BSA offers $1 million reward for turning in software pirates

Companies out of software license compliance may want to settle out of court

Earlier this month the Business Software Alliance (BSA) upped the ante from $200,000 to $1 million for anyone who turns in a company that is illegally circumventing software licensing agreements.

BSA members include a who's who of the software and hardware industry, including Apple, Adobe, Dell, HP, Microsoft, SAP, and dozens more.

The bounty for uncovering cheaters is not just a marketing ploy. The Association can, in fact, put some bite into uncovering cheaters, according to Kris Barker, CEO of Express Metrix. Express Metrix is a company that does hardware and software auditing to help companies keep in compliance with their software licenses.

"Most software licensing agreements include a provision that allows a software vendor or its agent, which can be the BSA, to do an audit of end-user agreements," said Barker.

The BSA increased the reward as software piracy continues to grow. According to IDC, U.S. software vendors lost $7.3 billion in 2006 as a result of piracy.

However, turning in the man or woman in the cubicle next to you is not how an informer can earn the top reward. The BSA has 22 terms and conditions that must be met before the $1 million payoff is awarded.

The rewards are based on sums received in out-of-court settlements, which is the most common way a company avoids any more punitive prosecution for piracy.

In order to earn the $1 million, a company would have to settle out of court with the BSA for anywhere between $10,000,001 to $15,000,000.

The terms and conditions also state, that "no reward is payable unless the BSA pursues a case and, as a direct result of the information provided by you, receives a monetary payment from the reported organization."

A far more modest reward, up to $5,000, is given to anyone whose information leads to a settlement of $15,000 to $100,000.

Despite many restrictions, BSA says that since 2005, out-of-court settlements have totaled $22 million.

Another requirement of the terms and conditions states that an employee who has installed unlicensed software is not eligible for a reward unless "you were directed by your supervisor to do so."

The rewards are part of a larger BSA campaign, which is appropriately titled, "Blow the Whistle."

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