CAAST offers amnesty to Ontario pirates

The Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft (CAAST) on Tuesday announced the Software Truce, a month-long campaign to encourage Ontario businesses to rid their systems of illegal software.

Businesses that come clean during the Truce

will not be subject to CAAST litigation for past piracy offenses.

“”You can call it whatever you want: a truce, a grace period or an amnesty,”” said Jacquie Famulak, a CAAST director and legal counsel at CAAST member Apple Canada Inc. “”It gives you a chance to get legal.””

For the month of April, CAAST’s second Software Truce Campaign will target 30,000 businesses in Barrie, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Ottawa and Toronto with direct-mail packages about the campaign. Companies can register through the CAAST Truce Campaign Web site, declaring they have purchased all necessary licenses for their software. By doing so, companies can avoid CAAST action for offenses prior to March 31, 2002.

Should a complaint be filed against a Truce-registered company, Toronto-based CAAST will investigate to ensure the company has indeed obtained its licenses. If a company has obtained all its licenses it will still only be exempt from CAAST civil action on past offenses as criminal charges will still be possible. As well, the amnesty does not apply to CAAST investigations already underway.

“”Anything that’s already being investigated by CAAST goes on,”” Famulak said.

According to a study conducted by International Planning & Research Corp. (IPR) on behalf of the Washington, D.C.-based Business Software Alliance, of which CAAST is an affiliate, $245 million in retail software sales and 13,000 jobs were lost to software piracy in Ontario in 2000.

IPR research released in November showed business software piracy in Canada declined three per cent between 1999 and 2000, though the 2000 rate was still 38 per cent. Famulak said the national average in the United States is a significantly lower 25 per cent. The rate in Ontario in 2000 was 36.6 per cent, below the national average. But Ontario led Canadian provinces and territories in terms of piracy dollar value because of the number of businesses.

“”There’s a great deal more piracy here (in Canada) than in the U.S. and we think that’s because of a lack of awareness,”” Famulak said.

Kevin Krempulec, Canadian enterprise manager for CAAST member Symantec Corp., said the awareness campaign will serve as a wake up to two kinds of businesses engaging in piracy: those who stealing software to save money and those that have trouble keeping track of their licenses.

“”There’s times when companies turn a blind eye and some of them aren’t aware,”” he said. “”They don’t fully understand where all their licenses are””

But ignorance isn’t an excuse as many resellers offer software asset management as a service, Krempulec said.

“”I think a lot of people don’t know what the piracy rate is. A lot of people don’t know it’s 38 per cent,”” he said. “”I think one of the key steps is education when it comes to piracy.””

The Truce campaign is all about education. Along with the direct mailouts, CAAST will be using radio advertising and public speaking engagements as promotional vehicles for the campaign. The first Software Truce Campaign, in April 2001, targeted companies in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg and drew 400 phone calls to the hotline and 745,000 hits to the Truce Web site.

Famulak said she expects even more participation with the second campaign because of the greater number of businesses in Ontario. The campaigns are mainly about awareness and do not track licenses purchased, but Famulak said a high number of hits is itself a positive sign.

“”That means people are at least looking for information,”” she said, adding similar campaigns have been successful in different parts of the world.

With the Software Truce Campaign, CAAST is trying to reduce both Internet piracy, and “”hard disk loading,”” the inclusion of software “”free of charge”” by resellers on computer systems. Late last year, Microsoft Canada announced it had prosecuted six Toronto-area resellers after identifying their “”hard-disk loading”” activities.

“”Before the Internet, there was a lot of reseller piracy,”” Famulak said. “”It’s not as big in terms of volume as the Internet, but it’s still an issue.””

Famulak sees a lot of potential in the Software Truce Campaign, though she’s also realistic about how much can be done.

“”Are we ever going to eliminate it completely? That’s like saying, ‘Are we ever going to eliminate crime,'”” she said. But she said CAAST can do a lot to reduce piracy. “”There’s education, government lobbying. Those things combined can start bringing the rate down.””

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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