- The Business Software Alliance (BSA), a software watchdog group, has launched a month-long grace period to give companies running unlicensed software the chance to become legal without facing past penalties imposed by the vendor group.
According to recent study by the BSA, software piracy in 2000 cost the US more than $US5.6 billion in lost wages and resulted in a tax loss of close to $US1.6 billion.
The BSA couldn't be reached for further comment.
This month, nearly 800,000 companies in Billings, Bozeman and Missoula, Montana; Houston; Indianapolis; Nashville; Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia; Orlando; San Francisco; San Jose; and Oakland, California, will have the opportunity to become fully licensed and be excused from paying penalties -- some as high as $US150,000 per copyright infringement -- for software violations occurring before January 1.
The BSA has sent information on the programme to those businesses. This is the seventh such programme sponsored by the Washington-based BSA since August 2000. BSA members include Microsoft, IBM, Intel, Apple, Adobe Systems, and Symantec.
"The Business Software Alliance recognises that, for whatever reason, some businesses may not have managed their software assets properly, but ignoring the problem can lead to substantial financial exposure," says Bob Kruger, vice president of enforcement at the BSA, in a statement. "The grace period offers businesses a chance to catch up, conduct a software audit and acquire the necessary licences they need to get legal -- penalty-free. This is a great opportunity for businesses to resolve any compliance issues before they become subjects of a BSA investigation."
During the past nine years, the BSA has collected more than $US68 million in penalties from companies using illegal software in 28 cities, the group said in a statement. To date, the BSA has offered the programme to nearly 4 million businesses.
"I hear from customers that about 90% of companies have some exposure (to liability) because of noncompliance, and about 40% of those companies may have significant exposure," says Laura DiDio, an analyst at Giga Information Group in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
However, DiDio says, she doesn't think companies are intentionally trying to cheat vendors by avoiding software licensing. Instead, she blames sloppy procurement practices and poor management of IT assets.
DiDio says it's unclear how much of an impact this type of amnesty program will have.