Group Targets Small Businesses Using Software Illegally

BSA group puts teeth into anti-piracy rules by tracking users

Holleyman acknowledged that the BSA is finding it tough to have its "voice heard for the remaining part of the marketplace where there is piracy." But he said he sees no reason to try a dramatically new approach.

Top antipiracy executives at Microsoft and Autodesk praised the BSA for keeping piracy from rising; Autodesk said its experience supports the notion that smaller businesses have the biggest compliance problems. Other alliance members declined to comment.

They may be overlooking something: BSA targets commonly say they wish they didn't have to buy anything again from the companies that unleashed the alliance on them.

In one case, a BSA raid on musical-instrument maker Ernie Ball Inc. cost the company $90,000 in a settlement. Soon after, Microsoft sent other businesses in his region a flyer offering discounts on software licenses, along with a reminder not to wind up like Ernie Ball.

Enraged, CEO Sterling Ball vowed never to use Microsoft software again, even if "we have to buy 10,000 abacuses." He shifted to open-source software, which lacks such legal entanglements because its underlying code is freely distributed.

For many businesses, open-source has seemed technically daunting or unable to match the proprietary programs seen as essential in some industries. These days, however, the march of technology might be changing that.

That's one hope of Michael Gaertner, the architect who worried his BSA encounter would crush his business. Now he wants to rid himself of the Autodesk, Microsoft and Adobe software involved in the case.

"It's not like they have really good software. It's just that it's widespread and it's commonly used," Gaertner said. "It's going to be a while, but eventually, we plan to get completely disengaged from those software vendors that participate in the BSA."


On the Net:

BSA site:

Rob Scott's firm:

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