Business Software Alliance’s latest weird argument for stronger IP laws

The Business Software Alliance has found a newly imagined detriment of Canada’s supposedly sub-par intellectual property laws – make sure you’re sitting down for this shocker – it’s slowing down the advancement of cloud computing.

It’s the latest of many poxes that have stricken Canada as a result of our outdated IP enforcement and copyright protection regime, all of which have been fastidiously documented by this interest group representing the world’s largest software companies.

First, the BSA equated reduction of software piracy through stronger copyright enforcement to an increase in spending on software. That spurious logic allowed them to claim our nation was missing out on the creation of thousands of jobs and $3 billion of economic value. Then, Canada was described by the BSA as a “pirate haven,” only to later recant when its own survey showed that Canada actually has less pirates per capita than the U.S., U.K., Japan, and many other countries.

Now the group representing the interests of Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, McAfee, Symantec, and more, are pointing to cloud computing as the latest slice of utopia denied to Canadians due to our IP laws.

Brian Jackson, Associate Editor,
Brian Jackson, Associate Editor,

“Providers of cloud computing and digital economy technologies and services, as with other highly innovative products, rely on a combination of patents, copyrights, trade secrets and other forms of intellectual property protection,” the BSA’s report on cloud computing explains. That’s as close as it comes to connecting how IP actually impacts cloud computing, also adding: “In order to promote continued innovation and technological advancement, intellectual property laws should provide for clear protection and vigorous enforcement against misappropriation and infringement of the developments that underlie the cloud.”

In reality, lack of cloud progress has little to do with IP laws and more to do with a much more proven and simpler economic dictate: supply and demand.

All those big software companies want to sell their new cloud services, but not many Canadian firms want to buy them. In our State of the SMB report for 2011, 55 per cent of businesses told us they hadn’t adopted cloud technology at all. When asked to list their concerns about cloud technology, most named “security risks” or “costs and pricing structure” as their biggest worry.

There is fair debate to be had about whether those concerns are valid or not, but the fact is that most companies still have them. These aren’t concerns relating to intellectual property laws, but to security of data and business cost overhead.

Arguing that worries over IP protection has somehow stopped technology firms from offering cloud computing is laughable, as BSA member organizations have been enthusiastically marketing such services for the last couple of years. Take Microsoft’s recent move to deliver its Office productivity suite over the Web, for example, or Symantec’s reputation-based security services.

Another cloud service provider that you might be familiar with, and is not a member of the BSA, has a more reasonable approach to explaining barriers to cloud adoption in Canada. Here’s Google’s take on the issue:

“Canadians are slow to move to a true cloud service, and this is affecting our global competitiveness. Simplistic notions of data sovereignty often means businesses and users are missing out on world-leading security and data protection expertise.”

Canada is specifically called out for having gaps in its IP laws by the BSA time and time again. But somehow our technology firms remain innovative and our economy keeps growing.

The BSA’s cloud computing report card is an impressive study for the number of countries it looked at, and the data it collected for many different variables that can be used to quickly assess everything from cybercrime prevention to broadband penetration. But saying the methodology is applicable to the growth of cloud computing isn’t backed up by any real evidence.

Looks like the BSA has its head in the clouds on this one.

Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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