BSA Extends Anti-Piracy Campaign

January effort targeting software compliance encompasses 10 areas.

The business software alliance is taking its aggressive and somewhat controversial campaign against pirated software to 10 more areas this month.

Under its Grace Period campaign, the BSA is using letters and radio ads to offer businesses in selected cities the opportunity to avoid penalties and acquire licenses for any illegal software they may have installed. The January effort targets businesses in Billings, Bozeman and Missoula, Montana; Houston; Indianapolis; Nashville, Tenn.; Norfolk and Richmond, Va.; Orlando, Fla.; and the San Francisco Bay area.

The BSA, based in Washington, has come under criticism in the past by some businesses that felt the organizations letters were too aggressive and threatening. The BSA has struck fear in customers minds through carefully worded but ominous-sounding letters and an accompanying radio ad blitz warning businesses to beware of disgruntled employees who might report software licensing violations to authorities.

However, BSA officials said the letter campaign is a direct marketing effort designed to encourage users to get in compliance and is not directed at any company in particular. The group uses common mailing list companies such as D&B Inc. to generate the lists.

The alliance has collected more than $68 million in penalties from companies in the past 11 years and cites a 2000 study that estimated software piracy cost the United States more than $5.6 billion in lost wages.

This program, the alliance said, is an alternative for companies that dont want to end up paying fines that run as much as $150,000 per copyright violation. It even offers a software tool to help audit company networks.

"The Grace Period offers businesses a chance to catch up, conduct a software audit and acquire the necessary licenses they need to get legal—penalty-free," said Bob Kruger, vice president of enforcement at the BSA, which is funded by software vendors. "The BSA recognizes that some businesses may not have managed their assets properly."

This most recent effort runs through Jan. 31.