The Business Software Alliance (BSA) has temporarily raised the reward that's part of controversial program encouraging people to report software piracy from $200,000 to $1 million, the trade group announced Monday.
The BSA, representing large software vendors such as Microsoft, Apple, and IBM, will pay the sum for accurate reports of software copyright infringement between now and Oct. 2, the trade group said. There are some restrictions on the reward payments.
The BSA has also launched a national radio and Internet advertising campaign titled, "blow the whistle." The trade group will also target several states, including California, Texas, Illinois, New York, and Florida over the next year.
Since the BSA launched its Rewards program in the U.S. in late 2005, it has reached settlements with hundreds of companies, bringing in nearly $22 million.
The retail value of software pirated in the U.S. during 2006 was $7.3 billion, according to a study from IDC. The new reward shows BSA's commitment to fighting software piracy, the trade group said.
"Businesses often have a million excuses for having unlicensed software on office computers," Jenny Blank, BSA's director of enforcement, said in a statement. "BSA is now offering up to a million dollars for employees who turn them in."
Businesses caught with unlicensed software can pay up to $150,000 per violation.
Critics of the program say it encourages disgruntled former employees to snitch on companies. "In recent years the relationship between software publishers and businesses has become increasingly acrimonious," says a paper cowritten by Robert Scott, a partner in Scott & Scott, a law form specializing in defending BSA cases. "Software publishers are frequently approaching their customers making allegations that include violations of federal copyright laws and breach of software license contracts."