CyberTech Rambler

September 1, 2006

Stiffer penalty for using illegal software

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:26 pm

Don’t get me wrong, if you use illegal software, I do not have sympathy for you if you got caught and suffer the consequence. The only thing I will offer you is my help to ensure the punishment fits the crime, e.g., you will not be forced to sell your offsprings.

Therefore, I think Business Software Alliance got things wrong when they call for stiffer penalty for companies using illegal software, in the form of damages. In their view, existing laws is inadequate because if the company come clean by purchasing the license, they more-or-less settle the lawsuit. This is in stark contrast with people selling unlicensed software (counterfeiters), on the other hand, faces very stiff penalty.

The reason they got it wrong is that the law purposely distinguish between users of illegal software, and people encouraging the use of illegal software, i.e., software counterfeiters. For the latter, the aim is to punish them. For former, the aim of the legislation is to get them to come back to compliance and to restore lost revenue to the software vendors. That is why the law is very stingy when it comes to recovering damages from campanies especially when compared to counterfeiters.

Moreover, according to the same article, BSA conceded earlier this year that 80% of illegal software use by companies are a result of negligence and not to malice. Hence, why do they want the ability to severely punish 80% of their member’s customers? The law obviously took this into account when denying organization like BSA to big stick they want. By defanging BSA and organization like it, it encourages them to educate and reminds companies their responsibilities towards software vendors.

BSA argues that it is not looking for punitive damages but simply want the ablity to get companies who come clean to pay more than simply the cost of getting their license uptodate, as they should had done in the first place. Sounds fair? No, because if this is the aim, they should simply ask for award of administrative cost to cover BSA’s work in uncovering the licensing problem, not a carte blanche where it can choose to claim whatever it wants. This additional cost award will be in the spirit of existing legislation and probably do not require amending existing legislation AND besides acheiving what BSA wants. Moreover, what they ask for seriously looks like smuggling punitive damage into the law. Why? Because BSA can go to court and claim whatever it wants, however ricdiculous and frivolous. The potential cost of litigation will force companies to settle and pay the “punitive damage” BSA wants. This turns BSA into the judge, jury and executioner, precisely the thing every judicial system seek to avoid for thousands of years. BSA USA had shown that they will not hesitate to do so, so why should we trust BSA UK?

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