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02/10/2004 Archived Entry: "The Business Software Alliance"

For those who still think the MyDoom is the work of Linux partisans, here's an excellent analysis to read. It's far better than the tech-ignorant drivel being echoed by most of the media. At least the U.K. Independent got it right, as Wendy observed yesterday. Viruses are now big business, whether for spamming or extortion rackets; and the tacked-on denial-of-service attacks are merely misdirection and camouflage.

After ranting about the RIAA, I should save some venom for a similar pack of fiends, the Business Software Alliance (BSA). Originally formed for the defensible-but-misguided purpose of supporting the Intellectual Property rights of commercial software vendors, the BSA seems to be taking a play from the RIAA's let's-pretend-we're-the-government book. In the UK they are now sending out Software Audit Return forms to companies.

As The Register reports, "Last year, over 4500 businesses completed SARs, which the BSA (somewhat erroneously) describes as a 'tax return for your software'. Unlike tax returns the BSA's scheme isn't mandatory." But how many businesses know that, and how many will send the forms back to the BSA with the instruction "take a hike"?

Like the RIAA, the BSA wields a heavy club and is indiscriminate about using it. Ask Sterling Ball, one of their victims, whose company wound up paying $100,000 to settle with the BSA over a few unlicensed installations. As Ball describes it,

The BSA had a program back then called "Nail Your Boss," where they encouraged disgruntled employees to report on their company...and that's what happened to us. Anyways, they basically shut us down...We were out of compliance I figure by about 8 percent (out of 72 desktops). ... We pass our old computers down. The guys in engineering need a new PC, so they get one and we pass theirs on to somebody doing clerical work. Well, if you don't wipe the hard drive on that PC, that's a violation. Even if they can tell a piece of software isn't being used, it's still a violation if it's on that hard drive.

The BSA wants to see businesses "cleansing themselves of illegal software and the associated risks." I think that's a splendid idea. The BSA is just one more reason why it's risky to run Microsoft products, and I'd say the safest course is to cleanse your PC of Microsoft products completely. That's what Sterling Ball did.


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