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The Business Software Alliance last week launched a 'software detox' initiative to help organisations check their software licenses. Today, the anti-piracy group rejected concerns that firms could incriminate
themselves via the on-line audit returns.

Software asset management is an integral part of good business governance. Last year, over 4,500 businesses completed the BSA's Software Audit Return. The online form enables businesses to review the software in use and the licenses purchased.

"While many organisations realise the risks associated with illegal software, few are taking proactive steps to prevent software mismanagement," said Mike Newton, BSA spokesperson. "The Software Audit Return form enables companies to take the vital first step towards implementing effective software asset management processes and ensuring they are free of illegal software that could put the business at risk."

The BSA describes itself as the voice of the world's commercial software industry and its hardware partners before governments and in the
international marketplace. Recent research carried out on its behalf revealed that 32 per cent of companies either are not software compliant or do
not know whether the software installed has been copied or downloaded illegally.

But a fear of some organisations is that completing the BSA's audit could incriminate them if the results reveal, for example, too few software licenses for the number of users - and the BSA is known for taking tough action against non-compliant organisations.

OUT-LAW.COM put this concern to the BSA: Will it use the results of the audits to identify new targets for legal action?

"Absolutely not," said Graham Arthur, legal counsel at the BSA. "All information received through the audit process is kept confidential and will not be passed to our enforcement team and will not trigger legal action."

Arthur continued:

"If a company comes forward to complete the audit, no action will be taken. The only exceptions to that would be if the company was already under investigation or if it is later reported to us
independently, for example by an employee.

"If the audit process reveals unlicensed software, we will only recommend that a company either pays for the appropriate licenses or deletes the software. We may follow that with a letter seeking confirmation that the company is now compliant."

We asked what would happen if the BSA sent such a letter and received no response from the company.

Arthur explained: "That will be the end of the process. However, if the company is later reported to us independently of the audit and enforcement action is taken, that letter may be used as evidence to show
that the company was aware that it was non-compliant."

He was anxious to point out to organisations that the focus of the BSA's new approach is on effective software asset management, that it can help to highlight other dangers of illegal software use, such as susceptibility to viruses and lack of support.

"The emphasis is on raising awareness, concludes Arthur. "It is not about enforcement."

© copyright 2004 OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Masons.

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