BSA name-and-shame tactic may have backfired

Audit policy of software law enforcement cops questioned

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The processes – or lack of them – applied by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) to determine if crimes against software were committed have been placed under the spotlight.

Call management software developer Tiger Communications was rapped on the knuckles late last month for using software illegally and BSA boasted it had forced the firm to cough £25,000 in settlement fees and to pay for the licence.

At the time, Phillipe Briére, UK chair of the software industry's law enforcement agency said: "Once again, another company has failed to keep within the legal boundaries of software licensing."

He pointed out that a firm specialising in call management software should have systems to avoid this sort of embarrassing situation. "Regardless of the excuse, Tiger Communications is in breach of copyright law and now has to face the consequences".

Despite the tough talking, BSA confirmed that Tiger had not admitted liability.

Then Brian Hoadley, chairman at Tiger Communications, told The Reg that a former employee had been running an illegal copy of Adobe Photoshop downloaded onto the work computer and after being made redundant tipped off the BSA that pirated copies were in use.

Hoadley claimed the settlement amount had been £5,800, including £800 to pay for the licence after driving down the BSA's demand from £25,000.

Hoadley added the BSA had made no efforts to properly investigate the claims, saying that it had repeatedly fired across letters from its solicitors: "there was no audit, [they] did not attend our premises once".

The only reason Tiger Comms settled, said Hoadley, was that it didn't want to spend the time, energy and legal bills of going to court over the issue.

He threatened to kickstart his own legal action but has more recently conceded, "financially you cannot win". Hoadley had said he'd provide documented evidence to prove his firm's claims, but has since declined to do so.

The BSA has also clammed up, now refusing to discuss the situation, though it has pulled the initial press release from its website.

"The BSA is still corresponding with Tiger and isn’t willing to discuss the specifics of its auditing processes at this stage. So for the time being I’m afraid it’s ‘no comment’ on this issue," a spokesman told El Reg.

An industry analyst said he was "gobsmacked" by the developments: "I would hope it's an isolated incident," he said, although he warned that the uncertainty in the case of Tiger Communications would not be helpful. ®


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