going forward everything is legit and the offending company eliminates the threat of it happening again. However the short term consequences can be more than monetary. As a client, how would you feel knowing that a company was performing work for you with illegal software? Begs the question, What other ways are they cutting corners with your work?