BSA hands out £10k bounty to unlicensed software whistleblower

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) has handed out a £10,000 bounty to an employee who ratted on his company about unlicensed software.

The BSA, which likes to think it is the unofficial software policing body, revealed the big payout and urged more people to expose their company’s failure to procure a licence for the software it operates.

The BSA refused to reveal the name of the company, but the person who received the bounty is a Microsoft-certified IT professional. Some sources revealed that the companies involved were Microsoft and Adobe, but since they are actually software companies it is most likely that they were the ones providing the software which was not being properly licensed – not the companies committing the crime.

“I was aware that the BSA offers a financial payment but I never expected this much money,” the tattle-tale said, possibly while rolling on a bed of £50 notes. “This is definitely an extra motivation for other people like me, already frustrated by a management that thinks that they can get more with less.”

The informer provided incriminating evidence of his company’s software abuse to the BSA, which could see the company paying out over £100,000 in fines and licence fees. Work tension is likely to escalate between employee and boss as a result of this.

The BSA has reached settlements with over 1,000 companies in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, with the majority of those being in Europe and the UK in particular. It was revealed that many of these settlements came after informants spilled the beans on the dodgy software practices going on.

The situation is likely to have companies quaking and looking for potential rats in their midst, but it may also contribute to a surge in open source software adoption. The economic downturn has already driven firms to use open source software instead of paying hefty licensing fees. With the fear of the software brigade sniffing people out, it is likely we’ll see even more people jumping on the open saucy ship.

The big bounty may also open a whole new can of worms in the workplace, as it now gives strong motivation for employees to report their employers over software abuse. It creates a precedent where an upset employee, who perhaps fell out with his boss, can get one over by exposing the lack of licenses for the software in place, something that he may have ignored previously. This is not to say that the unlicensed software should not be revealed, of course, but the reasons for doing so are more likely to be monetary than morally.

The BSA even cited a poll by YouGov, which revealed that 68 percent of employees would rat on their employees for ethics breaches, while 16 percent would hand them in for cash. We think the latter figure is vastly inaccurate and think 99 percent is much more appropriate. [Hey Dean, TechEye uses OpenOffice – Ed]

A source close to TechEye informed us of one individual who got AOL UK into a heap of trouble in 1997 or 1998 over improper licensing of PaintShop Pro. The employee left the company and then reported it to the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST), which fined AOL somewhere in the region of £30,000.

This same employee then went on to leave and report his next two employers after falling out with them, revealing that it was more of a revenge thing than concern over software licenses. This employee never received a financial reward for throwing his employers to the wolves, so it raises the question of how many more companies may have been handed in if a £10,000 bounty was on offer.