Business Software Alliance - where do we stand ?

  Elverum 08:24 22 Jul 2011

Our small company has had several letters from the Business Software Alliance recently.

The tone of the letters has grown more aggressive and they are basically demanding that we register our company on the BSA Software Declaration Website, hand over our software licensing information and potentially go through an audit, all with dire threats of legal action if we do not comply.

Googling the BSA is a two edged sword since, on the one hand, they appear to have some clout and, on the other, they also appear to be regularly accused of using strong-arm tactics to get their foot in the door of companies. At that point their somewhat overly thorough requirements for proof of purchase/ownership of software seems to be geared to fail, since few companies can present a complete paper trail of all applications in use.

We have an IT Policy in place that all staff have signed and which they adhere to, and we transparently run regular internal audits (staff are fully aware) of all systems to identify applications that ought not to be present in the business.

Our licensing is in good shape, with an excess of Microsoft, Symantec, and Kaspersky products covering our main server and desktop operating systems, office productivity suites, backup and security requirements. We also make use of many Open Source applications.

My question is simple - do we have to entertain the BSA ?

Like most businesses at the moment we are nipping and tucking where we can in these challenging times and we would rather not waste our resources on a pointless exercise.

So, do we have to respond to the BSA communication and, if so, do we have to let them in or declare our innermost secrets ?

On the one hand we are comfortable with our overall licensing but on the other, we would rather concentrate on doing business than needlessly investing our resources on what we feel is a pointless exercise.


Friend or foe, can we just ignore them or is it worth replying with our own letter along the lines of "we're in good shape, thanks but no thanks" ?

  Forum Editor 00:41 23 Jul 2011

This is an interesting subject.

The first thing you should know is that the BSA has no official status, so you may safely refuse to undergo a software audit. The organisation represents the interests of various software companies - chief among them being Microsoft.

We're all for software licensing compliance, but the BSA has come in for some serious criticism for the way in which it uses bullying tactics to get companies to undergo a software audit. It is also well-known for its practice of offering financial inducements to employees who blow the whistle on their employers for using unlicensed software.

The simple fact is, you are under no obligation whatsoever to accede to the demands of the BSA, and you might consider responding to the organisation along the lines of 'thank you for your interest, but we are fully compliant,and have no intention of undergoing an audit'.

It's worth underlining the importance of maintaining careful records of software licences, including the retention of invoices, and license slips from software boxes, etc.

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