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Antipiracy effort targets little guy

More than 90 percent of the Business Software Alliance's settlement revenue comes from small businesses, an Associated Press analysis finds.

The Business Software Alliance is best known for tracking piracy rates and announcing high-profile settlements over improperly licensed programs. But a new study finds that most of its money is not coming from big corporations, but from small businesses.

Associated Press writer Brian Bergstein said his analysis showed that 90 percent of settlement revenue comes from small businesses. Last year the agency, which monitors compliance for companies such as Microsoft and Adobe Systems, took in $13 million in settlement proceeds, according to the AP.

A counterfeit copy of Office 2003, billed incorrectly as an OEM version of the software suite. Microsoft

Among the other interesting tidbits is a chart showing where the organization's income originates (81 percent stems from settlements, with 13 percent coming from membership dues) and where the money is spent (nearly half went for legal fees, while 16 percent goes to public relations). Also the company has scaled back efforts to offer companies amnesty when they want to come into compliance, while upping the amount offered as rewards to employees who blow the whistle on their employers.

The article questions whether such rewards might encourage a worker in an IT department to report their employer, rather than fix their compliance issue. It also questions the BSA's assertion that it focuses on companies that are flagrantly flouting the software license terms, pointing to a case in Utah where a company had two unlicensed copies of Microsoft software.

One of the interesting issues, I think, is the increase in the technological means built into software, particularly from Microsoft, aimed at thwarting piracy before it occurs.