Business Software Alliance

Business Software Alliance

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is a trade group established in 1988 and representing a number of the world's largest software makers. Its principal activity is trying to stop copyright infringement of software produced by its members—an activity it claims, using a lost sales metric, to cost the software industry over US$11 billion each year.

It is funded through membership dues based on member company's software revenues, and through settlements from companies it successfully brings action against.


The BSA's enforcement practices against small to medium sized businesses have been the subject of numerous articles. Most recently the BSA has come under fire for offering reward money up to US$200,000 to disgruntled employees that report current or former employers for alleged violations of BSA member software licenses. James Gaskin's June 2006 investigative series published in Network World Magazine provides a critique from the small business owner's perspective.

BSA has been heavily criticized for its aggressive tactics in forcing small businesses to allow BSA members onto their premises for audits, and for its presumption of guilt until an audit proves one innocent. The BSA is an organization founded in the USA, and is currently without official status in most European countries.

They're also well known for lobbying for the creation of ENISA, the European Network and Information Security Agency, a network security establishment that operates within the EU (since 2004).

According to an article in Mother Jones magazine, the BSA discovered in 1995 that Antel, the Uruguayan national telephone company, had pirated US$100,000 worth of Microsoft, Novell, and Symantec software. The BSA's lawyers in Uruguay quickly filed suit, but dropped the suit in 1997 when Antel signed a "special agreement" with Microsoft to replace all of its software with Microsoft products. This has led to accusations that the BSA is a front for Microsoft, with its other members being enlisted purely to disguise Microsoft's dominant role.


A recent campaign known as "Play It Cyber Safe" features an anti-piracy ferret for a mascot. The supposed goal of the campaign is to "educate children about the importance of protecting and respecting copyrighted works". Starting September 1 2004, children also got to vote on one of five pre-approved names for the ferret.

A Business Software Alliance advertising campaign running on Google as of August 16 2005 read as follows: "BSA - Official Site Earn up to $200,000 for Reporting Pirated Software - All Confidential"

A 2006 investigative report published by Network World Magazine exposes the dark side of the Business Software Alliance's enforcement campaigns and practices. The article by James Gaskin is titled "Business Software Alliance: Outright Liars or Just Truth Challenged? Don't Expect Fair Play from the Bully Software Alliance."

Among the more provocative approaches BSA has taken is the Bust Your Boss! campaign that has appeared on billboards, printed publications and on the Internet with the following suggestion: "Is your current or former employer using pirated software in their office? Hit 'em where it really hurts - report their illegal software use today."


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