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BSA's Tactics and Motives Questioned

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the shakedown-artist-is-still-an-artist dept.

Businesses 237

_Hellfire_ sends us over to Baseline Magazine for a longish article entitled After 20 Years, Critics Question the BSA's Real Motives, which paints the Business Software Alliance in the same colors as the RIAA. "A recent Associated Press story highlighted the fact that 90 percent of the $13 million collected by the BSA in 2006 came from small businesses. Since 1993 the group has collected an estimated $89 million in damages from businesses on behalf of its members, every penny of which it keeps. 'I don't know of a business where you can get away with raiding a customer with armed marshals and expect them to continue to do business with you...' said [Sterling] Ball, who shifted his company to open source software after the raid."

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BSA? (4, Funny)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227362)

I have to say, I read the headline and really wondered why slashdot was interested in the Boy Scouts of America.

Re:BSA? (0, Flamebait)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227472)

Their position on homosexual Scoutmasters.

I mean, this story wasn't about the Boy Scouts, but *when* /.ers are interested in *that* BSA, that's why.

(To errant mods that have been targeting me for downmods: please have mercy. I will pay your tribute. Just cut it out.)

Re:BSA? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22227538)

CmdrTaco like boy scouts. Hell, he likes all boys. Especially the kind with a hairless cock just waiting to be sucked.

Re:BSA? (1, Offtopic)

jtroutman (121577) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227742)

I read it and wondered why Slashdot had an article on motorcycles...BSA (Birmingham Small Arms) was a British motorcycle manufacturer. Back in the day, the bikes were called "beesers", which is why BMWs are now called "beemers" (though, the cars should be called "bimmers", "beemer" only refers to the motorcycles).

Re:BSA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22228728)

I thought this was about the Brazilian Space Agency.

Play choose your own BSA [wikipedia.org] !

Re:BSA? (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227748)

hey the girlscouts got their cookies but what do the boyscouts have? I think they should merge with the other BSA and be junior company raiders. That'd be a real fund raiser and everyone knows boys like guns.
Speaking of that, how can private armed people run into a company? Dunno about your work but at the hospital where I worked if anyone but the government walked in with guns, we killed them.

Re:BSA? (1)

veganboyjosh (896761) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227800)

...but what do the boyscouts have?

The boy scouts sell popcorn. [trails-end.com]

Re:BSA? (1)

TheJerg (1052952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227962)

Just don't eat it.

Re:BSA? (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228004)

well they must not have put heroin and/or crack in theirs like the girlscouts

Re:BSA? (1)

NetNed (955141) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228238)

I read it and thought it was a BSA red dot scope that had gotten the gaze of the slashdot eye. They are a lot cooler then the business software alliance, and would be a great tool for any boy scout in the wilderness.

Re:BSA? (1)

infonography (566403) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228724)

Well these guys ain't Boy Scouts by any means. If anything they have gone over to the Dark Side and been Darth Vader'ed. They just don't have the cool uniforms or that neat mask with the James Earl Jones Voice.

But lucky for them they aren't from the New movies, that would be just cruel.

Obligatory: (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22227412)

Fuck the BSA.

Re:Obligatory: (4, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228566)

Fuck the BSA.

I wouldn't, if I were you. You don't know where they've been.

Same again (5, Interesting)

Wowsers (1151731) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227430)

It's the same situation in the UK, the little guys get screwed over software licenses that for example, may have expired and nobody keeping an eye on things, whilst the big companies have big lawyers to get away with it.

Should make Linux a bit more of an interesting proposition.

Re:Same again (1)

jorghis (1000092) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227840)

I dont think this is a big company having the resources to defend themselves kind of issue. Its more likely that big companies have more money and are more inclined to go out of their way to minimise their chance of getting sued. Therefore a big company is likely to have an IT department that does a good job of making sure it has licenses for everything and doesnt cut corners to save a few bucks here and there.

Expiring licenses (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227940)

Thats why you never get involved with a software lease. You are tied to them forever then, having to be forced upgrades, etc.

It may cost more in the short term, but at least its yours to use 20 years from now if you feel like it, and turns to to be cheaper in the long run.

Tactics & Motives are Questioned ????? (2, Insightful)

queenb**ch (446380) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228154)

I don't really see what you have to question. The BSA has been pretty blatant that they're *all* about collecting money via any means possible from any one that they can basically extort it from.

Quite frankly, a quick look at their business model shows them to be what they are - the new corporate raiders.

2 cents,

QueenB.

All I need to know... (0, Troll)

symbolset (646467) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227432)

They quote d'Idiot. Wasted click.

Sterling Ball (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22227456)

Do you think he has brothers named Brass and Steel?

Him again? (4, Interesting)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227466)

...said [Sterling] Ball, who shifted his company to open source software after the raid.

Perhaps a more accurate title would be "After Eight Years, We've Found a Second Person to Put In a Story With Sterling Ball"?

Admittedly, the new guy, who seems to have been knowingly using unlicensed software, isn't the most sympathetic figure, but at least it's a break from extrapolating Sterling Ball to the entire business world.

Yes, Him Again. That's Good News. (1, Informative)

Erris (531066) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227986)

Perhaps you should look at that as "Man who Dumped Non Free Software Could not be Happier Eight Years Later." The other victim told the sad sorry story of trying to "go legit" with non free software. The moral of the story is that avoiding non free software is the best course of action.

Laura Didiot was also quoted supporting the BSA's mission. Her insight, that the BSA might have overstepped itself and could be contrary to the best interest of non free software owners, is both obvious and perennial. Threatenting customers is never good for business, that's why M$, Apple, Sun and others created the BSA whipping boy.

It's all bluff and bluster to keep users helpless and divided and it's all about to end.

If you're being raided... (2, Insightful)

stygian (222011) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227476)

...then you probably weren't actually a customer, so I doubt the software company would be very depressed to lose your business.

Not that I condone the BSA....

Re:If you're being raided... (3, Informative)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227636)

not true. A lot of it is paperwork compliance. Like installing Photoshop on 1 computer. The graphic designed gets a new computer and the old one is sent to a different department without uninstalling. If you're a big company with site licenses and an IT staff that reimages computers daily, no problem. If you're a small business, oops.

Re:If you're being raided... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22227710)

I'm going to go ahead and guess the violations resulting in a "raid" were far more egregious than your example. More like, say- the company I used to work for that bought a single license of Office 2000 and installed it on 150 users' machines. Had we been busted, I would hardly describe it as a good customer getting screwed because of paperwork.

Re:If you're being raided... (5, Interesting)

Cheerio Boy (82178) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227826)

I'm going to go ahead and guess the violations resulting in a "raid" were far more egregious than your example. More like, say- the company I used to work for that bought a single license of Office 2000 and installed it on 150 users' machines. Had we been busted, I would hardly describe it as a good customer getting screwed because of paperwork.
Sorry but in more than one place I've worked the management at the time got info from the other small businesses that got raided. (Customers, suppliers, etc.) The majority of them were raided either because of a disgruntled employee snitching to the BSA or because the business in question was stupid enough to answer one of the BSA's infamous letters and tell told them that they were "in compliance and did not need their services".

Either way in a lot of cases the Bullsh!t Stealing Alliance raided them and hosed them seriously for minor infractions.

The only ones that didn't get hosed were the ones that up and paid a fine outright. Sound familiar?

Re:If you're being raided... (you are a customer) (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22227686)

A) much of the time they get their authority to raid you from the agreements you signed when you became a customer; not being a customer makes you much safer

B) most of the people they get actually had licenses but have no clue how to fulfill the strict audit requirements. No the stickers on the back of your machine are not enough. You must have a purchase agreement for _everything_

C) most of the time the they threaten jail sentences (for the IT managers and staff) and accept money.

People just don't bother to fight because it's not worth it unless you are whiter than white, which is almost impossible in any company actually working and not spending it's entire time preparing for a BSA audit.

In other words, the best way to avoid the BSA is to stop being a Microsoft customer and switch over entirely to free software like Linux. Even if you claim the proprietary stuff is better (which it isn't) is it really worth destroying your life for a few bucks more of your employer's time?

Re:If you're being raided... (4, Informative)

erroneus (253617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227720)

...uhm, According the Sterling Ball, he was only out of compliance by 8%. This would mean he was 92% legitimate. This would seem to indicate that they WERE actually customers.

I find it interesting that there is such a strangle-hold in the software world. It's ridiculously oppressive. It's also amazing to find what people will tolerate. I guess some of the reality is that you rarely know anyone directly who has had the worst of experiences. But it amazes me still that even after a BSA run-in, companies continue to use the software of companies that enable the BSA to operate. In some respects, it seems unavoidable, but it's all about how we got where we are and looking at what it would take to over-throw the systems we have in place now. It would take LOTS to overthrow Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, Autodesk and the rest and switch over to F/OSS or something along those lines. It would lead to better things in the future, but people aren't willing to take short-term, personal hits for long-term, social benefit. Lots of people saw it all coming from far away and long ago, but people wouldn't listen and they still won't listen.

But things seem to be changing... slowly...

Re:If you're being raided... (0, Troll)

justasecond (789358) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228144)

Oppressive??? Over-throw (sic)??? You seem to be conflating private businesses with governments. You *do* realize that no one is putting a gun to these people's heads and forcing them to use Microsoft/Adobe/Apple/Autodesk products, right? Or don't you? It seems like you think that these companies have governmental powers compelling businesses to use their software.

Of course, the fact you're trying to ignore is that for the majority of business applications there's no F/OSS adoption because, well, the F/OSS alternatives just plain suck. (Seriously, is anyone in the mainstream engineering community actually using PyCADD? How many graphic designers are using GIMP?). This isn't going to change; F/OSS authors are almost universally uninterested in adapting their software to meet business needs (or do not have the time or talent or resources).

Re:If you're being raided... (1)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227990)

Not at all true (Okay, I'm probably responding to a troll). It's not easy to keep in compliance with licenses is many situations. Is a license transferable? Does a new install on the same computer need a new license? How do you define a new computer? (New hard drive? CPU? Motherboard?) If you upgrade (or downgrade) the OS, do you need a new license? I'd be surprised (ands suspicious) if *any* company of 50+ people that run proprietary software exclusively is in 100% compliance with all their license requirements.

no (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228480)

I can't speak to this guy specifically, but the BSA has raided people who are perfectly legit. Costing them a lot of money in disrupted business. Business get no recourse and employees find themselves being yelled at by people with guns.

If only you guys really worked in IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22228698)

I've both seen and heard about tons and tons of companies where software acquisition is piracy by unwritten policy. One guy I know, he asked the PRESIDENT of his company about getting software, and the dude asked him why he couldnt just download it off the internet. This was at a company which makes a few million a year.

The difference between the BSA and the RIAA is that, in almost every case, those companies were using unlicensed software. Now while conservatives, as most Slashdotters are, see nothing wrong with allowing companies to steal everything which isn't nailed down, a real economy can't function like that. And that piracy morality will eventually infect every aspect of the country until nobody has any more rights than what they can purchase. Just ask Russia, which has desended into a country run by criminals.

After 20 years? (2, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227494)

How about: After 20 Minutes

I have been in an Audit once (5, Interesting)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227506)

We got "anonymously tipped" a week after I took over the job of an incompetent admin, who was in charge of all the licensing, and kept telling everyone it was fine to install this and that, when it wasn't. The fun thing was that even if/when you pay the fine, you have to get back into compliance. I remember calling around to MS about some licensing issues for SQL server. Talked to 3 different people, got 3 totally different answers about how many licenses we would need. I read the info from a script, to make sure I was keeping it the same. If the company that SELLS the damn software can't understand their own licensing, how can they expect us to? We ended up having our lawyers and the BSA lawyers figure it out.

Re:I have been in an Audit once (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22227604)

We ended up having our lawyers and the BSA lawyers figure it out.


Ouch, wouldn't it have been cheaper to pay developers to move to open source alternatives? I am only half kidding here.

Re:I have been in an Audit once (1)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227640)

Not really, our "dot-com" product was pretty much Windows/Office based. (I really did try to convince them to move to Linux on the backend...) Funny thing was that MS was an angel investor in the company....

Re:I have been in an Audit once (2, Funny)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227846)

Funny thing was that MS was an angel investor in the company....

Microsoft funded business pirates Microsoft SQL.... story at 11.

The piracy business. (1)

kevin.fowler (915964) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227546)

The piracy business seems to be a lucrative one, all around.

adversaries (5, Insightful)

SoupGuru (723634) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227578)

Is it only in the technology world where it seems that vendors and their customers are more like adversaries? Is there any other realm where the manufacturer demonizes the very people that buy the products that pay the rent? I'm sure the fact that 0s and 1s are easy to replicate makes this standoff easy to achieve but it's to point where a valid business model would include giving something away and then suing everyone to pay the bills. Of course, it already is a business model, I suppose. When it comes to patent trolls, the music and movie industry, and software producers it just seems like they are able to get away with treating their customers like dirt more than anywhere else.

Re:adversaries (0, Flamebait)

jorghis (1000092) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227658)

Is there any other realm where the manufacturer demonizes the very people that buy the products that pay the rent?
Thats the problem though, they arent buying it, they are pirating it. This whole slogan about sueing "their customers" whenever talking about a big company that owns intellectual property of whatever type seems silly to me. Obviously they arent their customers or the guy getting sued would have paid for the item and not gotten sued.

And I am pretty sure that if you stole a tv from best buy they would be demonizing you too. :)

Re:adversaries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22227778)

Obviously they arent their customers or the guy getting sued would have paid for the item and not gotten sued.
So you're saying that the *only* two classes of people are those who pay for every piece of software, and have perfect accounting for each and every one, and those who pirate every piece of software they've ever used?

What color is the sky in your world - is it white or black?

Re:adversaries (-1, Troll)

jorghis (1000092) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227920)

The only way that the BSA is going to come after you is if they get tipped off that you are violating your license. If that happens it means that people at your company knew they were infringing. I'm sorry, but in my world thats not gray, thats black. Having one valid license to a software product that was copied 200 times doesnt make it "gray".

Re:adversaries (1)

Torvaun (1040898) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228278)

Or one of your competitors made an anonymous tip, figuring that it'd waste your time even if you were in perfect compliance (which is really freaking unlikely). Hey, the BSA pays a bounty, doesn't it? Maybe I could make some extra cash fingering random companies around here...

Re:adversaries (1)

jorghis (1000092) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228388)

Can you point to a single instance where someone collected a bounty for pointing the finger at people who they didnt know were infringing?

Re:adversaries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22228644)

The only way that the BSA is going to come after you is if they get tipped off that you are violating your license.
Not true, but let's pretend it is.

If that happens it means that people at your company knew they were infringing.
So also in your world, nobody ever lies? Interesting world you live in.

Having one valid license to a software product that was copied 200 times doesnt make it "gray".
Ahh - finally back to the point. But you appear to be backtracking: you stated - quite bluntly - that the people who the BSA goes after are *NOT* customers - which means that they must *never* have purchased *anything*. But if they have *ANY* "valid" licenses, they obviously are customers.

How much does the BSA pay you to shill for them?

Re:adversaries (4, Insightful)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227790)

But what happens when I do buy a TV from Best Buy. I hand them my credit card, the charge is approved, it shows up on my bill and I pay it, in short I bought and paid for that TV. 2 years later, Best Buy comes around demanding that I prove to them that I really did pay for that TV, and if I can't they're going to charge me with theft. I show them my credit-card statement showing their charge for the price of the TV, and they say "Not enough. You need to show us a printed store receipt for it.". Now, after 2 years the warranty's expired. The credit-card charge is long since paid and history. The TV's not something I can take as a deduction on my taxes or anything. Why in the world would I have the receipt still around? But Best Buy still says that they'll charge me with theft if I can't cough up that receipt.

Now, should Best Buy be demonizing me, calling me a thief? Or should I be demonizing them as clueless nut-cases?

Re:adversaries (-1, Troll)

jorghis (1000092) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227988)

Except that the logistics are nowhere near what you are making them out to be. If you have unique product keys installed you should be ok. And you dont even need an IT department that is competent enough to keep track of a few numbers, the product key is usually stored on the computer when you install it. Really they are only going to get upset with you if you have 500 computers all using the same product key. And if that happens you really deserve to get burned.

Re:adversaries (3, Insightful)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228054)

You haven't dealt with the BSA, have you? Having unique product keys isn't enough, the BSA says that outright. All you having that key means is that someone somewhere paid for that software. The BSA wants proof that it was you that paid for that product, not your friend down the street who gave you a copy of his stuff. You can wave product keys and certificates of authenticity around all you want, they won't accept those without the receipt to go with them.

And no, they will get upset with you if it's only one computer missing the receipt. Maybe especially if that's all they can find. After all, if they don't find something to pin on you, you might very well be able to sue them for the (rather high) costs you had to incur. Ask Sterling Ball about that.

Re:adversaries (0)

jorghis (1000092) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228202)

My understanding is that the BSA wants to see unique licenses. Where do you get this idea that they want a receipt from best buy from x number of years ago? That would be much easier to forge than a set of unique valid keys. Do you have a source for that?

Re:adversaries (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228306)

licenses don't mean shit. reciepts DO because they can cross check them with bestbuy.

thanks for playing.

Re:adversaries (0)

jorghis (1000092) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228366)

You have got to be kidding. Do you really think that the BSA is cross referencing every receipt with every software retailer? Especially when they give out unique keys that are extremely easy to check?

Of course not... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22228384)

They want dated purchase orders. They're not going to confirm them, they're just going to make sure you have them.

If you don't, they assume you're a pirate. They're total assholes and I say that as someone who has never been audited by them.

Re:adversaries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22228760)

So basically, you're defended the BSA on the basis that you don't actually know the first thing about what happens when you're audited by the BSA?

Re:adversaries (2, Insightful)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228370)

Go look at the BSA's website. What they want is two parts: proof that your copy is legitimate (product key or certificate of authenticity) and proof that your copy was paid for (actual receipt made out to you). Note that this is entirely reasonable, the unreasonable part is the BSA's standards of proof being far more strict than the law allows for. They then use the cost of your going into court and proving that they don't have a case to get a settlement from you.

Re:adversaries (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228694)

Note that this is entirely reasonable, the unreasonable part is the BSA's standards of proof being far more strict than the law allows for.


If so, and your records are up to what the law allows, make them take you to court. You'll have all the evidence the law requires you to have to prove your side, and the BSA is going to have a rough time proving that this isn't enough. Then, sue them for all the costs of defending themselves plus punitive damages.

Re:adversaries (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228174)

And just how practical is it to install 500 separate systems with 500 separate product keys, and also to keep track of 500 separate product keys and which machines they belong to for when these machines break and need to be wiped and reinstalled?

Product keys are a huge pain in the ass, i know many people who have bought software but lost the product key, and been told to buy it all again, or who have to reinstall for whatever reason and spend hours searching for all the product keys among all the other bullshit literature.

Re:adversaries (1)

jorghis (1000092) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228336)

1) If you are large enough to have 500 users and your IT guy(s) cant keep track of 500 keys you should fire them.

2) For large numbers of installs you would typically get a site license anyways.

3) If the product is installed on your computer it probably wanted a product key on installation. This means its on the computer, you cant lose it so if you get audited you dont have to worry about missing cd keys. As long as you didnt break the rules when you installed you are ok.

Re:adversaries (2, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227948)

it's not stealing, it's infringment, because they are using something without permission and doing so doesn't actually cost the owner anything. unlike a TV whih cost best buy money to buy and is a direct loss.

and obviously with 92% compilance they ARE customers aren't they. BSA is nothing more then a witch hunt organisation

Re:adversaries (-1, Troll)

jorghis (1000092) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228014)

When I pay may taxes is it ok for me to tell the IRS "hey, I paid 92% of my taxes, isnt that good enough for you? Whats with the witch hunt?"

If the other 8% was deliberately violated I really cant see the gray area.

Re:adversaries (2, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228504)

oh please enough with the strawman arguments.

my point is these people maybe partly unlicensed but they are STILL CUSTOMERS, where the IRS don't consider you a customer at all and it's not like there's any other tax agency competing with them.

If you think sending legal attack dogs after 92% of your business in order to collect on 8% is good business tactics then your cut from the same cloth as SCO, and we all saw how that ended up.

this is just like (but on a much smaller scale) the time the local video store sent me threating legal letters over $20 of over due fines. I used to rent a movie from there every weekend, after that letter I stopped giving them my business. they lost 100's of $ in business over $20 in fees, and it's all part of a new business culture that's been emerging where the customer is considered the enemy.... but that's a topic for another day.

Re:adversaries (1)

haystor (102186) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228628)

The major difference there is I pay the difference plus interest.

With the BSA, you owe up to $150k per violation, attorney fees and then you still have to buy your way back into compliance.

Re:adversaries (1)

fireboy1919 (257783) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228466)

What about if you do this:
1) Buy five licenses of Windows XP, and $2000 worth of other software. Five copies of each, mind you.
2) You install it on one machine.
3) To save yourself time, you clone your install four times.

Or how about this:
1) Buy 30 machines that come with Windows XP, Office 2007, and Word.
2) Five of the machines get hit by a meteor. You buy five new machines, and install your original copies of XP and office 2007 on these machines.

Depending on the draconianness of the install license, you might get fined by the BSA. Hard to be sure. You have exactly the same number of licenses as installs, but you still get fined because the laws don't protect against stupid technicalities.

*Tons* of businesses end up with things like this. Probably more as VMs become more popular.

I think we need some kind of area of law that specifically deals with COTS software licensing. I want to see a legal requirement to the tune of "all licenses are transferable (making the second case allowable), and fall into distinct categories - per user, or per computer, and licensing is based on license type, not license number (making the first case allowable)" Further, if the license is only valid for a specific period of time, then it should have an expiration date built into the software itself so that it stops working. This confusing unintentional license violation needs to go away.

Re:adversaries (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228614)

When it comes to patent trolls, the music and movie industry, and software producers it just seems like they are able to get away with treating their customers like dirt more than anywhere else.

I dunno ... have you driven a GM car lately?

You call them damages - I call them extortion (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227608)

And the reason I don't have licenses for most of my software is I work for an educational institution and most of our software is exempt from license fees and most of the work I do at home is for non-profits.

But, hey, in the US Constitution, patents had a lifespan of something like 13 years maximum and copyright only lasted 17 years maximum ...

Re:You call them damages - I call them extortion (3, Insightful)

jmauro (32523) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227888)

By the US Constitution, Congress has the right to set the limits to anything they damn well please. The only restriction is that they must be limited (i.e. a set time, any time will do even if it's 1 million years). While the initial terms were 12-13 years for both, nothing in the Constitution said they had to stay that way. The Supreme Court also indicated that the whole thing was dumb in Eldred v. Ashcroft, but basicly came to the conclusion there was nothing in the Constitution that prevents Congress from doing dumb things.

Re:You call them damages - I call them extortion (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228068)

And yet, the EU which still outperforms the US on real pay and growth, has not done this.

Hmmmm.

Maybe patents shouldn't be made for software?

Maybe copyrights should expire after 17 years?

Re:You call them damages - I call them extortion (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228368)

And yet, the EU which still outperforms the US on real pay

Factor in taxes and it swings back in the US's favor. Majority of the middle class is paying 25% or less federal tax, even less on capital gains, and less than 10% state tax, before deductions (mortgage, etc.). Tell me again, how many European countries are paying in excess of 50% of their net to the state?

Re:You call them damages - I call them extortion (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228590)

and yet we get no health care. they do. there's a reason why my EU stocks outperform my US stocks.

So, that aside, I'd rather have privacy rights, no BSA gestapo on my door, and do better.

Re:You call them damages - I call them extortion (2, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228598)

Now add in US sales tax and property taxes, and the difference becomes minor. Now add in the increased level of services they get in Europe, including health care. Sorry, the EU wins. And I say that as an American.

They tried to shake us down once (1)

Stu101 (1031686) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227624)

We had one of the BSA goons turn up and tried to sell us "software compliance services" with vailed threats that bad things happen to those who don't take up their offer.

My boss who stands for no sh!t literally threw him out the building.

I hate them as much as the next person but it hasn't hastened the move to Linux.

Re:They tried to shake us down once (4, Interesting)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228512)

We were in the same situation once. They sent us letters then showed up. The guys head was swinging from side to side looking at peoples monitors. Occasionally he would do a double take because someones shit looked Windowsy. There is a huge bucket in the corner of our build room with Windows95-XP and Windows Server bundles still in wrappers dribbling over the top and two boxes of crap like office, photoshop, AV software, intuit... ad nausium. My boss walked him in front of the heap and asked, "which license do you want? we usually throw shit away but since your an important person help yourself". The guy actually asked if we had any of it documented. I almost fell over. Every desktop he looked at had Solaris, Linux, or OS/X running on it. My boss looked at him all confused. He tried to explain to the guy, again with no luck, that we don't use windows or windows software.

The guy had to be acting ignorant or something. I think they make money off people being to confused, busy, or scared. It sucks you cant ignore them either because they supposedly act with some kind of government authority. I got stuck listing 200+ licenses for a shop that has under 50 employees.

Re:They tried to shake us down once (3, Interesting)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228634)

It sucks you cant ignore them either because they supposedly act with some kind of government authority.

They have the same "authority" as the RIAA. They lie to the courts and law enforcement and get the cops to do their dirty work.

The real motive (3, Insightful)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227630)

After 20 Years, Critics Question the BSA's Real Motives...
The real motive? Money, obviously. I'm not trying to flame here, but their motives are just like almost every other business: they wanna make a buck. And they have found a market in which to do it. I'm not saying that they are angels, but if the market is what it is, we should not be surprised if someone satisfies it.

The real culprits here are the legislators who make the laws that cause such a market to exist.

criminal motive (1)

gnutoo (1154137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228028)

You can say the same thing about murder and rape. At some point, society has to take steps to defend itself from fraud. Everyone involved should be ashamed and punished.

Re:The real motive (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22228442)

What market are you referring to? The software market? Shouldn't a 10 person software shop with a good product be allowed to charge users for the privilege of having a copy? Or are you changing the rules and saying that software companies are only allowed to profit by selling open source support or placing Google ads?

Armed Marshals? WTF? (3, Interesting)

0racle (667029) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227734)

BSA isn't a law enforcement agency, how on earth do they swing armed marshals for their shakedowns?

Re:Armed Marshals? WTF? (1)

joeyspqr (629639) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227820)

because when you pay the legislature to write laws to your benefit, enforcement is part of the deal

Re:Armed Marshals? WTF? (1)

arizwebfoot (1228544) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227866)

Because the US Marshall's are tasked with it. I don't remember how they got that way, but they take it very seriously.

Re:Armed Marshals? WTF? (2, Insightful)

ianare (1132971) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227880)

Didn't you get the memo? The police, like most other government agencies, have been on sale to the highest bidder for quite some time now. This is especially true for local departments, but the feds are not immune from it.

Note that when the legislators are bought also (as appears to be the case here) it makes the process much, much easier for the buyer.

Re:Armed Marshals? WTF? (1)

rahvin112 (446269) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228008)

All marshals are armed. Having a marshal present means that it's an armed Marshal. Specifically placing the term Armed in front of Marshal implies they aren't normally armed or that somehow they drew guns or something. It's call sensationalizing the situation. Under every EULA you agree to of a company that is a member of the BSA has terms that authorizes the BSA to come in and audit you at any time at your expense. What normally happens is the BSA gets a tip and they show up at the office and demand an audit of the software licenses, if you fail to comply and kick them out they come back with a court order and the marshal to make sure you let them do what they need to. If you make them get the court order they make things a lot more costly both in wasted time and money for you.

Re:Armed Marshals? WTF? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228550)

ALso, if you say thisn isn't a good time, can you come back in a week? they go get marshals. And they WILL say "Armed Marshals"

Re:Armed Marshals? WTF? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228722)

ALso, if you say thisn isn't a good time, can you come back in a week? they go get marshals.

Sure, because they don't want to give you time to clean house.

the BSA? (0, Offtopic)

MadAnalyst (959778) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227754)

Did anyone else first read this and think horrible things about the Boy Scouts? At slashdot, I have a suspicion more than a few of us have a merit badge or two.

what gives BSA the right to "fine" companies? (1)

RelliK (4466) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227776)

BSA is not the government. What gives them the right to bust into your office and demand fines?

Court Orders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22227836)

They get a court order.

No, I don't like it either. Even my captcha is "bribed" ...

I'll never pay those I didn't pay anyway, now! (-1, Troll)

nick_davison (217681) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227792)

'I don't know of a business where you can get away with raiding a customer with armed marshals and expect them to continue to do business with you...'
To be fair, most likely, he wasn't actually doing business with them in the first place. He was installing free copies. Taking your business, which brings them absolutely zero, elsewhere is going to result in a net suffering of... absolutely zero to them.

It's kind of like the guy at a market, selling pirated DVDs, having got raided and saying, "Just see if I stock MPAA movies now!"

To hurt someone, by taking your business away from them, you actually have to have had some intent to give them real business (as opposed to simply using unpaid copies) in the first place.

Re:I'll never pay those I didn't pay anyway, now! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22228134)

Nick you, really need to, cut down on, the number of, commas you, use.

Re:I'll never pay those I didn't pay anyway, now! (1)

bored_engineer (951004) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228446)

Sterling Ball claims otherwise. The problem is that they weren't removing UNUSED software from engineers' machines that were transferred to clerical staff. They were apparently paying for what they were using.

http://www.news.com/2008-1082_3-5065859.html [news.com]

Re:I'll never pay those I didn't pay anyway, now! (2, Insightful)

FroBugg (24957) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228482)

Or, if you read the article, you could see that he was 92% in compliance. And this doesn't necessarily mean that the other 8% were pirated, just that they weren't properly documented. Maybe they installed Office on one too many computers. Maybe they lost a receipt or two. But they were most definitely customers.

Copyracket (1)

hexonut (1205150) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227910)

'I don't know of a business where you can get away with raiding a customer with armed marshals and expect them to continue to do business with you...'
Well... in some (cough) countries this is business-as-usual.

put BSA out of business (1)

pbjones (315127) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227932)

either pay for the software that you use or use open source. Sorry no-one gets my support in this type of issue.

Re:put BSA out of business (1)

domatic (1128127) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228178)

What ever happened to the punishment fitting the crime? Yeah it's wrong if some guy is short a license for a $300 dollar piece of software but it shouldn't cost $300,000 to make that right.

Re:put BSA out of business (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228678)

These assholes (just like the RIAA) aren't out for redress of grievance ... they want deterrence. That means you have to royally fuck over company after company, and hope that the word gets out and scares other people into "compliance" (whatever that actually means.) The only difference in methodology is that the RIAA targets individuals, and the BSA targets organizations. In either case, it's virtually indistinguishable from more traditional forms of racketeering.

tell them to go fish (5, Interesting)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 6 years ago | (#22227954)

'I don't know of a business where you can get away with raiding a customer with armed marshals and expect them to continue to do business with you...

If the BSA ever shows up at your door, unless they have a court order, tell them to get lost. If they refuse, slam the door in their face and call the police. Write down every license plate number you can see.

For extra giggles, when you call the police, complain that the people who won't leave are dressed like police officers (the BSA guys wear those black nylon rain jackets with big yellow letters to try and look like government agents), and if they're armed, make sure to mention that too. Cops don't take kindly to people pretending to be them.

Re:tell them to go fish (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228762)

They show up with court orders dude.. do you honestly think people are letting them in to audit their computers without one?

I don't know which is more fucked.. that courts are happy to give private citizens warrants to search the premises of other private citizens or that the police are often more than happy to help them execute the warrants.

GPL = One Size Fits All (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22227978)

The GPL is the only license you need. Everything you're paying $150 to $150,000 for software to do can be done by free (libre) software.

What's that you say? You've got requirement X, and no free software exists to do it? Get together with your competitors, pool your money, and hire a software company to make the GPL software you need.

There's no excuse for proprietary software anymore; it's an inefficient waste of money. You hire a plumber to install a toilet so you can use it whenever nature calls. Would you hire a plumber to install a pay toilet in your house? Then why do you hire a programmer to install the equivalent in your computer?

Huh? (2, Interesting)

Martz (861209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228088)

Why did they even let the BSA auditors into their company in the first place?

AFAIK in the UK, the BSA doesn't have any legal powers to enforce such an audit to take place. Microsoft/Adobe/Foo are all businesses and so is the organisation I work for. What gives software companies special privileges to demand an inspection of someone else's business?

If I sell chairs, am I allowed to go to Microsoft HQ and make sure that Ballmer isn't throwing them around, breaking the licence agreement printed on the underside? If a finger can agree to a supposedly legally binding contract, why can't the derrière?

What goes around comes around.... (0, Troll)

ankarbass (882629) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228130)

"We hired a guy to go through and audit and get us legal, but he didn't work out," the business owner said. "So we fired him and that's when he went and ratted us out."

What, are we supposed to feel sorry for the business owner aka software pirate? Watch out, here comes the clue bat...don't fire people who you hire to clean up your illegal messes. What is it with incompetent business owners who blame their employees. If you don't have the competence to manage your company's finances without breaking the law, maybe it's NOT the guy you hired who isn't working out.

A heartwarming story (4, Interesting)

mattpalmer1086 (707360) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228224)

I was told this heartwarming story a few years ago by someone involved in creating the system described below. A very large, well known organisation (call them B) was threatened by a visit from either the BSA or FAST (can't remember which), on the grounds that yet another large software house (call them A) thought that B was using far more copies than they were paying for. B was a very large customer of A's software - they literally couldn't run their business without it, and A certainly knew it.

They had the usual problems of any large organisation - software would get installed and not removed, people would move desks, jobs, etc. They weren't knowingly in violation, but they couldn't really honestly say how many licenses were in use or where everything was installed.

They decided to write a system that would track all the licenses and software in use across the organisation, and allow it to be fully managed - installed and removed on demand. It could handle many different kinds of licensing for many different bits of software. There was nothing commercially available at the time that could do what they needed.

Anyway, after doing this, they found out that not only had they had been over-buying company A's software licenses, the flexibility of the new management system allowed them to have far fewer licenses anyway. Effectively, they had been buying enough to cover installs in all the remote offices, for their more mobile staff, of which there were a lot. Apparently, it was a very pleasant moment when they told A they didn't need any more licenses for the next year or two.

Using open source instead of BSA; Priceless! (2, Interesting)

stabiesoft (733417) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228322)

I've never used microsoft (or any BSA stuff for that matter) stuff so it has not impacted me at all. Maybe finally the "suits" will have a reason to switch to linux.

Every penny of which it keeps? (3, Interesting)

Trogre (513942) | more than 6 years ago | (#22228444)

What, are these guys above taxes as well as the law?

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