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Mad antipiracy bot sics BSA on OpenOffice FTP site

University of Münster in conspiracy to distribute free software

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The Business Software Alliance has pulled off an astonishing anti-piracy coup, identifying a major European university as a distribution hub for... OpenOffice.org. Oops. The University of Münster last week received a "Notice of Claimed Infringement" concerning the unauthorised distribution of Microsoft Office from one Corinna Beck, of the BSA in Washington. Ms Beck must be a very busy person, because she appears not to read her own emails before sending them.

The email naturally provides details of the claimed infringement, hilarious details. Infringement first found 24 November 2002, last found 24th February 2003. So they've been watching for three whole months, but somehow failed to identify one key fragment of information. This is also listed in the email, under "infringing content:"

Filename: /mandrake_current/SRPMS/OpenOffice.org-1.0.1-9mdk.src.rpm
(199,643kb)
Filename: /mandrake_current/i586/Mandrake/RPMS/OpenOffice.org-libs-1.0.1-9mdk.i586.rpm
(35,444kb)

The above computer program(s) is/are being made available for copying, through downloading, at the above location without authorization from the copyright owner(s).

In what we feel sure must be a desperate stab at wrapping their heads around alien licensing models, the BSA continues: "Based upon BSA's representation of the copyright owners in anti-piracy matters, we have a good faith belief that none of the materials or activities listed above have been authorized by the rightholders, their agents, or the law. BSA represents that the information in this notification is accurate and states, under penalty of perjury, that it is authorized to act in this matter on behalf of the copyright owners listed above."

On receiving the email, Christian Schild of Münster Uni got in touch with OpenOffice, and Louis Suarez-Potts contacted the BSA. Corinna responded:

Dear Mrs. Suarez-Potts,

I apologize for the obvious mistake I made.

Apparently our system detects the OpenOffice files as MS Office programs and alarms me, which in turn sends the notices. I failed my part by not reassuring clearly enough which property was infringed and now that I am aware of that fact we will try and fix the search terms of our system and of course be more aware of the possible mistake.

Note that she has not lost her trademark eye for detail. Regrettably, we feel that by "alarms me" she means 'tells me to send out a menacing letter without any further checking,' rather than that it alarms her that the BSA is launching anti-piracy offensives on the say-so of deranged bots that go into condition red at the sight of anything that looks even slightly like Microsoft Office.

Münster Uni might care to engage in its own bit of harrassing (which we feel sure would be a new experience for the BSA) over the BSA's false and slanderous allegations. Suarez-Potts meanwhile has asked if anybody else has experienced similar straight shooting from the outfit, "so we can more aggressively act on this--eg, publicize the misunderstandings." But of course, Louis. At your service. ®

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