Government Could Teach BSA a Lesson

Here's a suggestion. In an economic period when layoffs mount with ever-increasing frequency and forecasts of recovery stretch out every day, you probably don't want to anger your current customers.

Heres a suggestion. In an economic period when layoffs mount with ever-increasing frequency and forecasts of recovery stretch out every day, you probably dont want to anger your current customers. But, in my opinion, anger and resentment are exactly what are being created by the Business Software Alliances anti-piracy campaign. As this weeks report starting reveals, this campaign is massive in scope and carries sufficiently fearful language to make you believe that the software police will soon be knocking at your door.

A click over to the BSAs Web site ( is replete with press releases applauding the FBI for its anti-piracy crackdowns and case histories of users who have agreed to settle rather than face further penalties. While I am all for protecting the individual and corporate rights of software developers, ensuring those rights through a campaign featuring fear and the specter of prosecution oversteps all bounds. Working in the world of IT is filled with stress, limited resources and users ever inventive in ways to bring down the network. Any action that vendors take to relieve the stress will be remembered in a favorable light once budgets get unbound. Any action that increases the stress will also be remembered, as the users in our story highlight. Time to call off the BSA police.

While the BSA compliance program carries lots of penalties and few benefits, our article on "ROI on accessibility" and our review of the AccMonitor product, show the benefits associated with another type of compliance. This compliance relates to Section 508(b), a government mandate that information technology be accessible to the disabled.

In the past few years, the direction of the Web and the presentation of information on the Web have made it more difficult for the disabled to get the information they need. While Section 508 addresses that issue, the technologies to make that compliance practical have been lagging. Rather than use a stick to penalize companies that are not compliant, the 508 program uses a carrot to give companies that are compliant access to a large marketplace.

Products such as AccMonitor are intended to check Web sites for compliance and generate reports that can help in building compliant sites or providing verification that your site does meet the required specifications. The 508 project is a good example of sensible legislation; benefit, rather than penalty, provisioning; and private companies moving quickly to fill a market need.

The differences between the BSAs heavy-handed enforcement campaign and the 508 benefit-driven project are remarkable. The BSA program seems intrusive and unlikely to have much effect on true software pirates. The 508 program seems to be a win all around, and that makes good sense in any economic situation.