SA group launches software piracy investigation

The Business Software Alliance’s (BSA) truce on software piracy drew to a close last week with 215 registrations to legalize pirated or unlicensed software. In addition, 188 companies that failed to register and take advantage of the truce could now face investigation for alleged software piracy.

The BSA’s truce campaign offered companies a once-off opportunity to review their software and acquire the necessary licences needed to operate lawfully without facing penalties. With the truce concluded the BSA will now resume its anti-piracy enforcement drive.

“We are pleased that 215 companies took the opportunity to get their house in order and adopt good software asset management practices. The companies that registered ran unlicensed software on over 9,000 desktop PCs. Truce applicants that did the right thing now have peace of mind, knowing that they operate lawfully,” says Andrew Lindstram, chairman of the BSA.

The 188 companies that face investigation were reported for alleged software piracy during the truce. “None of these companies registered to clean up during the four-month window period offered by the BSA. It is now business as usual — we will be investigating these companies and will be taking legal action where evidence of unlicensed software is found,” adds Lindstram.

The BSA is still, however, calling on businesses that registered for the truce but have not yet filed their Software Compliance Statements with the BSA to do so as soon as possible. “Businesses cannot simply register and then do nothing. They have to file a statement saying that they have checked their software and taken the necessary steps towards compliance,” says Lindstram.

The BSA issued 150,000 direct mail letters to businesses, and, during the campaign, handled over 4,000 telephone calls and e-mails to its hotline.

“In addition to the companies that registered for the truce, we believe that there are thousands of other businesses that quietly cleaned up unlicensed software without registering. A number of software retailers reported a spike in sales during the BSA truce and we can conclude from the high number of hotline calls that companies took note of this campaign,” says Lindstram.

The BSA has garnered support from key government agencies in South Africa, including the South African Chamber of Business and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Adds Lana van Zyl, director of commercial investigation: dti: “We recognize the impact that public-private sector initiatives, such as the BSA’s software piracy truce, can have on educating citizens about intellectual property and copyright protection.

“Strong copyright and intellectual property protection is key to the development of an economy that fosters innovation as well as investment. SA’s (South Africa’s) fight against counterfeiting and product piracy can only be successful if all stakeholders involved play an active part,” she adds.

According to an IDC study, a 10-point reduction in SA’s 34 per cent software piracy rate by 2006 could add R12.8 billion (US$1.9 billion) to the economy, create more than 3,300 high-wage jobs and generate more than R784 million in new tax revenues.

“The DTI endorses the use of genuine, licensed, software and supports the BSA’s fight in eradicating software piracy,” concludes Van Zyl.

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