Wednesday, 21 September 2011 17:49

BSA licence check offers limited guarantees for participants


Under-licensed small businesses participating in the Business Software Alliance's software licence check won't face claims for damages if they "get legal" as a result, but that's the only undertaking the BSA is prepared to make.

The co-chair of the Business Software Alliance, Clayton Noble, wants to put small business operators' minds to rest. The Alliance's software licence check to be piloted in Perth is actually "a one-stop shop for finding out about their licence holdings," he said.

Unlike other tools offered by the BSA, the compliance check hooks into the back-end systems operated by Adobe, Autodesk, Microsoft and Symantec so that SMEs can see their registered and active software licences with those four companies. Software licence management often "falls by the wayside" especially within SMEs, so businesses may not know exactly what they've paid for.

The Perth pilot will involve companies in the architecture, construction, engineering, creative and automotive industries - these segments were selected largely at the behest of Adobe and Autodesk, which both supply software widely used in those markets such as Photoshop and AutoCAD. And since such businesses typically rely on copyright to protect their products, they can hardly complain when software companies do the same.

Mr Noble said anyone receiving a letter about the pilot can decide whether or not to participate, but any licensing shortfalls detected by businesses that do complete the check will be considered unintentional and they will be given the choice of deleting any unlicensed copies or purchasing additional licences.

Damages will not be sought from any business that gets back into compliance, but that's the only undertaking made about the use of the data collected by the program. "It's not a means of fishing for leads for investigation or litigation," Mr Noble said, but would not guarantee that information entered into the system would not be used to the detriment of the company involved.

Page 2: some protection against malicious use of the system.

To reduce the risk of a malicious individual entering false data to draw attention to a particular business, the letters of invitation include login details for the compliance check portal, he said.

"It's a one stop shop for people to go through the process with four software companies at once," he said, adding that businesses that "get legal" after completing the check or which turn out to be already fully licensed will not be approached again under the individual vendors' software asset management campaigns, at least not in the near future.

A similar program in the UK "had quite a bit of success," he added, explaining that "customers found it convenient" especially if they had not kept good records. The expectation is that the Australian program will be "a spur to action to SMEs that don't have good control over their software assets."


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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