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The Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft (CAAST) has got yet another company to pay the price for software piracy.
The anti-piracy watchdog yesterday announced a Toronto firm has agreed to fork out $73,300 for using unlicensed software. It said Curran, McCabe, Ravidran and Ross, a construction consulting firm, agreed to the settlement after an audit revealed the company was using unlicensed copies of Adobe, Autodesk and Microsoft programs.
CAAST – a coalition of software industry companies battling software piracy – believes such crackdowns are vital to the success of goal of stamping out piracy.
Others within the industry, however, take a very different view. For instance, an Ottawa-based open-source software advocate believes that CAAST has adopted a flawed approach.
The anti-piracy body acted within its rights in leveling fines, but its actions exhibit a failure to adjust to technology and economic trends, according to Russell McOrmond, policy coordinator of CLUE (The Canadian Association for Open Source). CLUE promotes the use and development of free and open-source software.
"CAAST's problem is not the lawlessness of their customers, but their own failure to embrace new business models suited to the Internet era," said McOrmond.
He said the business model adopted by CAAST members – that charges a fee for every copy of software – is at odds with the very nature of the Web. For years the Internet has allowed users and developers to create and exchange software unencumbered by patent agreements, he said.
"The best way to manage improperly licensed software," said McOrmond "is to switch to Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) where there are no per-desk, per-user, or per-server obligations."
He explained that some of the largest software companies such as IBM, Novell, Sun Microsystems and Apple Computer have adopted the FLOSS model.
While his organization strongly supports the right of software creators to protect their interests through copyright, McOrmond said, he doubts if lawsuits against users will benefit creators. "Don't litigate, use creative licensing."
For instance, he said, musicians who have chosen to license their creations based on the open source concept are still able to protect and generate revenues from their creation. Radio, television stations, advertisers and other commercial users that play the songs still pay the artist's royalty fees.
The head of CAAST, however, believes it is the duty of businesses to ensure the software they use is licensed.
"Companies should implement policies that demonstrate the importance of using licensed software. The cost of doing business otherwise can be very high," said Jacquie Famulak, CAAST president.