Law firm urges caution over BSA piracy forms

Not as serious as tax return

A major corporate law firm is advising UK companies which receive a software audit form from the Business Software Alliance to "Proceed with Care!" when deciding whether to complete it.

According to DLA, anyone who returns the form in good faith "could simply be providing the BSA with the evidence it needs to take action against you".

The BSA strongly denies that it has any such purpose in mind. Mike Newton, campaign relation manager, says the information collected from the software audit is for database purposes only. "It will not be used for lead generation purposes."

The BSA recently sent all UK organisations with 20 or more employees a "2001 Software Audit Return". It has a deadline of 30 November for responses and includes a notice to treat the document, "as seriously as a tax return".

The organisation is not legally allowed to pass on the information, however damning it may be, to its member companies (Microsoft, Symantec, etc.), as this contravenes the Data Protection Act, and it is the member companies that hold the key to further legal action, not the BSA, Newton says.

DLA, in a newsletter to its clients, says the approach taken by the BSA makes the document look like an official, even statutory, process which companies are required to comply with. But the BSA has no power to force companies to complete the form, being a private body, not a regulatory one.

The BSA agrees; it does not have the power of attorney needed to make companies fill in the forms, and this fact is clarified on the Q&A form sent out with the audit request, Newton says.

The purpose of the audit is simply an educational measure intended to remind companies that they should use legal software, according to the BSA pitch. One in four companies in the UK use illegal software and it is the BSA's intention to assist these companies in understanding the dangers of doing this and assist them in finding a path to legality.

It is currently investigating more than 500 companies in the UK and receives over 40 leads a week from individuals. ®

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Related Links

BSA UK Home Page
DLA Solicitors
BSA's Software Audit Programme

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