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Trade group offers "software truce"

The Business Software Alliance launches a campaign giving companies one month to get licenses for applications that informants say they haven't paid for.

A software-industry trade group says that disgruntled or former employees make the best informants in the hunt for companies that are using unlicensed software.

Over the weekend, the Business Software Alliance kicked off a campaign centered on what it calls a "software truce" during July for businesses in several U.S. cities, including New York, Atlanta, Portland, Ore., Kansas City, Mo., and Oklahoma City. With the truce, the BSA said it will refrain from imposing penalties on businesses using software they haven't paid for, if they acquire licenses by July 31.

Most of the group's leads come from disgruntled or former employees of a company using unauthorized software, Bob Kruger, the vice president of enforcement for the alliance, says in a radio advertisement. "I would say to businesses that unless you have no current or former unhappy employees, you are only one phone call away from becoming a target of a BSA investigation," Kruger says in the ad.

Companies could be charged up to $150,000 for each copy, which is far more than what it would have cost to buy the software legally in the first place, according to Kruger.

In its truce campaigns, the BSA is asking companies to take a month to review their software installations and usage, and if necessary, acquire the licenses they need to become legal. The BSA, whose members include Apple Computer, Microsoft, Symantec and Adobe, began conducting truce programs last August, hitting locations including Boston, Dallas and Pittsburgh.

The BSA, established in 1988, aims to educate computer users about software copyrights, as well as advocate public policy that fosters trade opportunities.