Using pirated software or abusing your software licenses for your business is heavily frowned upon. However, many software companies, in an attempt to protect their products, have unleashed a practice that actually rewards those who let it happen in the first place.
At the outset, we want to be clear that nobody should use pirated software. However, while we don’t condone software piracy, we also can’t say we’re comfortable with the tactics used to combat this piracy, either. This is especially true when we consider the kinds of activities that one particular company engages in engages in.
BSA – The Software Alliance, is an international advocacy group for the proper licensing of business-centric software solutions, with a member list that includes IBM, Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, Trend Micro, and many others. The organization, according to their website, “pioneers compliance programs that promote legal software use and advocates for public policies that foster technology innovation and drive growth in the digital economy.”
This would be all well and good, if it weren’t for the tactics that BSA has used in the past to accomplish their other goal. Pirated software is BSA’s main target, and they work to make any business found with any unlicensed software installed pay, and pay a lot.
BSA has a history of targeting businesses under suspicion of having unlicensed software in use. However, in order to catch these businesses in the act, BSA targets their employees.
BSA has a history of leveraging social media marketing to target the employees of companies directly. These ads have promised a cash bounty in exchange for turning in their employer for software piracy. A now-seemingly-defunct Facebook page for a campaign run by BSA would entice users to turn in businesses in exchange for a cash reward.
BSA has known this from the start: who knows better than employees whether an employer is running unlicensed software? BSA would run ads that read “Nail your boss. Report Software Piracy” before taking a more subliminal, covert approach through targeted social media efforts. These efforts are targeted towards those whom you have employed, and attempt to sway them into blowing the whistle on you for software piracy by offering a bounty.
These bounties are scaled to the value of the settlement that the reported company has to pay BSA. If the company had to pay anywhere between $15,000 to $100,000, the whistleblower could receive up to $5,000. If the company had to pay over $15,000,000, the reward could swell to a $1,000,000 payout. However, BSA “reserves the right to deviate from that schedule in its sole discretion.”
Or, in other words, pay less of a bounty while still collecting retribution from the company.
Ultimately, if your’e using unlicensed software and your employee knows about it, they do now have an option. For instance, if you’re caught with unlicensed software installed on your system, you’re the one responsible, not the employee who installed it.
The same is true if an employee installs the same software license on multiple devices. If that employee were to leave with bad blood, they could report you for it, even though they were responsible for it being on your systems.
If you are using non-compliant technology or software, you are setting yourself up for all sorts of headaches, from legal charges to customer distrust.