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Software CEOs stump in D.C.

Chief executives from the largest U.S. software companies trek to the capital to meet politicians and highlight a paper they say offers companies a better way to think about computer security.

WASHINGTON--Chief executives from the largest U.S. software companies trekked to the nation's capital Wednesday to meet with politicians and highlight a white paper they touted as offering companies a better way to think about computer security.

The 12 executives, including Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, Autodesk's Carol Bartz, and Network Associates' George Samenuk, said their 16-page security "framework" marked the start of a process that would provide general information security guidance to senior managers.

Their visit, an annual event organized by the Business Software Alliance, included a series of back-to-back meetings with government officials to lobby for aggressive copyright enforcement, free trade and class action reform. On Wednesday, the CEOs met with House Speaker Dennis Hastert, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Treasury Secretary John Snow and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

At a 40-minute press conference in the afternoon, Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen said he and his colleagues were pressuring Congress to keep the Digital Millennium Copyright Act intact. With the DMCA having been used in some cases to stifle security research and unmask thousands of suspected peer-to-peer pirates, some members of Congress have proposed amending it.

"We urged the speaker to continue to support the DMCA," Chizen said of the group's meeting with Hastert. It is an "effective tool to deal with piracy, and one of the only effective tools to deal with piracy," said Chizen, whose company initially supported the criminal prosecution of programmer Dmitry Sklyarov on charges of DMCA violations.

In response to a question, Microsoft's Ballmer stressed his opposition to laws that favor open-source software over proprietary software such as that sold by BSA member companies. According to the Initiative for Software Choice, an Arlington, Va.-based group funded in part through Microsoft, over 70 such proposals have surfaced in U.S. state capitals and in about two dozen other countries.

"No government should be setting a preference in its procurement of software, either for open-source or (proprietary software)," Ballmer said. "If the best value for a given application comes out of the open-source community, governments should go in that direction."

Ballmer added, though, that "we have plenty of great ideas that are going to keep us ahead of the competition."

Entrust CEO Bill Conner said he hoped the BSA's security white paper would "give a framework for legislators to give appropriate regulation and legislation." The paper tiptoes around the question of whether new laws are necessary, choosing instead to point out that many security-related laws are already on the books, and the potential for additional laws creates "uncertainty about the costs of compliance and potential liability."

Bentley Systems' Gregory Bentley said the meetings with the two Cabinet secretaries and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick showed that the Bush administration believed in free trade. Bentley said he wanted to enlist the administration's help in fighting "potential incipient protectionism in some parts of the world" that would damage American software companies' exports.