Acronym: Business Software Alliance
An international organization that warns companies to make certain they have fully paid for their software or face legal repercussions. The BSA is the "foremost organization dedicated to promoting a safe and legal digital world." However, this service to the software industry often assumes guilt "until you can prove yourself innocent" (see below). This organization is thought to mostly be controlled/promoted by Microsoft.
This approach has been a growth strategy for much of the tech industry by finding
Ethically, individuals and companies should pay for their software regardless of the BSA to promote good karma and keep good software engineers employed. Or, where possible, actively contribute to free software projects such as the GNU project or Mozilla
For individuals who have received letters from the BSA
Here is some good information, aimed at our ever-loved proverbial 'Joe Sixpack', dedicated to debunking the myths and other propagations of the BSA and their members. To the best of my knowledge, no such repository of information currently exists. True, we have the EFF, the CDT, the FSF, etc. - but admit - none of these groups exist to put a genuinely consumer-oriented spin on things in general or the BSA in particular. Digital rights (in terms of our deeper familiarity with their importance) and Free Software proselytizing simply do not matter to most people, no matter how much I wish they did.
While nearly 100% of everyone reading this would either throw a letter from the BSA away with a chuckle or engage them in a faux legal pissing contest ( I know I would :) ), the sad part is - it's the laymen that are getting hit by the BSA, because they don't know any better. Two dentist's offices (in Oakton, VA) recently got 'the letter'. They are fairly successful (both being owned and run by the same set of locals), with quite a few computers, but are in the hole several thousand dollars after running out and re-purchasing everything, simply because <I>they were without a clue</I>. This annoyed me on several levels, but ultimately, it comes back to the BSA.
This needs to stop. While some might argue against my motives with "The BSA is the best thing ever to happen to Linux", they fail to see the point. Large-ish companies probably would consider a move to Linux (at least, as I've seen, for the boxen they can't show proof of license for), but places like the dentist mentioned above have simply never heard of 'Line-ucks'. If the BSA confronts them after they've learned their rights and they move to free software, so much the better - but what is more important is that they do not continue to finance this international protection racket by being duped into purchasing software they don't need and have no legal obligation to buy.
Now IANAL, but I do know a couple, thanks to my university. If this tract goes somewhere, it can be submitted for pro-bono editing, making sure nothing constitutes libel or faulty legal advice. And then it can go up with it's own shiny domain and too-slick stock photos to stir the proverbial shitstorm. Remember, thousands and thousands of libraries, schools, and small businesses have gotten these letters, and thousands more will yet. There is a huge opportunity here to advance people's individual grasps on the legal nuances of software licensing. If that can be done, good things will come of it.
A half-baked idea? Certainly. Hence, it goes into the wiki-oven. Maybe something delicious will come out.
Note : the existing external links were more for my use. Any links to sites with scans of letters of other BSA propaganda would be a great help.
If you have received a letter from the Business Software Alliance, or BSA, we urge you to read the following :
The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is a trade organization representing 23 global hardware and software corporations. From their website :
<PRE>The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is the foremost organization dedicated to promoting a safe and legal online world.
sectors before governments and with consumers in the international marketplace. BSA members represent the fastest growing industries in the world.
BSA educates computer users on software copyrights and cyber security; advocates public policy that fosters innovation and expands trade opportunities; and fights software piracy.
Established in 1988, BSA has programs in 65 countries worldwide.</PRE>
The BSA serves primarily as a unified organization through which these corporations may act in coordination with one another on matters of software security, marketing, and piracy prevention.
However, for at least two years, the Business Software Alliance (BSA) has harvested the information of small and mid-sized businesses, charities, and municipalities from various sources (including, we speculate, from commercially available mailing lists), and has used this information to send out hundreds of thousands of form letters to people who have committed no crime. Some excerpts from the letters follow :
Are you using unlicensed software ? If so, the Business Software Alliance is giving you one month to get legal.
Many people do not know that they are using unlicensed software and that it's a violation of copyright law. The Business Software Alliance is currently targeting businesses in the town area. If your company is using unlicensed software, it could become the focus of a BSA investigation.
If caught with pirated software, you or your company may be liable under both civil and criminal law.
Well ? Do you still have both the licenses and the receipts for every piece of software you've ever bought ? Or course not. But if you can't prove you bought it, the BSA assumes you have 'stolen' it.
In other words, that you are guilty until you can prove yourself innocent.
How can we be so sure that this is what the BSA is doing ? Because of the massive number of letters sent to individuals, charities that do not own computers, businesses that use no software manufactured by a BSA member company, and businesses that do not exist (where a faulty or fake address is drawn from a database).
Though the BSA does not go so far as to threaten legal action, the tone of these letters is vague and, to many of their recipients, highly alarming. Many who do not understand their legal rights immediately re-purchase hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of software under the false perception that they must, if they are to avoid legal action against them. Large corporations have a legal and technical staff who is responsible for keeping all machines 'in compliance'. Smaller and medium-sized businesses do not. The BSA understands this.
To come : saving receipts and information, and what the BSA can legally do with no evidence against you