Business Software Alliance takes a leaf out of SGAE’s book

The BSA (Business Software Alliance) has sent me a letter. I assume it’s a form letter, and not directed to me alone. The BSA is a world-wide organisation representing major software companies in the Fight Against Piracy. Maybe you got one, too?

In case you didn’t, it’s a rather heavy handed and stern letter, warning the businesses of Spain, in a paternal fashion akin to a Victorian father reminding his son of the Rules of Life before he sets off to the colonies, that Software Piracy is Bad.

It rambles through a list of large companies that are members of the BSA and asks us to think, in a tearful fashion, of their bottom line when making illegal copies of software. In bold, it reminds us that software reproduction and copying can lead to fines of up to 216,000€ and four years in jail. Putting sentiment aside, the letter gets stern.

Page two of this missive is an agreement they have come to with the Agencia Tributaria (the tax people) who, it seems, have promised to keep an eye out for illegal software whilst examining your books.

A scary bit: Hacienda agrees to correlate the number of licenses purchased with the number of computer units using, which could, in larger SME’s, automatically flag up companies that haven’t put enough invoices through the books to justify the amount of copies being used. Hmm.

Hacienda has also agreed to carry out “punctual inspections” on companies, in coordination with it’s “2011 plan of action for control of fiscal fraud” to examine the software installed on computers. Double hmm.

Results of these inspections will be provided back to the BSA if necessary, and the BSA will lend technical assistance during relevant inspections. Triple hmm.

BSA will then be permitted to use this information to launch legal actions requiring recompense against these companies, based on the results of Hacienda’s inspections. (Pant wettingly eeks?)

Still, page three of the letter, having used a very large stick to get your attention, offers a rather small carrot. Starting off “with respect to the previous, we realise that in certain circumstances users may not realise they are using pirated software and may want to check this in order to regularise the situation…” (nice way of offering a face saving get out clause) it offers a series of free measures in which companies can check to see if their software is all legal, all the way up to a free pc scan.

The BSA is warning that it is stepping up actions in Spain. In 2008 it recovered some 650K via legal actions, in 2009 1,1 million via legal actions, and no news yet on 2010.

I note, with some interest, that almost local company VIGILANT (the security people with the horrible yellow sticker) got done last October and are currently being dragged through the courts on charges of having 23 computers running illegal software.

It was, up until the last time I purchased a local computer (I now lease them all through Dell and HP, a great way to get LEGAL computers and techincal support) almost impossible to get legal software installed on the damn thing. I name no names (we all know) but at the mere suggestion of a legal copy of Microsoft Windows 2000, the seller would look at you perplexed.

“It is legal” he would insist, “you’ve paid me for it”.

“But it’s the same OEM copy you’ve installed on the past 500 computers you’ve sold”….

Great times. Meanwhile, I’m off to install Ubuntu and OpenOffice on a few more machines.

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