Tech Data Canada is bringing vendors and resellers together to better educate the channel on software licensing and anti-piracy issues.

The Mississauga, Ont.-based distributor Monday hosted a “Licensing Awareness Day” with Network Associates, Citrix, Microsoft, Merilus, Veritas and Novell. Each vendor offered a half-hour overview of its licensing program and discussed the advantages of licensing in general. This will be followed up in two weeks by a less formal wine and cheese night on June 21, which will focus specifically on software security.

Irene Buchan, Tech Data’s director of product management, said it was too early to say whether or not the Licensing Awareness Day will become an annual event.

“We’ll continue to refine the way we license software.” “This was a good approach for us in terms of educating people on the advantages of licensing. It wasn’t product-specific.”

Tech Data wants to position its software business as a primary go-between for resellers who find themselves on unsure footing with their customers.

“We still get customers calling in asking about retail packs. These are people selling 30 seats,” she said. “Really, that’s them not understanding licensing isn’t just on the enterprise level.”

Two weeks ago International Planning and Research Corp. released a study on behalf of the Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft (CAAST) which said software piracy was costing the economy $457 million a year. Though the actual percentage of piracy incidents dropped three per cent this year, the study estimated that one in every three business software applications in Canada was pirated in 2000.

CAAST president Al Steel said awareness campaigns from vendors and distributors must be coupled with tougher fines by the federal government.

“I think in the last year you’ve seen a lot more situations where vendors have gone and prosecuted offending individuals,” he said. “That’s gone a long way to showing that the industry is taking the issue seriously.”

Buchan said many of Tech Data’s customer base are prone to pirating software unintentionally

“The programs are constantly changing,” she said. “Microsoft is an example of a vendor that continuously lowers the seat level . . . one of the benefits that we believe our software business provides is that we don’t require the (reseller) customer to know the complete program.”

Instead, Tech Data has six bilingual employees set up on a special queue on the company’s call centre to help VARs configure their licensing orders properly, and suggest add-on products like anti-virus tools.

The next obvious step is to migrate software orders over to the Internet, but electronic software delivery remains a stumbling block for vendors and distributors alike. Even Microsoft Canada had to abandon its volume licensing online program last year when the tools they had created to do it failed to work properly.

“At the time when that was really being investigated, they had a hard time assessing demand,” Buchan said.

In the meantime, resellers can e-mail licensing inquiries to Tech Data’s software business unit at software@techdata.ca, where they can also RSVP for the June 21 event.

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