A new ad campaign and a quadrupling of its pirate bounty are the latest tools to be deployed by the Business Software Alliance of Australia (BSAA) in its ongoing fight against software piracy.
The initiative sees advertisements placed in the central business districts and commuter areas in Sydney and Melbourne alerting them to an increased $20,000 bounty available to people providing information on organisations which use pirated business software.
The measures, which are being trialled over a two month period, are designed to gauge whether increased awareness and additional financial incentive are effective in reducing the usage of pirated business software among Australian organisations.
“What we are trying to do is encourage people to think about software piracy they may be aware of and to consider reporting it to the BSAA so it can take action,” BSAA’s co-chair Clayton Noble, told Computerworld Australia.
The measures follow a call from the BSAA in July that governments create specialised intellectual property enforcement units at the national and local level and provide dedicated resources to investigate and prosecute intellectual property theft.
For a number of years the BSAA has offered up to $5000 to individuals for information on an organisation’s use of pirated software which directly leads to a settlement or a prosecution.
Under the scheme, a $500 sum is paid to whistleblowers upon the giving of an affidavit with the balance paid following the settlement or prosecution.
According to Noble, the BSAA had reached settlements with 12 organisations on their use of pirated software in the 2009 calendar year, of which “at least two” were influenced by the $5000 bounty. Of these 12, the highest financial settlement was close to $100,000.
The organisation also received 95 leads about businesses using unlicensed or pirated software in 2009, up from 44 leads in 2008.
While the $20,000 bounty was likely to increase the attractiveness of dobbing in software pirates to some people, financial incentives were not the only motivator behind informants’ actions.
“Some have pushed within their organisation for software compliance and for the organisation to do the right thing and have been rebuffed by senior management,” Noble claimed.
“Some are motivated by an awareness that, for the IT industry in general, intellectual property rights are important and it is important that businesses and organisation pay for the software they use.”
Noble said that while the Australian culture did not necessarily lend itself to “dobbing in” others, many of those that did inform the BSAA viewed themselves as “whistleblowers.”
“People who are involved at difficult workplaces involved in software piracy and who do dob them in see that they are doing the right thing,” he said.
“They see themselves as whistleblowers, and rightly so, because they are reporting on a breach of the law and an activity that causes an uneven playing field.”
Noble would also not comment directly on how big an increase in settlements and prosecutions under the new initiative but did say the organisation, which represents vendors such as Microsoft and Symantec, was hoping for “a large one.”