The Business Software Alliance (“BSA”) and Software & Information Industry Association (“SIIA”) pursue copyright infringement claims against companies accused of installing unauthorized copies of software. Typically, the BSA and SIIA send letters to businesses and request audits of their computer systems.
This audit process often is arduous and involves collecting all available license-purchase documentation for the BSA- or SIIA-member software product installations discovered during the investigation. However, unlike the IRS’ retention requirement of 7 years for business records, the BSA and SIIA will not recognize license-credit in favor of the businesses they target without dated proof of proper licensing for every installed software product, regardless of when it was purchased.
More troubling for many businesses is the fact that, even if they are able to produce purchase documentation for software installed on their systems, they may receive no credit for that documentation if it appears to have been received from a software vendor that is not an authorized dealer. Purchasing software from some web sites, such as Amazon.com’s Amazon Marketplace, eBay, or Craigslist, can be risky, especially when the quoted price for a product is less than 80% of its MSRP value. Many of these heavily discounted software products licenses are offered without the authorization of the software publisher and could end up being useless to the business purchasing them, in the event of an audit. The cost can be magnified when, following settlement, the affected companies are required to re-purchase the same software from a reputable vendor.
In rare instances, the BSA and SIIA sue unauthorized resellers. In June, the SIIA worked with the LAPD to bring criminal charges against two individuals accused of pirating SIIA member software and selling it on Craigslist. However, while the BSA and SIIA pursue unauthorized retailers with civil and criminal charges, they are unable to expose all potential unauthorized retailers. Therefore, as a prudent practice, prior to making any software purchases, a company should investigate whether a vendor is an authorized seller of properly licensed software. Additionally, a company should beware of heavily discounted software.