BSA Ups the Ante against Pirates

How much would you rat your coworker, friend, or employer out for? 50 bucks? Perhaps 1,000 dollars? Maybe 50 grand? What about $200,000? Not enough? If those dollar amounts don’t entice you, then perhaps the BSA’s (Business Software Alliance) latest offer of 1 million cool ones will.

The BSA has been operating a program called the “BSA Rewards program” since the fall of 2005. Its basic structure is simple. Based on the assumption that software piracy is out of control, an employee is financially rewarded for reporting his or her employer to the BSA. If the employer is successfully litigated or otherwise found complicit, the employee could reap a plentiful reward. That reward was up to $200,000.

Just how successful has the program been? According to a November 2006 press release, the BSA’s program had until that point awarded $15,000, between three people. That’s only about $5,000 per individual - not exactly enough cash to convince the masses to start snitching on their employer.

So the BSA is now upping the ante. The latest revision to their program, which runs from July until October, is hoping that a reward up to 1 million dollars will help jump start this program. But as evidenced with the paltry 15 grand split between 3 people, not everyone will qualify for this reward, and 1 million dollars is the maximum one can receive. In all likelihood, the reward would be considerably less. According to a graph from the BSA on Ars Technica, the settlement would have to reap over $15,000,000 to be rewarded $1 million. If the settlement is less than $100,000, the employee only receives $5,000.

The BSA had to defend its program in August of 2006, when it was criticized by a journalist who wrote the program was “designed” to reward those doing the pirating. In an open letter to the editor of the Dallas Business Journal, the BSA defended the criteria for earning the reward.

“When BSA first receives a piracy report, it is carefully vetted to ensure legitimacy and accuracy. To meet all our specific eligibility requirements, the informant cannot be the person who either installed or directed someone else to install the unlicensed software onto the reported company’s computers.”

The fact the BSA is upping the ante in the piracy war could be construed as a partial failure of the program. There’s an important fact employees must consider when confronted with a dangling carrot - everyone is constitutionally guaranteed to confront witnesses against them. If the BSA can’t prove its case, the snitching employee has a twofold problem; the individual could be fired, or worse, be labeled a rat and blacklisted.

It seems that $200,000 hasn’t been quite enough to lure employees to turn against their employers. While 1 million is a fancy number, compared to risking one’s livelihood, employees will likely continue to look the other way.

Uhhhh sounds like the BSA needs a Girlfriend cause they’re really desperate now.

What do they have to lose? They have a scale that determines the price and so far no one has come close to the limit. The payout is a fraction of the size of the award they receive in fines from the business caught infringing. I’d be surprised if they had to pay out the full million to anyone. This is targeted at business anyway so regular users like members of this site are unlikely to be affected. I don’t even mind them doing this really, since it’ll probably drive Linux adoption in businesses and encourage competition in the software market. Easy piracy of Office is certainly one of the biggest factors preventing widespread Openoffice adoption.