Tampa Businesses Should Expect Increase in Software Licensing Audits; Business Software Alliance (BSA) Targets Area for Software Piracy

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Business Software Alliance runs national "whistleblower" radio ad campaign in Tampa, Florida. Software audit defense firm, Scott & Scott, offers 4 tips to avoid common mistakes in software licensing audits.

Scott & Scott, LLP

Know it, Report it, Reward it

Scott & Scott, LLP, Dallas based law and technology services firm, report that the Business Software Alliance (BSA) has targeted Tampa in its national "Know it, Report it, Reward it" whistleblower campaign, based on statistics from TNS Media's AdScope. The BSA, a global software industry group funded by big name companies, including Apple, Adobe, Microsoft, and Autodesk, placed 72 ads in a 7 week period on Tampa radio stations offering informants, usually disgruntled employees, up to $1 Million in cash for anonymous software piracy tips.

Robert J. Scott, Managing Partner of Scott & Scott, LLP says, "While we understand the Business Software Alliance's desire to protect the intellectual property rights of its software publisher members, the firm believes it's important to inform businesses about some of the questionable enforcement methods the organization uses and offer recommendations for reducing the risks of external software audits from the Business Software Alliance, the Software Information and Industry Association(SIIA) or software publishers."

Companies are not required to cooperate with a request for a software audit either from the publisher or their trade associations, but avoiding litigation is highly unlikely without an agreement to participate in a voluntary audit. The legal and financial implications of software audits can be enormous. The costs, even those that are resolved successfully, are substantial. Businesses that are most prepared will have the greatest success in defending the inevitable software license audit and save money.

Based on the many clients Scott & Scott has represented in software license disputes, the following common mistakes have been observed:

1. Failure to compile and produce accurate installation information.

(a) Even in small environments, a manual process to review the software on each computer is time-consuming and unreliable. Carefully select an automated software discovery tool that will produce results in a format that you can interpret. Discovery tool selection is critical to the success of the audit initiative.
(b) Use of free tools provided by trade associations. These tools, more often than not,inaccurately report the data and fail to exclude information that is outside the scope of the audit request.

2. Relying on internal IT staff to respond to a software audit request.

Members of IT departments typically prepare audit reports containing information that is incorrect or beyond the scope of what is required to adequately respond. If the technology department improperly reports the software installations, the monetary portion of the settlement may be inflated.

3. Submitting improper documentation in an attempt to demonstrate proof of ownership.

(a) BSA generally only accepts dated proofs of purchase with an entity name matching that of the audited company. Avoid knee-jerk purchasing of additional licenses in response to a request for an audit as these purchases will be irrelevant to the audit.
(b)Companies should seek the advice of counsel regarding the purchase of additional software during the audit process and the impact it may have on the pre-litigation audit and any subsequent litigation that may arise.

4. Failure to involve experienced counsel to interpret copyright laws and software licenses.

Hire experienced counsel to interpret the installation information gathered by the automated discovery tool, reconcile that data with all available proof-of-purchase information and determine whether it includes only information within the scope of the audit. Licensing models are often dependent on the actual use of the product in the company's specific environment. In addition, there are other licensing considerations that require specialized knowledge and expertise. Many companies and inexperienced attorneys underestimate the financial and public relations exposure of audits. Experienced counsel will be able to provide the audited company with a very accurate estimate of the likely monetary aspects of a proposed settlement.

For additional free resources visit: Scott & Scott, LLP, and bsadefense.com.

About Us: Scott & Scott, LLP is one of the only U.S. law firms with a practice group dedicated to BSA and SIIA Defense. Our legal and technology professionals provide software audit defense and software compliance solutions and have years of experience successfully defending software audits.


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Anita Scott

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