Meanwhile, across the pond, the 24-year-old Business Software Alliance is also making headlines again, after a disgruntled small-business owner received a "nauseating" letter from the BSA and shared it with the editors of UK tech site PC Pro.
The letter, seen by PC Pro, was sent by law firm Bristows, and states that the "BSA has received a complaint alleging that your company is using unauthorised or unlicensed copies of software". The letter demands the recipient conduct a full software audit, saying that if it reveals improper copies of software, the companies could "claim various remedies, including that the unlicensed installations be deleted" and "compensation in the form of damages be paid for the period of unlicensed use".
These tactics are also not new. It's intimidation, plain and simple. Scaring businesses into complying is all the BSA was formed to do. The problem, as the PC Pro story points out, is that the BSA may not have the legal grounds to do what it is threatening to do:
As the BSA letters tend not to lead to court cases, one lawyer suggested the letters were written to generate maximum impact without necessarily having much power to act.
"It's designed to scare the recipient into thinking that they're obliged to provide certain information when, in fact, it's difficult to see that they are," said David Woods, a senior associate within the IT team at Pinsent Masons. "There are references to an unspecified complaint that seems to have been made, and after that it's a fishing exercise."
The "solution" to both of these tactics is simple, if drastic: Call their bluff.
If enough people ignore the BSA's threats, it will have to start suing -- eating up whatever profit it might make from the fines it levies. When every ISP subscriber is a pirate, no one is a customer any more. Good-bye revenue streams.
I'm not saying it will be pretty for those who are sued (and lose) or for Netizens who find their access throttled or cut off. And I'm not suggesting anyone out there in Cringeville become one of them. I'm just saying that they're hollow threats that can only work if people believe in them.
Personally, I'm tired of being threatened by the content and software cartels. How about you?
Had a nasty brush with the RIAA or BSA? Weigh in below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article, "The piracy bullies want your ISP to do their dirty work," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.