Maintaining Relevance

By Ericka Chickowski Print this article Print

Is the Business Software Alliance really having an impact on software piracy? Do they often punish businesses that are trying to play by the rules?

Maintaining Relevance
According to Blank with the BSA, these lobbying efforts are what keep the BSA relevant in today’s changing digital world.

“Like the industry itself, the BSA has sort of morphed over time from a very small organization with a narrow focus on copyright to a much larger organization dealing with a very different software industry,” Blank said. “Our ability to change and meet those challenges keeps us relevant.”

It is hard to gauge BSA member satisfaction with this evolution considering many of the members don’t go public with their feelings either way. Baseline contacted a number of BSA members for this story, only to be rebuffed or redirected to contact the BSA directly. Microsoft claimed that it does not grant interviews regarding the BSA, but it did relay its opinions on the group in an emailed statement. “We support the Business Software Alliance’s ongoing efforts to raise awareness about the economic impact of global software piracy.” said Cori Hartje, director of the genuine software initiative for Microsoft. “Microsoft is also continuing to invest heavily in engineering world-class anti-counterfeiting technologies to protect our intellectual property, and to supporting government and law enforcement on enforcement actions against counterfeiters.”

One thing is clear, as long as Microsoft and other members continue to pay dues and allow the BSA to collect and keep settlement money, the group will remain a strong force in worldwide politics and for those upon whom it focuses its enforcement efforts. Some experts believe the BSA role will continue to be necessary for a long time, in spite of advancements in antipiracy technology.

“I'd make the argument that even though Microsoft and others built its technical measures into its software, you still need the BSA to provide human intelligence into the process,” said DeGroot.

Yankee Group’s DiDio agrees, noting that the piracy battle will likely go on forever. “This is an educated guess, but I think that without the BSA today you might see losses that were 20 to 30 percent greater than they are now,” said DiDio. “(But) you are never going to be able to stamp out piracy altogether.”

Plus, the BSA serves a very real role as a buffer between customers and member companies, allowing members to play the good guy to the BSA’s bad guy shtick. “The member companies have done a smart thing by creating the BSA, because it serves as a buffer in most cases,” Helland said. “My clients that feel improperly targeted usually view the BSA as separate and apart from the member entities. It is effective in that purpose.”

But those like Ball from Ernie Ball say that they aren’t fooled by that buffer and wonder if the BSA’s actions will hurt its members in the long run.

“I don't know of a business where you can get away with raiding a customer with armed marshals and expect them to continue to do business with you, maybe that’s just where I come from,” said Ball, who shifted his company to open source software after the raid. “They should learn from the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). You know, the RIAA went to Congress, they went to court, they sued grandmothers, because their model is threatened. But they are losing ground. In my opinion you have to change with the model, you can't legislate and litigate to protect your model.”

*Check out Baseline's in-depth reporting and advice on the Business Software Alliance:

12 Companies Caught Stealing by the BSA

8 Ways to Avoid a BSA Audit

What to Do When You Receive a BSA Audit Letter  

This article was originally published on 2008-01-25
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