Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water...the BSA wants to chat

The Business Software Alliance is earnestly trying to protect its participants from having to learn how to compete in the new world of digital goods. Shame on them.

Lee Gomes today interviews Jenny Blank, the senior director of enforcement at the Business Software Alliance (the "other BSA"). Net net: you don't want to talk with Ms. Blank. On the other hand, this is also a lesson in why open source makes so much sense: stop fretting about IP infringement and instead focus on IP distribution. You want people to use your software.

It's expensive to chase down piracy. (Microsoft largely gave up this fool's errand in China, and has profited as a result .) But the BSA ensures it's also expensive to pirate:

How do you determine the amount of the fine?

They really vary. A really small company with a big problem is going to pay more than a big company with a tiny problem. We look at the software that is unlicensed and we usually seek a settlement that is usually two or three times the price of the software. That's less than what we think a court would award while still being a fair number. Of course, there is a negotiation that takes place.

As Ms. Blank notes, there is no clemency for honest mistakes. The BSA views infringement as a strict liability crime. You violate, even unwittingly, and you're fined. Period.

Sigh. When will digital rights holders learn that there's a new world out there, whether you're in the software or entertainment industries? You can keep trying to treat digital goods like physical goods, and lose, or you can move on to 21st Century business models, and win. No guarantees, of course, but the BSA strikes me as an organization that is desperately trying to fit the Old World's practices on the New World's opportunities. Losing proposition.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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