BSA Members Defend Tactics

The business software alliance has been storming across America with its Truce Campaign for the past year, leaving countless businesses quaking in its wake-but that's of little concern to the group's members.

The business software alliance has been storming across America with its Truce Campaign for the past year, leaving countless businesses quaking in its wake—but thats of little concern to the groups members.

The massive mail campaign, which includes a corresponding radio ad blitz for each targeted city it moves through, is for many BSA members a key part of their own anti-piracy campaigns. And some members are unsympathetic about the anxiety the Truce Campaign has caused customers—many of whom complain that the letters and radio spots are threatening and rife with misleading information.

"My guess is the bulk of the people complaining are having problems with software license issues," said Batur Oktay, senior counsel at Adobe Systems Inc. in Seattle, a BSA Worldwide member.

The BSAs membership is divided into two groups, Worldwide and Policy. The former is engaged in the BSAs Truce Campaign and anti-piracy enforcement efforts; the latter, lobbying and educational efforts.

Worldwide members contacted by eWeek, along with BSA officials, insist the Truce Campaign is a marketing effort designed solely to educate businesses on the importance of adhering to software licenses and the risk they face by not doing so.

But thats not how many of those members customers view it. "This blew my mind," said Greg Holling, president of Visionary Computer Consulting Inc., in Denver, and president of the Independent Computer Consultant Associations Denver chapter.

Holling, who has no employees, said he received about 20 BSA Truce Campaign letters last fall. After disregarding the first few, Holling grew increasingly disturbed. "They kept sending me this stuff," he said. "Theyre trying to pull these aggressive, bullying tactics. After a few, I said this is nuts."

Several BSA Worldwide members said the tone of the Truce Campaign was warranted because the use of unlicensed software is theft.

"Its a piece of property. You have an obligation to know ... a company is obligated to know whats on its system and willing to pay for it," said Steve Wozniak, director of anti-piracy at Macromedia Inc., in San Francisco, which is a BSA Worldwide member.

"This is our theft prevention mechanism," said Joy Cartun, director of legal affairs at Symantec Corp., in Cupertino, Calif., and another BSA Worldwide member. "Theres a big problem out there. ... To the extent that people are using the software without buying it, well, then, they should buy it."

But to other members, the Truce Campaign is the core, along with the piracy itself, of an entirely new business structure. Microsoft Corp., for example, has created a service and support network with its channel partners around the Truce Campaign. Last week, eWeek learned that as part of that structure, the company is sending letters to channel partners explaining they can see boosts in revenue from 300 percent to 2,000 percent if they tap in to the Truce Campaign hysteria and offer customers Open Licenses and support services.

Furthermore, the Redmond, Wash., company is providing partners with templates they can personalize and send to their customers to "alert" them of the Truce Campaign.

"There is a need for the entire software industry to put measures in place to address piracy," said Sherri Erickson, marketing manager at Microsoft, in a statement to eWeek. "At Microsoft, we view the distribution channel as key partners in this effort."

"In my opinion, revenue from sales is not a bad thing," Adobes Oktay said. "If sales spike because of a mailing that goes on in a particular city, that tells me that a lot of people werent legal. Thats not a bad thing."

To be sure, most of the Worldwide members contacted said they were concerned about alienating customers. Each voiced support of the Truce Campaign, nonetheless.

But not everyone supports the campaign. Lotus Development Corp. dropped its Worldwide membership last year, said officials from the IBM subsidiary. Although the officials said Lotus move from Worldwide to Policy membership through IBM wasnt directly because of the Truce Campaign, they said the company is not in favor of it.

"We found that the problem occurred with our own customers, and we didnt want to take action against our own customers," said Theresa Rocker, software compliance program manager, in Cambridge, Mass. "We looked at it as We havent done our job completely."