Protect your school from BSA raids
Posted by Greten on 03 Sep 2013 under Open Source Education Advocacy
The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is an organization of big software developers aiming to curb software piracy and impose their overly restrictive End User License Agreements (EULAs). Some of its prominent members include Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, and Symantec. What they do is to raid companies with the help of law enforcement. Schools are no exception.
Aside from imparting knowledge and skills, schools should also be institutions where the youth could learn proper values and obedience to the law. It's definitely not good for a school's reputation if the law enforcers are seen confiscating your computers due to something illegal or perceived as illegal. Of course, you can fight your way to the courts and restore your reputation by winning the case. However, to remove all your worries and nuisance, your best recourse is to use free/open-source software (FOSS) programs. If you are making transition from proprietary software to FOSS, you need to wipe-out your hard drive to remove all traces of proprietary software.
How BSA Operates?
This is how they operate:
- They will receive tips and leads on which companies are possibly using pirated softwares or violating EULAs. The tips may be given to them through phone calls, e-mail, or the form found in their website (which I refuse to link). The person who provided the lead can be an employee of the company, an IT Consultant, or even one of the member software companies.
- BSA encourage employees to rat out their employer for any possible violation. They even put-up billboards with message "Nail Your Boss" and information on how to proceed to tipping them.
- As for the member companies, what they would do is to include a small program in their software package. When the software is installed in a way that they did not like e.g., installing in more than one computer when the license allows for only one, the small program will automatically send a message to their server informing them of the IP Address. The member company will then trace the owner of that IP address. In theory, you can get away with this by disconnecting the internet while installing the software, but some member companies are smart enough that they insist you register your software online upon installation or else it will still not work.
- They will send notice to that company asking them for permission to audit their computers. The letter asking for permission is strongly worded with legalese so that most companies will cave-in and allow BSA to audit their computers. If any violation was found, the BSA will demand compensation and since the company already caved-in at this point, they rather pay than allow their business to be disrupted.
- If the request to audit was ignored or the company refused to be audited, BSA will bring the case to court for them to obtain warrant. If the judge provides them a warrant, they will bring the police with them as they force their way to audit your computers.
- If any violation was found during the raid, the BSA will demand compensation of amount higher than in Step 2. If the company refuse to pay, BSA and the law enforcers will confiscate the computers and the case goes on trial.
There are several possible scenarios for this to start even if you do intend to follow all the legal ways of using software programs. First, your school might be using all legal software, but a disgruntled employee installed a pirated version in one or few computers and then use than to frame you.
Second, you are using a software on a computer, but that computer became outdated (too old) to do your work, so you put it in the warehouse, never to be used again, and then installed the same legal software on your new computer. When the BSA raid came, they will also inspect the computers in the warehouse and either fine you or sue you for having two installations of the software, even if only one of them is actually used.
FOSS as defense from BSA
If you are an administrator or someone in-charge of a school's IT infrastructure reading this, the choice is yours. You can use proprietary software and waste your time checking again and again if all your software installations are fully compliant with EULAs. You also need to keep tab of the purchase receipt and CD installers so you can show something to the BSA guys that all your software programs are legal. You also have the choice whether or not to continue to face fear that a disgruntled employee installed a pirated copy of a software and frame you for it.
You can also set yourself free from fear and all the extra work of auditing by just using FOSS. FOSS provides absolute defense against BSA raids. You don't have to face fear of BSA raid, or the humiliation when it actually happens. Visit this article to know of the benefits of using FOSS in your school computers.
If you are making a transition from proprietary software programs to FOSS, be sure your IT personnel reformatted the hard drives before installing FOSS in case of old computers, as there are certain techniques that would enable BSA to detect if you installed pirated software in the past if your hard drives are not formatted. If their are certain tasks in which you really need to use proprietary software, install them in as few computers as possible. That way, the extra work of auditing compliance with EULAs will take less time.
- Appleton E. (1997) "Freeze! This Is A Software Raid", Businessweek, retrieved 24 August 2013
- Backer D. (2003) "Rockin' on without Microsoft", CNET, retrieved 24 August 2013
- Sprague D.D. and Sprague J.R. (2005) "Beware of the Watchdog: Responding to the Business Software Alliance", Sprague Law Firm, retrieved 24 August 2013
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