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Ask Slashdot: Dealing With the Business Software Alliance? 519

Posted by Soulskill
from the sharp-sticks-and-harsh-language dept.
Kagetsuki writes "We've just gotten a letter from an attorney representing the Business Software Alliance stating someone (we're certain it's a disgruntled former employee) submitted information we are using illegally copied software. The thing is... we're not using illegally copied software. We have licenses for all the commercial software we are using. Still, according to articles on the BSA, that's irrelevant and they'll end up suing us anyway. So we now need a lawyer to deal with their claims and we don't have the money — this will surely be the end of the company into which I've sunk all my savings and three years of my life. Has anybody dealt with the Business Software Alliance before? What action should I take? Is there any sort of financial recourse, or at least a way cover our legal fees?"
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Ask Slashdot: Dealing With the Business Software Alliance?

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  • by mysidia (191772) * on Saturday July 30, 2011 @04:32PM (#36934866)

    Don't agree to any BSA demands or requests. Find a lawyer experienced with dealing with the BSA.

    If you agree to an audit, it's highly probable they will find something illegal, regardless of whether you did anything illegal or not. You need a proof of purchase for every copy of an installed software product. If you use a Windows environment, you need proof that you had sufficient CALs for everything, on effective audit date.

    If anything's not in order, or you can't find one proof of purchase for 1 license of XXX, the BSA will insist the software is pirated (even if you bought it good and legal), tack on huge fines, etc

    "We've just gotten a letter from an attorney representing the Business Software Alliance stating someone (we're certain it's a disgruntled former employee)"

    Be prepared to sue that former employee, for all damages and costs your business incurred as a result of their allegation, If they made a frivolous/false claim that hurt your business, and you can show who it is, take them to court. Maybe they (and others) will think twice, before making false reports to the BSA racket people.

    The BSA needs their evidence to sue you, make sure you force the BSA to divulge the identity of the person reporting. Again, you will need legal counsel to help you with this

    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Saturday July 30, 2011 @04:39PM (#36934914)

      If you agree to an audit, it's highly probable they will find something illegal, regardless of whether you did anything illegal or not.

      Yeah, I heard they carry throw-down CD's of Word in their trousers.

      "Well Frank, look what I found over here tucked behind the water cooler".

      Those bastards!

    • by sribe (304414)

      Be prepared to sue that former employee, for all damages and costs your business incurred as a result of their allegation, If they made a frivolous/false claim that hurt your business, and you can show who it is...

      If you can show that the claim is false, you should be able to subpoena the employee identity from the BSA>

  • by Harold Halloway (1047486) on Saturday July 30, 2011 @04:35PM (#36934896)

    This is both a question and a point but don't US courts require at least basic evidence before a suit can be brought?

    • by lennier1 (264730)

      don't US courts require at least basic evidence before a suit can be brought?

      And yet companies are constantly being sued over patents which are so broad or trivial they should've never been granted in the first place.

    • by RingDev (879105)

      For criminal cases, yes. For civil cases (torts), not so much. Unless you have a lawyer, in which case their first avenue of defense is dismissal.

      -Rick

    • Binding arbitration with non disclosure clauses, it's built into the software they did buy and agree to. They also agreed to the audit.

      • by dgatwood (11270) on Saturday July 30, 2011 @06:28PM (#36935612) Journal

        Binding arbitration with non disclosure clauses, it's built into the software they did buy and agree to. They also agreed to the audit.

        Unless you signed a contract to that effect, the burden of proof is on the BSA to prove that you in fact are using the software. Unless you have installed and used the software, you have not agreed to the license. Therefore, unless you are using the software, the BSA has no right to audit you. Now, unless the apps you run have a "phone home" feature or use some other online key verification, there are only three ways for the BSA to prove that you are using the software: you can admit to using the software, you can let them come into your place of business and they can observe it, or they can file a lawsuit against you and force you to disclose it during discovery.

        If you neither confirm nor deny that you are using any particular piece of software and refuse to let them in, their only option for obtaining proof that they have the right to perform the audit in the first place is to go to court, file a suit, and perform discovery. Thus, unless their evidence is fairly strong, they'll probably back down if the first thing that happens involves your lawyer telling their lawyer to fuck off.

        If they do not back down, that's a sure sign that you have some serious compliance problems, and you need to get somebody in there to audit all of your systems ASAP. The folks at BSADefense.com [bsadefense.com] recommend that you have an attorney conduct the audit. This places the results of the audit under attorney-client privilege, meaning that they cannot be obtained by the BSA during discovery. That seems like good advice to me.

        As always, the usual caveats apply. IANALBIPOOSD.

    • by Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) on Saturday July 30, 2011 @06:06PM (#36935500)

      This is both a question and a point but don't US courts require at least basic evidence before a suit can be brought?

      Not generally, no. They require that the "pleading" or "complaint" state a claim on which relief can be granted, but they do not require evidence before you bring the suit. Evidence is produced through a process called "discovery" after the courts are formally involved (although they don't really do anything during discovery, and asking them to because you're in a fight about whether something is discoverable usually gets them mad at you. They don't like to get down in the mud, as it were). If there is no evidence after discovery, the matter will be dismissed, but if there is conflicting evidence, it will go to trial (usually).

      At least, that is true in theory. In reality, the VAST majority of cases are settled.

      They do require a little more than they used to--pleading standards were raised within the last few years--but they are not terribly high. The higher they are, the harder it is to sue someone who really deserves it but tries to hide evidence; the lower they are, the worse one can be harassed and the more someone can use lawsuits to reveal private company information.

      Still, if you have absolutely no evidence--not even the testimony of someone who knows something happened--it would be highly inadvisable and possibly criminal to file a lawsuit. YMMV, IANAL, and consult an attorney if this is any way relevant to you, rather than purely academic.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30, 2011 @04:35PM (#36934904)

    We sent an affidavit stating that we had appropriately licensed software, detailed the number of employees, provided ****'d out license numbers, etc.

    They then said they wanted to put a laptop on our network to verify all our license numbers. We told them to f@ck off, that we'd provided them more than enough information, and that we'd be happy to speak to the police if they thought a crime had been committed.

    We never heard back from them.

  • by sirgoran (221190) on Saturday July 30, 2011 @04:41PM (#36934940) Homepage Journal
    We had a lawyer and had him draft a letter requesting information on what they claimed was illegal. Then we offered to show them the results of an internal audit. We also offered to submit to a third party audit that BSA would have to pay for. After lots of meetings and lots of legal wrangling the BSA went away empty handed. One small difference was we were running non-licensed software and were in violation. It was a web design house with 8 graphic designers and not one legal copy of Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. Since the BSA provided us with the list they claimed was illegal, we scrubbed it from the offending boxes so as to appear legal. Then over the span of the next 2-years we bought all of the licenses needed to cover our butts. This cost over $120,000 in software licenses. Far cheaper than what the BSA wanted. But the lawyer was key. Check with the Bar in your area for a probono lawyer. Perhaps you can find someone willing to work on a sliding scale. Also check with the Small Business Administration for ideas for legal help. Good luck.
  • by sregor (1513645) on Saturday July 30, 2011 @04:42PM (#36934948)
    I worked for an engineering company who said they couldnt justify the 25 licenses of autocad civil3d they were pirating (but also said they needed them to maintain the workflow they had) and said that they didnt care about my liability in the matter being the only IT person in the company. I turned them in. The BSA offers a reward, and at first they tell you that if they have to use your testimony they cant give you anything (it would be like paying for testimony) but they tell you that its rare that you ever have to actually use your testimony as the companies generally settle. If it gives you any comfort, the person that turned you in will not get any reward. the BSA find ways to make it so they dont have to pay out the reward for ratting you out. Now as far as your legally obtained software. Scan your PCs for software installed and make sure you have Purchase Records of all software installed that requires a license. this is what any lawyer you hire is going to want. the purchase records are there to prove you had the licenses prior to them coming to you stating that you didnt. the legal group the engineering company I worked for used was Scott and Scott, iirc they are a bit pricey but they will minimize any fines or fees that could hit you from them. I say do your own due diligence first, then see where you stand. just because you didnt authorize the install of software doesnt mean you have not had an employee installing any and everything they could get a serial generator for, which on your machines, means you are responsible for it. Oh also dont go formatting and reinstalling the OS on all of your machines. this looks bad if it goes to court like you were trying to hide something according to the lawyers at scott and scott. I regret doing this to the engineering company myself, but in the end, they are better off for it. Autodesk gave them a huge break on network licenses for their CAD software, and they are now operating 100% legit on the software side for less in fines than it would have cost to buy the stuff out right.
    • by fnj (64210)

      You did the right thing under the circumstances, legally, morally, and ethically. No one can make a case of substance otherwise. Fat cat corporate guttersnipes do this kind of thing all the time. They calculate that the penalty is not likely to be a criminal one; they will probably not be found guilty of fraud and sent where they belong; they are only accountable to the business owners or shareholders; so they brazenly continue to defy, at an absolute minimum, business ethics and morals in a calculating

  • Find some dirt on the BSA and chase them with it. You already have a false accusation letter which will cost you money to deal with maybe you could hound them for those costs until you find something bigger to take them on with. And remember, discovery is your friend, use it on anything and everything, it'll make them squirm.
  • by kilodelta (843627) on Saturday July 30, 2011 @04:52PM (#36935028) Homepage
    Ok, you must have a profitable company if the BSA is actually coming at you. I know because a former employer of mine was using tons of unlicensed software despite the advice of both myself and the company controller warning him that it wasn't right. So I dropped the dime to the BSA. Know what they told me? The company wasn't healthy enough financially to bother going after. So start hiding assets.
  • Step by step (Score:5, Informative)

    by wombatmobile (623057) on Saturday July 30, 2011 @04:52PM (#36935032)

    We've just gotten a letter from an attorney representing the Business Software Alliance stating someone (we're certain it's a disgruntled former employee) submitted information we are using illegally copied software.

    Reply to the letter like this:

    We are in receipt of your correspondence reference ____ dated _____. Could you please advise details of the claim. What software is claimed to be in breach?

    Send the reply by registered mail and then do nothing more until you receive a reply.

    Engage a lawyer who is experienced with the BSA.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30, 2011 @04:55PM (#36935042)

    As soon as you are done with your BSA nightmare, I advise you to stop using proprietary software. If Ernie Ball can do it, so can you.

  • by Alpha Prime (25709) on Saturday July 30, 2011 @05:23PM (#36935218) Homepage

    I'm really glad the software shop I'm working with is on Linux. No Windows crap in sight. We could get one of those BSA letters and all have a good laugh.

    I feel sorry for anyone that has to deal with the BSA. My condolences, but you should have chosen software without licensing issues. The idea of keeping track of the sales receipts as well as the licenses themselves is ridiculous. What would they do if you paid cash for the licenses? The source of the license does not matter as long as the license itself is not a forgery.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drooling-dog (189103)

      I feel sorry for anyone that has to deal with the BSA. My condolences, but you should have chosen software without licensing issues.

      A noble public service, but it's like telling hard-core smokers that cigarettes are bad for them. They bought the high-priced license-encumbered crapware-packed proprietary stuff because the salesman told them it was the best and they have no choice. They're locked in now, and will continue to use it even if it drops runny poops on their shoes every time it runs.

      There aren't any salesmen out there selling FOSS, and no slick ads for it on the teevee, so they'll never even know they had alternatives.

      • by terjeber (856226)

        They bought the high-priced license-encumbered crapware-packed proprietary stuff because the salesman told them it was the best and they have no choice

        No, they didn't, they bought the software they needed to run their business. They knew that, despite what the nut-case religious zealots told them, that there were no FOSS alternatives. There are no FOSS alternatives to the vast majority of software titles used by business to actually conduct their business. Of course, they could do as you suggest, stick with non-existing or non-functional software on their oh-so-wonderful Linux desktops, and then masturbated until they went bankrupt, but you see, most people are not like you, they prefer to actually complete the tasks their business was created to do.

        they'll never even know they had alternatives

        Again, they knew they didn't have any. They needed to accomplish more than you can with Eclipse and some software to display pictures of nude women for their mastubatory needs. Maybe they needed Photoshop for print work if they were an ad agency or Illustrator for doing design work, if they were a photography company they probably needed Lightroom for touch-ups and management, if they create videos they would have needed something like Premiere Pro, Vegas Pro or Final Cut Pro (pre the latest version which bizarrely can not do professional video work, don't know what Apple was thinking) and (no or here) Adobe After Effects. If the company was a travel agency they had to use proprietary software for this industry, not available on Linux.

        Thinking that there actually are FOSS alternatives to most commercial software out there just shows that you have never actually been "out there". There isn't.

      • by jimicus (737525) on Sunday July 31, 2011 @04:59AM (#36937874)

        There aren't any salesmen out there selling FOSS, and no slick ads for it on the teevee, so they'll never even know they had alternatives.

        Here we go again.

        For most practical purposes, they do not have alternatives. Need to do payroll? No such thing on Linux. Need to do accounts? Very little choice, and if your local tax authorities demand you submit online (either through a web browser or using software that's been through some sort of certification process) even less choice. Need to do CAD? Give up now. Need to do anything industry-specific? For most industries, not a chance.

        Paying a consultant to write something that will suit can easily cost several times more than buying something off-the-shelf and takes months, that's why most companies rely on off-the-shelf software. You can go from nothing to productive work in a matter of hours.

        There is a damn good reason a BSA audit hasn't led to a company publicly dropping proprietary software since 2003; it's got nothing to do with slick salesmen and everything to do with practicality.

    • by terjeber (856226) on Sunday July 31, 2011 @03:56AM (#36937698)

      Sigh. This is a ridiculously naive posting and giving it a score of "insightful" is just plain dumb.

      you should have chosen software without licensing issues

      How was he supposed to do that? Is there software out there of this kind for all the types of software a business needs? How would you, for example, find software with similar features to Photoshop? Gimp? Don't make me laugh. How about Illustrator or Premiere Pro? Anything that is not license encumbered?

      People acquire software to complete tasks. Software like Vegas Video, After Effects, Illustrator, Lightroom is essential to some business (that was just software for a business I know some things about) for which there are no real alternatives without licensing issues. Saying that people should have chosen other software is like saying they should find another field of work. There simply isn't any kind of software available for Linux, for example, that can do what this type of commercial software can do. Neither is anybody working on projects that will make the software available any time in the future.

      The idea of keeping track of the sales receipts as well as the licenses themselves is ridiculous

      You can't be serious. Not keeping track of what you legally purchase, as a business, is ridiculous. You have clearly never run a business of any kind. Of course you keep all the receipts, it's the law!, besides, not keeping them will cost you money since your accountant will not be able to deduct those expenses from your operating costs.

  • by loxosceles (580563) on Saturday July 30, 2011 @05:24PM (#36935224)

    Do not say anything. Tell them to fuck off and don't address in particular or in general anything they alleged.

    The *only* time you open your mouth to an agency (public or private) that is investigating you, whether it's the IRS, police, feds, or the BSA, is through a lawyer. That would typically take the form of a *response* to a demand letter.

    A consultation and getting a response letter written by a good lawyer may run you circa $1-2k, but if the alternative is getting sued by the BSA or shutting down your company, it may be worth it.

  • Do not despair (Score:5, Informative)

    by stephanruby (542433) on Saturday July 30, 2011 @05:25PM (#36935234)

    Still, according to articles on the BSA, that's irrelevant and they'll end up suing us anyway.

    First off, do not despair. That's not going to do you any good.

    Don't be afraid to tell the lawyer that you don't have any money during your free initial 30 minutes consultation (assuming you're in the US, call your local State bar association for a referral). I'm sure that you'll be able to work something out with him or her.

    For now, read the article quoted below. The point of that article is that you can do a lot of this work yourself, but that you should still hire a lawyer to at least "supervise" the self-audit process and act as a go-between.

    Now the article doesn't mention it, but if I were you I'd check that any old computer laying around the closet has current valid licenses. Whatever happens, make sure you do not get penalized for super old hardware that you're not even using anymore. Also, start inspecting any computer the disgruntled employee has had access to. You never know what he may have installed on there without your knowledge. It's good to go in this with your eyes wide-open.

    And then, try contacting the same types of companies in the same niche industry as yours, chances are that they're not just targeting you -- since they recently increased their volume of enforcement letters. So if you can find others within the same jurisdiction as yours, with a similar predicament, you may be able to band together and pool resources.

    http://www.baselinemag.com/c/a/Projects-Management/What-to-Do-When-You-Receive-a-BSA-Audit-Letter/

    Let's face it, software asset management (SAM) might be a best practice, but there are still plenty of organizations out there who haven't instituted SAM due to a lack of resources or initiative. If your organization is one of them and the Business Software Alliance (BSA) hasn't come calling yet, there's still time to get your house in order. But once that BSA threat letter hits the mailbox, the ballgame changes.
    The BSA is known to be a persistent enforcement agency which rarely grants clemency to organizations once it begins settlement proceedings. The following eight tips are offered by two attorneys who specialize in BSA defense cases; they give advice on what to do once your business receives a letter requesting a BSA audit.

    1. Retain a lawyer.
    The BSA is an efficient organization when it comes to extracting punitive damages from companies found to be in a non-compliant licensing situation—its experts and lawyers know copyright laws inside and out because that is all that they do. For that reason, Scott recommends seeking legal counsel as soon as an audit request is received from the BSA.

    "Whether the attorney is working in-house or outside the firm, don't go it alone," you have an audit," said Rob Scott, partner at Houston-based Scott and Scott. Scott said. "The BSA has very experienced attorneys working for it and this is a very complicated process. It involves not only the legal issues related to copyright law, but also it subsumes with it all of the software licensing rules because the copyright claim that lies underneath the BSA audit matter is related to the software licensing rules."

    2. Cooperate—carefully.
    As much as a business person would love to screw up their eyes and wish the BSA away, the trouble will only multiply through inaction. Though the BSA is not a law enforcement agency it is acting on the behalf of the software companies and it will take matters to civil court if a business does not cooperate with the self-audit process and settlement negotiations.

    "When you get a letter from the BSA do not throw it away," said Steve Helland, partner at the Minneapolis-based law firm of Fredrikson and Byron. "That is a serious tip, because some people think that 'Oh if I ignore this it will just go away, but the cases where the BSA is most likely to file in court are where they think there has been infringement and they don't get any response

    • Kind of makes you wonder why people put up with this shit. If you think RMS' rhetoric is overblown, this could make you reconsider.

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday July 30, 2011 @05:31PM (#36935268) Homepage Journal

    Tell them to go to hell and prove it in front of a judge and get a warrant. Don't let them in just beacuse they want to. Take your documentation for licenses and installs to court and show it to the judge. "we did an audit, this is what we use and we are licensed for these copies"

    Also assume this "disgruntled ex-employee" planted something somewhere, so do another audit NOW.

  • by urbanriot (924981) on Saturday July 30, 2011 @05:33PM (#36935276)
    First order of business, pull up information on the lawyer that initiated contact with you to determine how much experience they have at the firm. If you're a small company they may have someone with limited experience, say three years, and if so, argue as much as possible and you may distract them from one of my other points.

    Secondly, forget anything you believe to be true about software licensing and forget about license agreements included with software. What Microsoft, Autodesk, Adobe, etc. licensing department tell you on the phone and what they state in their licensing terms is not true and will not hold up legally unless you have more money than the fines to afford lawyers to fight the big guns. It's not a legitimate license unless you have a receipt. This is important, I repeat, you do not have a legitimate license unless you have a receipt for it. It doesn't matter if it's past 7 years, you have product keys on the side of your chassis, or you have discs; you must have it on the receipt.

    Thirdly, do not provide information unless you're specifically asked for it. Read what they've requested, interpret it as literally as possible and if that allows you to include some information and not include other information. This point may not seem relevant to you and I'm not going to get into detail, but I want you to consider this point for at least an hour as the outcome may have a huge monetary difference.

    Fourth, you can't buy stuff now and attempt to pass it off as something you'd purchased before they served you. Don't even consider back-buying software you didn't own before. Date of receipt ties into point number two.

    Fifth, consider how they obtained this information and how much the person who provided it really knows. I won't give you advice on what to do with the software this person may not be aware of but I'd ensure your file servers are Linux and if you've ever made a transition from Windows to Linux, hopefully it was a transparent process to the users.

    I won't get into details over our case as it cost us a tremendous amount of money, five figures, and at the same time, they may have missed a lot of stuff (the site is certainly fully legal now). If you have any other questions, feel free to fire them off and I'll try to answer as well as possible. The best advice I can give you is to consider this a logic problem.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30, 2011 @05:39PM (#36935322)

    In order to pass the BSA's version of an audit, you don't just need receipts. You need receipts that:

    1. Show retail purchases. In spite of the fact that it is perfectly legal to sell and purchase used software, the BSA pretends it's not. If you have a not-retail receipt, it's worthless.
    2. Show a date prior to the first contact from the BSA. If you have an un-dated receipt, it is worthless.
    3. Show the title of each piece of software purchased, on its own line item (quantities of identical titles are fine), with a line item price. You likely can't provide this for the copy of Windows that came with your PC.
    4. Show the name of the company being audited. Did one of your employee's buy it and get reimbursed? Worthless. Do you have company cards that show employee names? Worthless. Did the retailer not print the billing information on the receipt? Worthless. Was is purchased by a company you bought or merged with? Worthless

    If you're incensed enough by now to invite the auditor's in, knock them on the head and bury them in the hill, good for you. But you'll likely want to pursue a more subtle response. An attorney is absolutely necessary, if for no other reason than that the lack of one will make you look like easy pickings. Winning this game is about paperwork, stalling, bluffing and bargaining. Once you retain an attorney, their advice will probably be to not respond outwardly until forced to. The BSA doesn't necessarily follow up on every nastygram they send. Responding when you don't have to is acting like a mark.

    If the process does progress, remember at all times that what you are involved in, more than anything else, is a long, drawn-out negotiation. The BSA is out to scare people and fund itself. You want them to believe that you are worth very little and come with a big price tag attached. Everything is negotiable, every decision is mercenary.

    • by gstrickler (920733) on Saturday July 30, 2011 @08:58PM (#36936320)
      If they won't accept the purchase order/invoice for you PC showing included software, ask to have the suit amended to include your computer vendor (HP, Dell, Lenovo, etc.) as a co-defendent for selling unlicensed software to you. If you can't get the suit amended, file a separate suit against your computer vendor. The point is to get the computer vendors, who are the biggest sellers of software involved fighting the BSA with you. As the biggest sellers of software, they have a lot of influence with the software vendors, and they have teams of lawyers who won't appreciate being named in a suit because the BSA won't accept their invoice as proof of purchase.
  • Contact a lawyer. (Score:4, Informative)

    by John Hasler (414242) on Saturday July 30, 2011 @06:32PM (#36935646) Homepage

    A consultation will not cost as much as you expect. Gather up all your licenses, receipts, and certificates and have him send copies to the BSA along with what is euphemisitically called a "robust" response. You'll probably want to threaten to claim vexatious litigation and assert that you will ask that legal expenses be awarded. Don't let them do an "audit".

    And in the future, perhaps you might want to consider not doing business with BSA members. There are alternatives. Just a thought...

  • by fnj (64210) on Saturday July 30, 2011 @07:13PM (#36935852)

    I don't happen to find any other post that mentions the elementary fact that unless you signed an agreement somewhere that gives the BSA the right to make an audit, you can just tell them to STFU and GTFO. If you bought everything at retail, for example, Best Buy, Provantage, PC Connection, etc, no such agreement would apply. It's when you buy site licenses or have to sign an agreement to make the purchase that you get roped in.

    If there's something in the shrink wrap somewhere, then it gets murky. That's where they can claim that you "agreed" to something you never did, just by opening the package.

    So step one is to ask them for their explicit basis of authority in your case.

    • If there's something in the shrink wrap somewhere, then it gets murky. That's where they can claim that you "agreed" to something you never did, just by opening the package.

      I love those sorts of licenses. Be sure to invite them in to discuss the matter. Right after posting a sign in your lobby that by entering the premises they consent to a strip search and body cavity search. With a splintered 2x4. Said sign should only be visible once they've actually entered the premises.

      That's one nonsense legal con

  • by Proudrooster (580120) on Saturday July 30, 2011 @08:54PM (#36936298) Homepage
    First off, I am not a lawyer.... but the best option is to ignore them and hope that they go away. The BSA sends out scary letters all the time, but what can they really do? Send another even scarier letter? Don't talk to them, hang up when they call, and file their letters in a folder.

    Here is how it works on the BSA side. A disgruntled employee contacts the BSA and makes the claim that a entity is using pirated software. They typically talk to the whisteblower multiple times on the phone and ask lots and lots of questions over and over before sending out the scary letter. They always run the risk that the person could be lying, crazy, or disgruntled.

    In phase II, they get more legal and more specific and depose the informant and create a sworn statement. They put the informants claims in legalese and make them swear that it is true and sign it. After this happens, you will get scary letter two or three. Often times, the informant isn't disgruntled enough to perjure themselves and risk a countersuit from you company for monetary damages. The BSA will not go further without this because they don't want to be liable in a counter suit for civil damages. They need to show that they are acting in good faith that software piracy is occurring, without a specific sworn statement it amounts to hearsay. They pay a cash reward for information and they make the information work hard for the money they are never going to collect. :)

    If you open the door and say, "Come on in and audit us, we've got nothing to hide." you are building a case against yourself. Even if you are legal, you're not since whatever proof you think you have will not be enough to appease them. In my opinion, the only way they can come in is if you let them in or a judge orders the audit as part of a discovery in a lawsuit. Apparently the EULA you clicked "I agree" to on install allows for auditing anytime, but no one has ever tested this legal theory. Meanwhile, do your own audit and make sure you are clean. Make it as difficult as possible on them and hope they go away. Then quit being such a jerk to your employees so they quite calling the BSA or switch to Open Source. :)

    Watch this video for more details: The Bully Software Alliance [youtube.com]

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