CAAST, BSA collect from Ontario companies

Three Ontario-based companies on Tuesday settled with the Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft (CAAST) and the Business Software Alliance (BSA), agreeing to pay a combined total of more than $88,000 in damages.

CAAST is a “watchdog” organization — its member list is comprised of various software manufacturers — whose mission is to reduce software piracy. The BSA, which operates in 65 countries around the world, aims to combat piracy through education, enforcement and policy campaigns.

The companies which have agreed to settle include Napanee, Ont.-based G.T. Machining, Whitby, Ont.-based Promotional Products Fulfillment and Distribution Ltd., and Tai Pan Vacation Inc. in Toronto. In all three cases, the companies were using more software than they had licenses to support.

Along with monetary payments, the firms have agreed to delete any unlicensed copies, purchase replacement software as required and strengthen their software management practices, according to CAAST.

As IT World Canada reported in June 2003, according to a survey on global software piracy commissioned by CAAST and BSA, software piracy rates jumped slightly in Canada in 2002, as the country led the United States in theft of commercial software.

The piracy rate in Canada, which was 39 per cent in 2003, had increased by one per cent from 2001. In recent years it has fallen from an all-time high of 46 per cent in 1994, said Toronto-based Jacqueline Famulak, president of CAAST, at that time. In other words, one in three business software applications purchased in Canada in 2002 were illegal.

North American enterprises are actually getting better at keeping track of their software and software licenses, although compliance is definitely still an issue, according to Laura DiDio, a senior analyst with the Yankee Group.

“It’s not where it should be,” she noted. In fact, DiDio said 90 per cent of all organizations have some issues with non-compliance. Of that 90 per cent, there is a solid 40 to 45 per cent that have some significant non-compliance issues. “Only a very small per cent of the 90 per cent, non-compliant customers are willfully not compliant,” she said. However, the BSA takes the stance that ignorance is not an excuse, “and to that degree they are right. It’s like telling a cop, ‘Oh, I didn’t see the red light.'”

On the whole, DiDio said it’s a complicated issue.

“Most people don’t mean to be sloppy, it’s just one of those items that’s not that pressing,” she explained. “IT departements are running mean and lean; many of them don’t have a separate person tracking or doing asset management, but you can get get free asset management. The BSA will give you free baseline tools, so there’s really no excuse.”

She added that enterprises need to take responsibility for what is on their network, and take charge of what is in their environments, not only to avoid the obvious penalties, but also for themselves. Security and network management issues could result from software not being tracked.

In a statement, CAAST said most of its investigations are generated through its hotline (1-800-263-9700), or through its Web site’s Online Reporting Form. The organization said in the case of these three particular companies, the firms were contacted through their attorneys and were invited “to work towards and informal resolution.” CAAST also indicated that in some situations, a software raid can be pursued.

Members of CAAST include Microsoft Canada Co., Adobe Systems, Autodesk Canada Inc. and Symantec Corp.

– With files from Allison Taylor, IT World Canada

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