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Why the BSA Is Less Reviled Than the RIAA 371

Posted by timothy
from the cry-havoc-and-let-slip-the-trolls-of-war dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is a trade group established in 1988 representing a number of the world's largest software makers whose principal activity is trying to stop copyright infringement of software produced by its members, performing roughly the same function for the software industry that the RIAA performs for the music industry. Yet, as Bill Patry, author of a 7-volume treatise on US copyright law and currently Senior Copyright Counsel at Google, notes on his blog the BSA is a 'far less unpopular organization' than the RIAA because there are three key differences between the BSA's campaigns and the RIAA's. First, BSA's members have always offered their products for sale to the public, through any channel that wants to sell them. Second, BSA's members are consumer-oriented; they try to develop products that respond to consumers' needs, and not, the reverse: focusing on what they want to sell to consumers. Third, because consumers can easily purchase BSA's members products, those who copy without paying are simply scofflaws. 'I think the fact that the public does not object to BSA's campaign proves my point [that]... people do not want things for free; they are willing to pay for them,' writes Patry. 'It should not be surprising that when consumers are not treated with respect, they react negatively. That's something the software industry learned long ago, and that's why people don't object to the BSA's enforcement campaign.'"
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Why the BSA Is Less Reviled Than the RIAA

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  • Ernie Ball (Score:5, Informative)

    by symbolset (646467) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:15PM (#29107955) Journal
    Let's not forget the Ernie Ball [cnet.com] story.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      What are you trying to say? You're proving TFA's point if you compare the numbers in the Ernie Ball article with the gargantuan awards the RIAA are getting for a handful of songs.
    • Re:Ernie Ball (Score:5, Insightful)

      by steelfood (895457) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:49PM (#29108495)

      The BSA has its own repertoire of evil deeds, but it still doesn't invalidate the point of TFA. The fact is that most people and businesses buy the software that they use, unless it is prohibitively expensive. And even in the latter case, there are educational copies available to be had for a low price or for free.

      Here's the thing though: when Windows XP goes off the market for good, I'll bet there'll be a lot more businesses pirating it, because Microsoft will be doing the opposite of the reasons listed in the TFA: forcing companies to buy their newest product (Windows 7) instead of allowing them to buy what they want (Windows XP).

      • Re:Ernie Ball (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Fulcrum of Evil (560260) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @02:05PM (#29108803)
        The BSA does all sorts of nasty things (like claiming that a company that makes detection equipment was hoarding explosives), but when they come after you, you're frequently guilty, and even their balls to the walls fines don't compare to the current $18k/song madness we've been seeing.
        • Re:Ernie Ball (Score:4, Insightful)

          by jedidiah (1196) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @02:39PM (#29109311) Homepage

          The BSA goes after fewer targets and they are generally companies that are in a good position to defend themselves.

          The BSA simply isn't nearly as crass.

          • Re:Ernie Ball (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Fluffeh (1273756) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @06:50PM (#29112545)
            When you go after a business and they are using software for something, it means they are making money off it. Even in the case that they get handed a fine or two, people don't see it as bad "hey, you stole something and are making money off it" where on the other hand, being handed a stiff fine for having a few songs really reads like "you stole something for the smallest of pleasures and it's not like you are using it for personal profit" which has a very different tone with the public.

            If the RIAA chased after someone who is pirating and selling CD's by the carload, I am SURE that there wouldn't be a huge public backlash of anger. The guy is stealing and turning a profit, go get him boys. But Joe Schmo listening to a few songs on an ipod being sued into lifelong financial ruin? That's just not right.
      • Re:Ernie Ball (Score:4, Insightful)

        by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@NOsPAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @02:28PM (#29109145) Journal

        The problem with keeping XP alive, and this is coming from someone who uses XP32 and XP64 everyday and would take them over Vista every time, is this: We have finally reached the end of the 32 bit era. It really is that simple. RAM has just gotten to be SO cheap that I often find 4Gb even on low end machines (and for those that don't know even with PAE enabled in XP Pro you are maxed at 3.2Gb) and I just recently doubled the RAM in mine from 4 to 8Gb for a whopping $43 dollars.

        So at the current speed of RAM size increase XP32 will simply be worthless by next year. I mean why would companies want to buy hardware the OS can't even use? And while I love my XP64 and intend to stick with it until at least Windows 7 SP1 even though I preordered Win7 HP, the simple fact is unless you plan your build around WinXP X64 drivers are a PITA. At least with Vista and Win7 sharing the same driver model X64 drivers are finally becoming more common and by the time that Windows 7 hits the market hard this holiday season X64 drivers for most gear should be common.

        So while I still like XP and will probably keep an XP partition around for a few years yet, in this case it really is a dead end technology wise. You simply can't extend XP32 to support the huge amounts of RAM that are becoming more and more common, and even PAE can cause some problems with drivers. Technology has just passed it by, that's all. Remember when XP was released machines with 256Mb or even 128Mb were common. Now 2Gb is standard on the ultra cheapos and 4Gb is looking to quickly become the new standard. Hell I won't even sell new builds with less than 4Gb anymore, because the performance increases VS price just make selling anything less stupid. XP32 has just reached the end of the line, and I would argue the same applies to Vista/7 32bit as well. RAM has just gotten too cheap to bother with 32bit anymore.

        • Re:Ernie Ball (Score:5, Insightful)

          by CastrTroy (595695) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @02:39PM (#29109321) Homepage
          Sure you can have lots of RAM for quite cheap, but most people won't ever need that much RAM. On my current work machine, I rarely go over 1.5 GB, even when I'm running a lot of stuff. At home, I don't even think I've ever reached 1 GB of memory usage. Maybe when using things like VMs, you need all this memory, but most home and office users have no need for anything close to 4 GB of RAM. Cheap machines are coming with 4 GB of RAM simply because Vista is such a hog, and 2 GB is the bare operational minimum. If you're running XP, which is a much leaner OS, there isn't much of a use for having more than 2 GB of Memory.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by syousef (465911)

            Sure you can have lots of RAM for quite cheap, but most people won't ever need that much RAM.

            640k should be enough for anyone huh? Where've I heard that before.

            You're forgetting a number of factors, not the least of which is application bloat. In 5 years there will be applications that don't load in under 2GB. It's sad. It's unnecessary. Hell they managed to program the orbital mechanics for the lunar lander to fit in a few kb. But it's the way the world works. Until software writing practices change - bot

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Pentium100 (1240090)

          RAM has just gotten to be SO cheap

          And yet a lot of people in a lot of companies are using their computers to create and modify Office documents while using an enormous amount of RAM that is 768MB.

          See, if your job does not require you to run big applications or read/modify big documents a smaller amount of RAM is sufficient, since you won't be able to use it anyway.

          Oh, by the way, mycurrent PC has 4GB of RAM (Windows sees 3.25GB) because I like gaming, but currently with a lot of apps open, there is 1GB of free RAM and 1GB of "system cache"

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by hairyfeet (841228)

            Uhhh....we are talking about XP and NOT Win2K3 server. Yes Win2K3 was built using parts from XP but I would argue there were enough changes under the hood that I doubt those 2K3 tricks would work on XP pro. Just think about what machines were like in 2001 when it was released. I am actually typing this on a machine from that year, one I bought right before XP came out with...dum dum dum...WinME (You owe me an apology and a copy of Win2K Bill Gates! WinME sucked!!!) and at the time of that purchase it was ri

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by hairyfeet (841228)

              I have a question to the Little nerd ( most likely Twitter or another Linux dweeb) that has been following me around lately and marking everything as a troll-How in the FUCK is pointing out that WinXP came out before Server 2K3 and therefor doesn't have many of the kernel improvements in 2K3 a troll?

              Look, just because you can't even give your "free" OS away doesn't mean that the rest of the free world wouldn't like to discuss other things besides your Toe Cheese eating leader RMS, okay? your product is at

        • Re:Ernie Ball (Score:4, Informative)

          by ngg (193578) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @04:10PM (#29110641) Homepage
          [snip] You're forgetting a very large demographic: The people who already have old hardware and/or software, and need an OS compatible with it. And, by hardware, I don't just mean CPUs, motherboards, disc controllers, etc. I'm really talking about *expensive* hardware, like the data acquisition cards, and *expensive* software, like LabVIEW and Origin, that professional scientists use. I mean, seriously, have you ever looked at the list price for a full version of LabVIEW? It's like $20k *per* *seat*. Oh, and the older versions are not compatible with Windows Vista or Windows 7. In our case, being forced to buy new licences for application software make upgrading our data acquisition systems from XP to a newer version of Windows about a $45k affair. And what new value to we get for it? Nothing. Abso-fracking-lutely nothing that we don't already have from XP. And don't talk to me about RAM. 640MB ought to be enough for anybody. [/rant]
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

            The Business and Ultimate editions of Windows 7 have a built in Windows XP virtualization for exactly that reason.

            Why the hell do think Vista was replaced so quickly and XP's life extended so long? They wanted to stop selling it when Vista came out, but they couldn't. Why?

            You don't really think the reason Vista tanked and XP was extended was because all of us geeks were badmouthing its issues with DRM and resource usage do you?

            Of course it wasn't, it was because businesses - Microsoft's Golden Goose, their

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by ngg (193578)

              The Business and Ultimate editions of Windows 7 have a built in Windows XP virtualization for exactly that reason.

              Pray tell, will all of my DAQ drivers and real-time acquisition VIs work the same under virtualization as they do under native XP? Maybe, but I'm not counting on it.

              Your comment about businesses refusing to upgrade is spot-on--that's exactly our position, albeit on a lower scale, monetarily. I have a feeling that business apps will be happier under virtualization than most scientific/engineer

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Here's the thing though: when Windows XP goes off the market for good, I'll bet there'll be a lot more businesses pirating it, because Microsoft will be doing the opposite of the reasons listed in the TFA: forcing companies to buy their newest product (Windows 7) instead of allowing them to buy what they want (Windows XP).

        Here's the really crazy part: Companies will "pirate" XP and then voluntarily turn themselves in to the BSA to pay the fine and have a nice legal license for the software Microsoft won't sell.

        Extra humor: If Microsoft refuses to do the licensing and it goes to court, the judge will have a great laugh when the defendant says "We tried to pay, but Microsoft wouldn't accept payment."

      • Re:Ernie Ball (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Chabil Ha' (875116) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @02:55PM (#29109571)

        I think that's the real difference here. BSA targets more the business, whereas the RIAA targets ordinary consumers.

        On another note, however, it would be interested to know the union of those who violate software copyright (not just businesses, but ordinary consumers) and those who do so with music.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rantingkitten (938138)
        Microsoft will be doing the opposite of the reasons listed in the TFA: forcing companies to buy their newest product (Windows 7) instead of allowing them to buy what they want (Windows XP).

        My copies of Windoes 95 still run if I want them to. If people want to keep running XP, they can. Why is Microsoft under any obligation to keep selling or supporting a ten year old discontinued product? Isn't that like me whining that the car I *really* want is a car like a 1957 Chevy Bel Air, but Chevy won't allow
        • Re:Ernie Ball (Score:5, Insightful)

          by I'm not really here (1304615) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @05:15PM (#29111547)
          The problem is that if I swap out a bad motherboard on my XP computer, it insists that I call Microsoft to re-validate the installation using their automated system. Once that automated system is gone (due to the product being discontinued), if I upgrade the motherboard or have too many other hardware changes, I have two options: buy a new OS, or break the law by circumventing the copyright on the software I personally own.

          That is a problem.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by rantingkitten (938138)
            Your point is taken, but where do you draw the line? Maybe I still love my old 57 Chevy, but at some point after Chevy stopped making them, parts were harder and harder to find, as were any specific tools to work on it, replacement equipment, and so on. I can't really fault Chevy for not "supporting" me just because I'm choosing to use an ancient and obsolete product.

            How long do you realistically expect a company, particularly a software company, to continue supporting a product? When is it acceptable
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by tinkerghost (944862)

              How long do you realistically expect a company, particularly a software company, to continue supporting a product? When is it acceptable for them to say "The product is discontinued and trying to support it is a waste of our time and money"?

              The difference is that with your Chevy, people are allowed to make 3rd party parts & you are allowed to modify the car however you want - within state sanctioned parameters. With your software it's illegal for anyone to offer the type of support you're suggesting. If

  • by east coast (590680) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:19PM (#29108009)
    Let's be honest here. If the RIAA was sueing a company for using music in an unauthorized fashion at their place of business most people would shrug. When you're using a product to make money you normally get much less sympathy than if you were using it for private use. And even when a company follows the rules the public still doesn't normally feel too bad about them getting the screws.

    And, AFAIK, the BSA isn't busting kids downloading Grand Theft Auto.
    • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:21PM (#29108043) Homepage

      The BSA is busting kids that share 5800 NDS roms. They are also going after the Big Warez sharers.

      But they mostly focus on businesses because a company will roll over and play dead for them 99% of the time. It's like free money for them.

      • by Hatta (162192) *

        The BSA is busting kids that share 5800 NDS roms.

        Got a reference for that? I couldn't find one after googling a bit. I'm pretty sure it's the ESA that cares about console piracy anyway.

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:21PM (#29108051) Journal
      I was surprised by the headline. The BSA's tactic of requiring companies to be audited and then pay large amounts for any product that they can't prove that they own makes them pretty unpopular. The only difference is that they chase companies rather than individuals, so to most individuals they are irrelevant. If you run a small business, I suspect you'll have a lot more hostility towards the BSA than the RIAA. Being able to avoid interacting with the BSA is a very strong argument for persuading a company to adopt an open source stack.
      • by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:28PM (#29108143) Journal

        The BSA's tactic of requiring companies to be audited and then pay large amounts for any product that they can't prove that they own makes them pretty unpopular.

        They seem to be a pretty popular way for disgruntled IT employees to screw over their employer though. Every BSA audit I've ever heard of or been involved in came about because of some employee or ex-employee with an axe to grind.

        I've always wondered what happens if you refuse to let them onto your property. Presumably their only recourse would be to sue you and obtain access to your computer systems through the discovery process. Given the "speed" with which the court system moves I wonder if you could have the whole operation switched over an open source movement by the time it reached that point?

        Alternatively what happens if you claim trade secrets or privacy restrictions (HIPAA?) on your computer system?

        • by swb (14022)

          I've always wondered that, too. I suspect if they have "compelling" evidence, they can submit a sealed motion requesting discovery without the "offending" businesses involvement at all, essentially a private, no-knock search warrant probably backed up by a couple of Sheriff's deputies to handle any unwanted dissent.

          How exactly it would work at a bank, defense contractor, nuclear power plant or other institution that claimed superseding legal privilege and had the $$$, manpower and physical security to stop

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Given the "speed" with which the court system moves I wonder if you could have the whole operation switched over an open source movement by the time it reached that point?

          That would cause bigger legal problems, as the legal hold that comes with discovery prevents you from doing exactly that. Removing the traces of infringement by removing the closed source software and installing open source would be tampering and the courts don't take kindly to that.

          Also, while the cases themselves take a while, discovery is usually pretty punctual, all things compared.

        • by mellon (7048)

          Well, if they followed the RIAA's tactics, they'd use the fact that you switched to open source in court to demonstrate that you're guilty. Why would you have switched if you didn't have something to hide?

        • by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:39PM (#29108325) Journal

          My understanding is that if you refuse them access, they'll show up with a sheriff and a court order allowing them access.

          We went through one of Microsoft's SAM not-an-audit-but-really-an-audit last spring. I had taken over the tech position, and everything had been in a bloody mess. Worse, most of the licenses had belonged to the organization which the organization I work for had bought. Naturally, there were many supposed licenses which the former tech guy had assured me existed which did not exist, and I ended up uninstalling about fifteen copies of Office 2003 Pro because I simply could not find any evidence that they had been purchased. Fortunately I had several copies of Office Basic and the like (mainly they need Outlook anyways), so I managed to keep within the licenses that I actually had physical evidence of.

          Of course, the MS SAM guys are pricks. There was about two months of back-and-forth, and in the end my "rep" (or so this turkey insisted he was) claimed that five of my Server 2003 CALs weren't strictly valid because they were put on a volume license version of Server 2003, and they were retail CALs, and I was either going to have to change them to device CALs or buy five new ones through volume licensing.

          At that point I got really pissed off and basically told the guy he was just trying to nitpick to try to get me to spend a couple of hundred bucks for licenses that we already owned, and for which Microsoft had already been paid. The guy did back off, though I think he was pretty pissed that he hadn't got a dime out of us. I in fact did need more licenses for a file server, but after my experience with Microsoft's license extortion department, I said "fuck it", installed a Samba member server, finally mastered Posix-to-Windows ACL mapping, and basically could give a shit. I'm down to one DC per location, enough to handle authentication and roaming profiles, I've installed OpenOffice wherever I can, and basically have no intention of buying any more MS products.

          • by Shakrai (717556)

            My understanding is that if you refuse them access, they'll show up with a sheriff and a court order allowing them access.

            Based on what? The word of a disgruntled ex-employee? If that's all the "evidence" they have (as is often the case) I should think that a sufficiently competent attorney would be able to fight any order allowing them access to your computer systems. Of course competent attorneys cost money and this may be one of the reasons why we rarely hear about them going after large enterprises with the resources to wage a legal battle......

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Samalie (1016193)
            I went through the SAM process as well this spring...leave it to Microsoft to find another revenue stream during a recession... But regardless, the rep I had was pleasant to deal with, taught me a little bit about licensing, and in the end we discovered that I was legitimately short one license of MS Office. So I bought it. He could have been a jerk and given me hell about some CAL's that were not exactly perfect, but he didn't. I run a clean shop...sure a SAM audit sucks, but all in all, it was as plea
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I know second hand from a colleage at another business what happens when a company tells the BSA guys to leave the property. They will leave, but several hours later, they show up with the constable and a formal motion of discovery.

          When the BSA shows up, they want two things: A list of software that your boxes are running, and invoices. No, the pile of license cards that is shoved in the corner near the beer fridge will not do. They want to see invoices from CDW or another company of how many seats are

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by rtfa-troll (1340807)

          I've always wondered what happens if you refuse to let them onto your property. Presumably their only recourse would be to sue you and obtain access to your computer systems through the discovery process. Given the "speed" with which the court system moves I wonder if you could have the whole operation switched over an open source movement by the time it reached that point?

          Please look up the following terms on google. felony software piracy conviction [google.com] and statutory damages [google.com]. Basically the first thing means that the person deciding has a choice between paying over the companies (shareholder's) money or personally going to prison. It becomes an easy decision.

          Alternatively what happens if you claim trade secrets or privacy restrictions (HIPAA?) on your computer system?

          You have a contract which says you have to let them audit you. If you fail to deliver, you are liable anyway. If you destroy evidence then you are in deep trouble and any court will likely treat it as if the evidence wa

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by PRMan (959735)

        Also, they get reported by disgruntled employees. Quite often, the employee that reported them is not the only disgruntled employee. I have only heard one time about a company that everyone loved getting reported. Every other time, it didn't shock anyone but was only "a matter of time".

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PitaBred (632671)
      The only reason that the BSA is less disliked than the RIAA is because it is less known to the general public. And that's about the only reason.
  • by fprintf (82740) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:19PM (#29108017) Journal

    Isn't it also possible that a significant volume of the online debate over the years against the RIAA/MPAA has been by technologically savvy folks, say perhaps people in IT? And why would these people want to bite the hand that feeds them, their own software alliance?

    I am not so sure the BSA's actions to date are 100% responsible for the muted reaction to their approach to software piracy. I postulate that folks that want to sell software are more likely to support them, and the folks that want to sell CDs and Movies simply aren't in a position to influence the debate the way IT folks are.

    • by Sj0 (472011) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:37PM (#29108285) Homepage Journal

      Why should I trust you? You're not even buffer safe.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mellon (7048)

      Nope, I'm someone who wants to sell software, and I think their audit tactics are extremely slimy, and should be illegal. Generally speaking the difference is that software people know that even though people will pirate their stuff, they'll do okay anyway, because plenty of people will pay for it. The company I work for has fantastic customer support, and we fix problems on a dime. Our customers would, frankly, be crazy to pirate from us. And I doubt that a BSA audit would identify a pirated copy o

  • Who they sue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fyoder (857358) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:20PM (#29108025) Homepage Journal

    I think it's a lot simpler than that. Because the BSA attacks businesses, not disabled single mothers, children, and the dead, fewer people even know about them. They haven't gone as far across the line into cartoon super villainy.

    • Re:Who they sue (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:32PM (#29108217)

      Because the BSA attacks businesses, not disabled single mothers, children, and the dead, fewer people even know about them.

      Also, while their behaviour has not been perfect, as far as I know the BSA has never systematically and deliberately gone after parties who are probably innocent. While they have been known to try to pull audits and such under somewhat dubious circumstances, it's usually at least responding to a tip-off.

      Big Music and Big Movies, on the other hand, have frequently and systematically attacked legitimate consumers, and run campaigns of intimidation based on at best dubious legal claims and misleading advertising.

  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:21PM (#29108041)

    Software has an intrinsic value. To a business, the return on investment from a piece of software is something that can be measured. Spreadsheet software, for example, makes accounting many times easier and cheaper than trying to keep the books in books.

    But music (and to a lesser degree video) has no intrinsic value. It is something enjoyed passing time. Like a frisbee at the park or a cup holder in a car. It's something that is nice to have but ultimately unnecessary.

    If anti-copyright proponents would be unhypocritical, they would demand that software be downloadable for "sharing" among friends. That they only make this claim for music shows and video shows that there is a fundamental difference between software and music in their minds. I attribute this to the ephemeral nature of music, something which can be enjoyed but in the end has no real value.

    • Strawman (Score:5, Insightful)

      by langelgjm (860756) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @02:13PM (#29108909) Journal

      If anti-copyright proponents would be unhypocritical, they would demand that software be downloadable for "sharing" among friends. That they only make this claim for music shows and video shows that there is a fundamental difference between software and music in their minds.

      Really? I think if you actually went and asked people who make that claim for music and video, they'd say the same thing for software. Most of the "anti-copyright" arguments I've heard revolve around the nature of IP itself (being non-exclusive and non-rival) and don't have anything to do with "the ephemeral nature of music." Sounds like you've just set up a strawman.

      Also, not that "anti-copyright proponent" is the right way to describe RMS, but he certainly does argue that free software should be shareable - it's one of the four freedoms.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AP31R0N (723649)

      What is the value of something that can be copied with perfect fidelity, infinitely, at virtually no cost to copy or distribute... and that has a finite demand? Any finite demand met with an infinite supply creates a value/price as close to zero as makes no odds.

      What is the value of the software that is the game of Tic-tac-toe? Microsoft Offices is only somewhat harder to duplicate and distribute, but not much. A seat at a concert or a hammer off the assembly line is much harder to duplicate.

      The value of

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JesseMcDonald (536341)

      If anti-copyright proponents would be unhypocritical, they would demand that software be downloadable for "sharing" among friends.

      What makes you think our views regarding software differ at all from those regarding other media? Software simply isn't the main focus of the copyright debates at present, so you don't hear as much about it. Any of the proposed changes to copyright law would affect software as much as anything else.

      P.S. There is no such thing as "intrinsic value"; that debate was lost a long time ago. All value is subjective. To illustrate with a counter-example: some software packages have no ROI whatsoever in a commercial

  • by canajin56 (660655) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:22PM (#29108059)
    whose EULA's allow them to conduct raids and search+seizure, and hand out $100,000 fines for having one workstation that has XP installed, but they can't find the License that came in the box (The CD sleeve with the key is NOT proof of license, and you WILL get a fine if you only have that!) My OEM copy of Vista that came with my laptop doesn't seem to have the hologram encrusted license that my boxed copy of 2000 came with, so I imagine I'm automatically guilty if they ever send in the SWAT team for a surprise inspection.
    • by langelgjm (860756)

      Exactly what I was thinking. Patry should hang on out slashdot more often - there are blenty of anti-BSA horror stories posted here.

      Then of course there's the irony of seeing BSA ads on Slashdot, encouraging disgruntled employees to report licensing problems of their employers.

      (Ever since /. offered to disable advertising as a way of "thanking you for your positive contributions", I've turned off AdBlock here...)

  • by Homburg (213427) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:22PM (#29108063) Homepage

    I think the BSA are largely less hated because it is less well known than the RIAA. The fact that it rarely targets individuals is probably part of this. If you don't run a small-to-medium sized business, the BSA are unlikely to really be on your radar. But small business owners who've interacted with the BSA [networkworld.com] hate them at least as much as your average Slashdot reader hates the RIAA.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:23PM (#29108081) Journal

    That the BSA goes after companies, and the RIAA goes after individuals? Do we really need to go hunting for reasons why joe-on-the-street dislikes an outfit that might send lawyers after him more than an outfit that gets involved in a bunch of boring disputes between corporations and their suppliers? Srsly?

    Obviously, I'm sure corporate officers, shareholders, IT guys, (and, of course, Ernie Ball) don't like the BSA much; but their numbers are tiny compared to "the public" at large. Even if only potential victims disliked the RIAA(as opposed to potential victims and anybody who has heard the "and then they sued some poor lady who didn't even own a computer" stories) that is probably greater than 20% of the population.

    It may also be that the BSA is nicer in some way, though I'm not wildly sold on the notion; but this isn't rocket surgery.

    • by mellon (7048)

      Is Joe-on-the-street even *aware* of the existence of the RIAA? I don't think so; otherwise they'd be out of business by now. We are aware of the RIAA, because we're geeks and we care about these issues. People who've been sued are aware also. But even a Joe-on-the-street who knows about the RIAA lawsuits assumes that the people being sued deserve what they get, or else the courts wouldn't have allowed it to happen. Because that's what the mainstream media is reporting, and they don't read slashdot

  • Fourth reason (Score:3, Insightful)

    by koh (124962) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:24PM (#29108085) Journal

    Fourth reason:

    The BSA does not sue you for millions of dollars if you're infringing.

  • doubt it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:24PM (#29108095) Journal
    The reason people don't complain about the BSA as much is because the BSA doesn't attack normal people, they only attack companies, and usually only large ones. They don't attack grandmas or people without computers. Slashdot has its own versions of the 'think of the children' fallacy, it's 'think of the non-pirating file sharer!' or 'think of my rights!' or only somewhat less obviously, 'think about me!' The BSA doesn't bother me, so I don't worry about them as much.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    A BSA audit is a big invasion for the affected business, even if the licensing is all correct. The licensing requirements are often complicated and the effort that goes into maintaining license information is a tremendous burden.

    There are two reasons why the BSA isn't as low in the public opinion is simply that the BSA doesn't go after individuals. The BSA targets businesses. The other reason is that most people make a clear distinction between copying for personal purposes and copying business applications

  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ausoleil (322752) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:26PM (#29108113) Homepage

    "First, BSA's members have always offered their products for sale to the public, through any channel that wants to sell them"

    Try to buy an obsoleted version of a program to run on an old platform. Got an old IBM-XT? Where are you going to purchase a legit copy of Lotus 1-2-3 not to mention DOS? But you *can* be sued for pirating them, at least technically.

    "Second, BSA's members are consumer-oriented; they try to develop products that respond to consumers' needs, and not, the reverse: focusing on what they want to sell to consumers."

    Did someone at Microsoft write this?

    "Third, because consumers can easily purchase BSA's members products, those who copy without paying are simply scofflaws."

    See the first reply, but "easily" is in the eye of the beholder. A typical recent college grad who wants to freelance graphics design work might say "easily"purchasing Adobe's Creative Suite is all but impossible for their finances. Yes, I know there are FOSS alternatives, but the truth is that the ad/graphics/printing world runs on Adobe. For example.

    None of that makes stealing software or music content right, but the rationale for BSA being less unpopular is not the reasons cited above. It may be far more simple: BSA doesn't typically sue consumers, it seems that they typically go after businesses.

  • Missed one. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hAckz0r (989977) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:29PM (#29108171)
    We can also purchase a competing product that does the same job. The market itself works to adjust the pricing based on market volume. With the RIAA there is only one entity selling the latest (pick your favourite band)'s album. There is no other avenue to buy a 'one of a kind' production. No compitition, no markent influences. You just pay what they demand or you do without, and they know it.
  • by Ohio Calvinist (895750) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:31PM (#29108205)
    I think the major difference that the tatics in use by most business software vendors are accepted because they for the most part don't try to engage in device lock-in like DRM'd music does. Once you've gotten a copy of the software, you're free to install it on a computer of your chosing, and when you want to move it to a new PC it is generally not too difficult to do (except for Adobe stuff.) This is not enough to satisfy OSS zealots, but is enough to keep customers relatively happy.

    The other issue is that customers don't feel that they ought to have to buy a CD of a cassette the had. They don't feel they ought to have to re-buy Blu-Ray movies they have on DVD or VHS unless there is a significant improvement. When consumers try to move their media to newer platforms and the company actively prohibits them from doing so, and has build a business model on it, it makes people mad.

    People don't feel "ripped off" when they can't drop their Chevy Corsica '91 engine into a newer car (maybe you can... I'm not a mechanic) because they see it as a utility, something that eningeering improvements have made the parts truly depreciated. For media, consumers see newer platforms as marginally better ways for companies to make them rebuy something that is artifically depreciated. Computer software fits into that category where one can reasonably expect 20 year old software isn't going to work, and isn't going to (usually) be as compatible as new software on a brand-new computer.

    I also think the OP's comments about tactics and focusing on institutional pervasive piracy over individuals has paid off in the publics perception of commercial software and probably been more lucrative when litigation is necessary.
  • True, the BSA isn't nearly as reviled as the RIAA. But who hasn't looked at a BSA ad in a magazine (or even, shudder, on /.) and thought: gee, the BSA is kinda douchy.
  • by l2718 (514756) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:35PM (#29108247)
    Part of the problem, I think, is the fact that the RIAA are abusing the copyright bargain, while the BSA are not. In most places copyright (quite properly) is not a "moral right". It is a voluntary concession on the side of the general public in order to encourage authors to publish, for the public's benefit. The public clearly wishes to be able to privately share music, create new mixes and share these too. Would this discourage the production of music? since nearly all musicians make their money from live performances with the recordings basically serving as advertizing, the answer is no. Thus changing the terms of the bargain (allowing for free private non-commercial dealing in at least some kinds of works) is the right things to do. Moreover, the public seems to treat commercial and non-commercial use of copyrighted works differently; copyright law basically assumes that infringement will only happen on a large commercial scale (hence you can get statutory damages of $150K per work infringed without proving actual damages [this requires proving "wilful infringement" which seems easy in practice). The BSA thus follows the model the public likes. In fact, they like some level of private copying: they recognize that not every illegal copy equals a lost sale, and would rather entrench their products (especially Microsoft with their OS monopoly) with customers who would otherwise not pay for them. Just like college students with "illegal" copies of professional software suites on their home computers will in the future buy this expensive software once they have a job (that's the software they are used to, after all), I'm sure that many college students will buy music CDs once they have the income to do so. Until then giving them "free samples" is the way to go.
  • by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:37PM (#29108287) Homepage
    The software industry had its foray into copy protection, and learned [dvorak.org] its lesson hard.

    Tenenbaum committed his acts before Amazon's DRM-free MP3 store went online. He got caught in the vortex of the learning curve that the RIAA is currently going through that the BSA has already finished.

  • Is the BSA really less reviled amongst people that know about them? Their random forced audits are far more odious than anything the RIAA does, I think that they are simply less well known.
  • The RIAA doesn't care if you make a copy of an audio CD for different machines in your own house. The BSA does.

    The BSA's target is the company that buys one copy and runs ten copies.

    The Google ad for this page is:

    • Company Steals Software?
      Earn up to $1 Million for Reporting Software Piracy - All Confidential
      www.BSA.org/reportpiracy [bsa.org]
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The RIAA doesn't care if you make a copy of an audio CD for different machines in your own house.

      Are you not paying attention, or what?

      One of the most fascinating admissions during the legislative hearings a few years ago was when the RIAA rep said yes, indeed, if you copy a CD so you can keep one in your car and not risk damage to the original, you ARE infringing copyright and you SHOULD buy another. Thus spake RIAA, Amen.

      As I recall, Orin Hatch made a big deal out of his having his own CD and how he was

  • False assumptions? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by westlake (615356) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:41PM (#29108363)

    If the RIAA/MPAA is so reviled - why is it that "the jury of his peers" hammers the file sharer into the ground when these cases go to trial?

    The geek is quick to assume that he is representative of the larger community of which he is a part.

    That everyone believes in his right to his free media fix.

    But when things go wrong - these assumptions are never seriously questioned.

    It is easier to take refuge in loose talk about the incompetence of the lawyers, the jury and the bribery of the judge.

    • by CSMatt (1175471) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @02:39PM (#29109303)

      Because the courts do not exist to determine whether a law is just, rather if the law was broken. The one exception is judicial review, and that only applies to unconstitutional laws and is a power only the Supreme Court holds.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Sir_Lewk (967686)

        Repeat after me: Jury Nullification [wikipedia.org].

        This is one thing that every citizen old enough to be called into jury duty should know about. Cases with laws this unjust should never get past a jury.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sjames (1099)

        Or at least that's what gets hammered into the jury's heads.

        I know the last time I was called for jury duty I got dismissed because I (truthfully and under oath) stated that I could NOT conscionably base a verdict strictly on the facts of the case ignoring my opinion of the law and without concern for the sentence that might be imposed based on a guilty verdict.

  • Screw the other guy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by huxrules (649822)
    If I've gone through all the trouble to make sure all my workstations have licensed versions of -say- AutoCad (5000$) and my competitor has simply cracked it then I want him stabbed in the ass. Its that easy. Some companies will do anything to take out a competitor and if they have cracked software might as well report them. Not going to do that with some jerk down the street downloading limp bizkut.
  • by Rastl (955935) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:48PM (#29108475) Journal

    Every member company of BSA has been found to have 'unauthorized software' [citation needed] but of course those aren't reported to the media like the rest.

    I did asset and software management for 15 years before finally being able to dump the whole mess on someone else. Every license was tied to a purchase order and every purchase order was tied to a machine. Whenever we got a new Microsoft rep (since they were the majority of our products) I would show them the huge lateral filing cabinets with every license in order. Yeah, they're going to try to pull an audit on us.

    I did get a call from the Microsoft 'legal' department once trying to tell us that we didn't have enough Exchange licenses for a company our size. When I asked which company, since we had 15 affiliates, they couldn't tell me. And when I told them that only 2 affiliates used Exchange and the rest were Lotus Notes they got truly confused. At which point I essentially told them to fuck off until they could get their facts straight. Surprisingly I never heard back.

    Yes, the BSA uses disgruntled employees as their main source of information and they pay for it. They're evil and while I have no pity for companies that buy one license and install on fifty machines the BSA tactics and fine structure completely suck.

  • It should not be surprising that when consumers are not treated with respect, they react negatively. That's something the software industry learned long ago, and that's why people don't object to the BSA's enforcement campaign.

    I would say that's a pretty tall conclusion. It only applies because the BSA audits businesses and not individuals, so most people outside of IT aren't even aware of who they are. And calling a BSA audit "treating people with respect" is sort of the same mentality that says a rap

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:54PM (#29108593)

    Maybe if the RIAA would sue for reasonable amounts, say $3 / song or something like that they'd be taken a bit more seriously.

    I mention $3 only because this would be the equivalent to the BSA system, which fines the guilty party 3x the retail value of the product they pirated. Not 100 or 1000x like the RIAA seems to enjoy charging.

    BSA says: Pirate a piece of software worth $200, pay $600 fine.
    RIAA says: Pirate 1 song worth $1.25, pay $15,000 fine.

    Something's a bit off with those numbers if you ask me.

  • by Max Threshold (540114) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @01:57PM (#29108645)
    The BSA sues corporations. The RIAA sues ordinary people. There's your reason.
  • by gmuslera (3436) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @02:16PM (#29108969) Homepage Journal
    they are one of the most convincing arguments for swtiching to open source. Some people most be tied, and punished, and tortured, till they recognize the good points of switching, and the BSA does exactly that. Why people think they are evil?
  • by dirk (87083) <dirk@one.net> on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @02:20PM (#29109015) Homepage

    Third, because consumers can easily purchase BSA's members products, those who copy without paying are simply scofflaws. 'I think the fact that the public does not object to BSA's campaign proves my point [that]... people do not want things for free; they are willing to pay for them,' writes Patry. 'It should not be surprising that when consumers are not treated with respect, they react negatively.

    Who wrote this load of crap? It is difficult to purchase music and that is why people pirate it? Really, how hard is it to go to iTunes (or Amazon, or Lala, or eMusic, or whatever other online shop you want to go to) and purchase an MP3 of the hot new song? It is easier in most cases than going to one of the torrent sites (or whatever Napster replacement is popular currently) and finding the song and downloading it. Sure, there may be some older, out of print songs that you can't get anymore, but 99% of the time those are not the ones being downloaded and there is also old software which can't be bought anymore as well.

    the idea that people are pirating music because it is too hard to purchase may have held water 10 years ago, but now it is actually easier to purchase it than download it.

  • Another reason (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wcrowe (94389) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @02:32PM (#29109195)

    Another possible reason the BSA is not vilified is that they do not sue 12 year olds.

  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @03:27PM (#29110011)
    I have a friend who is an attorney. He has a small office that has at most 5 people working in it at any given time. He and I have been friends for years and he comes to me for computer related problems or advice. He lives in absolute terror of the BSA. He has never been visited by them, yet he still fears them. He is paranoid beyond belief that maybe, somehow, he might have one piece of software installed on an office PC that wasn't paid for and a disgruntled employee with a grudge will try to get the BSA to visit him and he will get hit with a fine for tens of thousands of dollars. He buys every piece of software he's got. If you can believe this, to save a few dollars he bought Adobe Acrobat (lawyers use PDF files for legal submissions) from some guy on Ebay. He bought 2 copies. Both were OEM. He tried to get them activated by Adobe and got some grief over them being OEM. You would not believe how much he worried about it and he said that in the future he would pay Adobe's full price just to not have to worry about it. The vendor provided a new license key for each copy that Adobe accepted and activated, but my friends is still absolutely paranoid that he is going to get screwed over this.

    He refuses to run free software because of his BSA paranoia. He is paranoid that if he doesn't buy it, he'll get screwed by the BSA. The reality is that as a small business owner, he pays rock bottom wages to the people (almost always women) who work as a paralegals for him and he offers no benefits that I know of. Consequently, he doesn't keep people very long. It's really easy for them to find better paying jobs elsewhere. And his office is in a small town so it would be fair to say that he doesn't get the best and brightest to work for him and sometimes employees leave under bad circumstances. They get angry about something and quit. So the BSA has effectively made this small businessman so paranoid that he never considers free software as he is afraid that somehow he might violate some law by using it and he pays full price for everything he buys just for peace of mind and he still fears the BSA knocking on his door and somehow finding one program without a license on a PC at his office. Their tactics may be different from the RIAA but I don't know anybody who fears the RIAA the way my friend and presumably others fear the BSA.
  • Small comment (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dargaud (518470) <slashdot2@nOsPAM.gdargaud.net> on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @05:54PM (#29111975) Homepage
    Not to diss on the article, but I have something to say about

    BSA's members have always offered their products for sale to the public

    A couple years ago I needed a specific version of Windows, in English, while being in a foreign country. It was not available for sale in said country, so I thought, I'll just go purchase it online. After a bit of googling, I was really surprised that I couldn't find it for sale as a downloadable ISO (I needed it on that very day). Finally on eBay I find an auction to "a link to a downloadable version of Windows with license". I instant pay and within one minute of each other I get 2 messages, one from the seller that gives me a link to a fake site with just written "download Windows with license" (and nothing else); and another one from eBay that states that the sale was pulled for breaking terms of service on software (what, after I pay ?!?), without even offering a refund.

    Now call me naive, but on that day I learned 2 things: (1) Windows lost not only a sale but many customers since it was the very day that I started installing Linux on my customer's PCs because of their reluctance to sell online; (2) eBay actively encourages criminals and just do some handwaving to cover their ass.

  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @09:50PM (#29113905) Journal
    The software houses DON'T keep everything available, and if you set up a site where people can DL old dead software, they come after you with bats and lawyers.

    Why? Because Photoshop CS3 is JUST FINE and CS4 is a waste of money. They all want you in the upgrade path. "Just good enough" computing hasn't come to the software market. Yet.

  • by Bert64 (520050) <bert@NoSPaM.slashdot.firenzee.com> on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @06:30AM (#29116609) Homepage

    The BSA is not concerned with end users, they are concerned with large businesses who have large amounts of software... The RIAA on the other hand, targets end users who cannot defend themselves and cannot afford the ridiculous amounts of money they are asking for.

    Also, entertainment is optional, people can easily do without it, so having last year's britney song won't force you to buy the latest one... BSA members on the other hand, typically bring customers back through various lock-in schemes, which rely on them and those they communicate with using their software. If a significant portion of those users started using something else then they would be forced to interoperate, thus losing their biggest method for keeping customers. Pirated copies ensure the widest possible distribution of their lockin strategy.

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