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About the BSA | The Software Alliance

BSA | The Software Alliance (BSA) is a “non-profit trade association created to advance the goals of the software industry and its hardware partners.” Its objective is to promote legal software use and distribution around the world. The BSA aims to protect software providers’ intellectual property rights, enforce software copyright legislation, and investigate compliance in partnership with major digital players such as Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, Intel, and more.

Headquartered in Washington, DC, BSA is active in more than ​60 countries, with offices worldwide. Visit https://www.bsa.org/about-bsa to explore their website. 

5 Myths in dealing with BSA:

1. “I am too small to worry”: FALSE. The size of your business does not affect your exposure to copyright law infringement. Our firm has represented organizations in BSA matters as small as 2 professionals. In one instance, we assisted a company with just 4 employees and 4 computers who received a demand from the BSA to pay more than $20,000 for alleged copyright infringement.

2. “I paid for one copy, so I am ok.” FALSE. Even if you have one authorized copy, every computer in your organization where that software is installed typically requires a unique license. If your copy ​allows for multiple installations, often those installations are user-specific and cannot be used legally across multiple users in an organization.

3. “I have to give the BSA whatever they want”: FALSE. Any litigant has goals, needs, and pressure points. Negotiation and litigation are options to resolve the action in a way that also ​considers your business’ needs.

4. “It was my employee, not me, so I am off the hook”: FALSE. The corporation can be responsible for the actions of a current or former employee, even if the business owner has no knowledge of that employee’s software use.  For example, if you have an employee who has a student edition of AutoCAD and they bring it to your office and work on your projects without a license, you can be held liable.

5. “I can settle this myself”: FALSE. Like anything else, when you do something for the first time, you often don’t do it well. Despite the BSA’s strong approach, a negotiated settlement is a much more likely outcome then formal litigation. With competent counsel, there is always a better deal to be had. We know because we have done it.

Consulting an experienced lawyer is recommended in cases like this. Minden Gross LLP has lawyers who have experience with BSA, and we can help.

BSA | The Software Alliance

Yes, You can fight the BSA

Did you or your company recently receive a demand letter from the BSA? We’ve seen them before and are here to help. 

The BSA investigates reports of alleged use of unlicensed software.  If you receive a demand letter, you cannot just ignore BSA’s demands and hope for the best.  If you do, lawyers and police may seize your computers (as they execute the equivalent of a search warrant) and you may discover you are on the hook for a substantial fine.

While the BSA exists for a good purpose, and while software piracy is a serious issue, in our view, you may find their approach aggressive, leaving you uncertain if you have any option but to agree to their demands.

The BSA’s typical approach is to, at the first instance, demand business-owners to complete a voluntary self-audit, where business owners must produce a full index of all BSA-member software running on that business’ network, and provide receipts or other proof of licensed ownership of such software. 

The BSA treats any software for which a licence cannot be produced as unlicensed.  The most common types of unlicensed software we see are either business that install software more times than the license permits, using versions commercially that should not be, and/or utilizing alternative methods to install unlicensed copies of software (which has become increasingly difficult now that most software is subscription-based).  To the extent that any software is deemed offside, those unlicensed titles will form the basis of voluntary settlement discussions with the BSA. 

The BSA claims on its website that they can seek damages of $20,000 per piece of software downloaded or copied without permission.  However, this does not need to be the outcome in most situations.  The BSA will calculate total fines on a case by case basis.  The total fine is based on the BSA’s assigned base value of the product, plus a multiplier and additional fees.  This all comes together in the negotiation. 

Experienced counsel can help demonstrate that penalties should be substantially less than $20,000 per infringement and can help make your case one where these lesser penalties, if any, are the ones that are paid.  No court will ever penalize you for retaining counsel to assert your rights. 

If you have been contacted by the BSA or if you have infringed copyright and it has been brought to the attention of the BSA, there will be some consequences, but there is no reason you have to accept the BSA’s demands. 

There are options.  There are better outcomes available. We can help you find them.

The Truth about Adobe Systems Incorporated v. Dale Thompson DBA Appletree Solutions and The Business Software Alliance

For those who have received a demand letter from the business software alliance, here is something you should know.

In our experience, the BSA has referred to the Appletree case (Adobe Systems Incorporated v. Dale Thompson DBA Appletree Solutions) to try to convince people that resisting the BSA’s demands can be a costly mistake. In this case, almost $340,000 in damages were awarded to the BSA because of software piracy.

In our opinion, the Appletree case is not to be feared. The reality is that there were a very specific set of facts at play in Appletree [Read More]

Software Piracy

Software piracy is the illegal copying, distribution and possession of copyrighted software without a license or permission of the owner of the authorized source. The Canadian Parliament amended the Canadian Copyright Act in 1988 to expressly include computer software programs in the definition of literary work, which clearly confirmed that software is entitled to copyright protection. The Canadian Copyright Act prohibits making unauthorized copies of software programs without the consent of the copyright owner. The Act also makes it an offence to knowingly produce, distribute, rent, or import for sale infringing copies of computer software. The Act was amended and modernized in 2012 to further strengthen these rights and remedies.

The Canadian Copyright Act can be found here:  http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-42/

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