BSA piracy tactics worry open rights group

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is in hot water over its legal antics designed to squeeze cash from small companies.

The BSA won £2.2 million in settlements and licensing fees in 2010, without taking a single case to court, but PC Pro points out that appears to have been done by threatening small businesses.

The BSA is hoping that disgruntled employees will shop their bosses for reward money, once it has an accusation it then farms out the complaint to legal teams.

What follows is a demand that the company submit itself to a software audit with the threat that courts may award “damages in respect of flagrant infringement.”

In some cases the audit requires paperwork for software bought more than seven years ago.

A problem is that the BSA has not got the power to search a company’s computers under warrant and  it could not prove that the software is dodgy unless the company is going to allow it to carry out a software audit.

The legal letters are vague about what action the BSA would take if the company refused to submit to the audit but suggests that the company hand over cash to make the complaint go away.

The Open Rights Group (ORG) has slammed the tactics. It says that the BSA must be clear about what action they can take.

Peter Bradwell, a copyright campaigner at the ORG, said that while businesses do need to use licensed software, the use of intermediary firms means that there has to be care to communicate the situation correctly so that it doesn’t lead to people being unfairly strong armed into paying settlements or submitting themselves to onerous auditing.

What is interesting is that while the BSA does not keep any of the licensing fee cash from its activities it is allowed to keep the damages for its various programmes. And who decides the damages fee from any software audit? That would be the BSA, we guess.