Ferreting out copyright scofflaws

The software cops at the BSA hope a cartoon mascot will keep kids in line.

Just when you thought software licensing enforcement couldn't get any more fun, the copyright cops at the Business Software Alliance have enlivened the process with a spunky cartoon ferret.

The BSA--a trade group supported by Microsoft, Adobe Systems and other major software makers to enforce software licenses and copyrights--revealed the new mascot Tuesday as part of a national campaign to scare kids out of using peer-to-peer networks.

The "Play It Safe in Cyber Space" campaign will culminate with a four-page comic book, distributed in conjunction with tot journal the Weekly Reader, meant to impress kids with the idea that it's not OK to freely swap software, games, music and other copyrighted content.

The comic will feature the droopy-drawers ferret, who for now is referred to as the "Copyright Crusader." Kids are urged to help select his final name by submitting votes next month through the BSA's Web site.

Kids will get to choose from five potential names, none of which have been revealed. You can always try to write in "Sterling Ball," if you want to give the BSA folks a chuckle.

The campaign also includes an online game in which the ferret races to destroy pirated copies of software while collecting valid licensing agreements.

The ferret, by the way, does seem to be an odd mascot choice for an organization devoted to strict legal adherence, given that the weasel-like mammals are outlawed in California and several other states.

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