How the BSA Settles Piracy Cases

How the BSA nets piracy suspects:

The BSA generally begins investigating businesses after a tip from an employee. Software vendors can also initiate or lend credence to a complaint if they tell the BSA that an organization has, for example, bought suspiciously fewer software licenses than it has employees. Next, a law firm representing the alliance will send a company a letter informing its management that it is suspected of violating software copyrights, a crime that carries penalties of up to $150,000 per infringed work. The letters will then state that the BSA is willing to avoid court and settle amicably — if the company audits its computers to see whether they contain unlicensed copies of software made by the group’s members.

Also, “Attorneys who represent companies in BSA claims say the self-audit request is misleading.” I’ve pissed off a lot of people with my support of DRM and conventional copyright law, so let me try to piss off even more. The defense lawyers are wrong — the BSA request isn’t misleading. As true as it is that companies (or individuals) aren’t obligated to perform audits or even reach settlements out of court, it’s equally true that companies (and individuals) who are in violation will be better off settling out of court than going to court.

Your license or copy of a recording doesn’t give you carte blanche to make copies and redistribute it unless the license expressly allows it. When BSA or RIAA comes knocking and looking for justice, you’re responsible for knowing your licenses and whether you’ve been in compliance. If you’re not willing to work with them, you’ll probably be working with judges, lawyers, and court mediators.

Open source doesn’t clear up these kinds of situations. See the post I made last week about the FSF going after two more companies for alleged GPL violations even though one makes code downloads available on their website or by CDROM. I didn’t think FSF really wanted to put the GPL to the test of the courts, but they’re probably going to end up biting off more than they can chew and that’s when we’ll all learn how judges view software copyrights (hint: the case law is already established and the FSF position is like pissing in the wind). They’re better off without anything going to trial than they will be if the courts get to determine if the FSF view will overrule hundreds of years of law.

If FSF and other open source advocates really want to attract more people to their movement, maybe they should try tactics that don’t reek of the same thing they complain about when others do it. That’s called hypocrisy in my neighborhood. Then again, in my neighborhood we call a spade a spade — and the FSF isn’t about freedom, they’re about restriction.

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