October 16, 2004

One in Four Magical Mushroom People Pirate Software

In a recent PC World story titled "One in Four Businesses Pirate Software" Jason Tuohey quotes a Business Software Alliance study about the nature of corporate IT.

Here's the problem: The BSA has a reputation for having a delicate relationship with truth. Don't read this as my approval of software theft, I'm a big believer in intellectual property (open source software depends on a strong copyright regime).

Cue Flashback and wavy special effects:

Back in 1999 when I worked for VA Software I received a fairly interesting letter from a person about a BSA raid on his business following an investigation that the BSA did on a local "white-box" retailer who was installing windows 98 on machines without providing/paying for the proper licenses (a handy way of keeping costs down, I suppose.) It turns out his company had bought a number of machines from this vendor.

I don't pretend to know every side... I think it is likely that they were contacted by the BSA alerting them that they had "stolen" property, but like many, they would ignore such a note from the BSA.

Why would you ignore a note like that from the BSA? Well, because in the late 1990s the BSA sent out physical letters to what seemed like every business in the silicon valley stating that they knew we had pirated software because a previous employee had informed on them. Or at least enough of them that I got word from friends at companies all over the valley who got these.

So you can imagine that we didn't take those letters seriously. And that is why I don't now take this study seriously when they come from the BSA.

BTW, and interesting postscript of the letter senders story is that he switched over to an all Linux setup for his business and was oddly grateful for the impetus to switch.

That said, if it is true that one in four businesses pirate software, then that might be an interesting datum to think about.

1 comment:

M said...

I agree with you whole-heartedly.

I was shocked to receive a BSA letter in 2002, but ultimately I was grateful. Prior to this letter, I had no idea how much great free software there is out there. My predecessor was big on software piracy, but because of this letter, we have made a company-wide shift to free software. We have saved so much money just by converting the servers/firewalls to Linux. Anyone who has ever had to buy server Client Access Licenses(CALs) knows exactly what I'm talking about.

Another more recent thing that spurred interest in free software was Windows Genuine Advantage(WGA). At first, I gave copies of the WGARemove program to my friends, but recently I've been telling them to either buy it or use something else. Many of them simply convert to Linux and end up thanking me.

In summary, I think that interest in Free Software will increase proportionally with anti-piracy efforts. I'm constantly telling people how strong-armed the BSA can be, and how badly it hit Ernie Ball. Spread the word.