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Should the BSA change their tune?

Time to change the record?

The BSA and other trade bodies such as FAST and SIIA have traditionally used a ‘Stick’ approach to raise license compliance up the corporate agenda.

The CEO going to jail and fines are the usual battle cry (despite no executive responsible for license management going to jail in my knowledge for the last decade).

Is it time for the BSA to change their tune?

Especially in these times of austerity when software savings and optimization are much more compelling?

This is the message of Matt Fisher from SAM tool vendor License Dashboard in response to the BSA’s recent story around SME software.

The BSA states in their press release:

“…A considerable number of UK small businesses are using unlicensed software and in so doing infringing the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.  According to a study commissioned by BSA | The Software Alliance, the leading global advocate for the software industry, nearly a third (30%) of UK small businesses have admitted to installing software onto more PCs than their licence agreement allows or using the wrong kind of license for their organisation”

In response Matt says:

“If it’s true that 30% of SMEs are knowingly under-licenced, then that’s difficult to defend. But it also suggests that these same SMEs see it either as a risk worth taking – i.e. the chances of getting caught and the consequences of getting caught are deemed less ‘dangerous’ than the cost of licensing properly – or just a not priority for them.

In order to cut piracy among SMEs, the BSA needs to change tact and paint pictures that are more likely to resonate with their target audience. For example, if a small courier firm had three of its vans taken off the road for not having insurance, could it still do business? Probably not; that’s why the firm accepts that van insurance is a necessary cost of doing business. But that same business may not realise that its vans only go to the right places and they can only conduct their business (invoicing, payroll, scheduling etc.) because they use commercial computer software. If those applications were not available due to an audit identifying they were not licensed, the impact on the business would be just as severe. SMEs need to stop viewing software as ancillary to their business activities, and instead realise their business relies completely on it. Failing to licence properly is not an option.

What they can – and should – do is minimise the cost of software and avoid over-spend. Just like you hunt for the best insurance prices, so proactive management of your software licencing can deliver significant cost savings while also removing the risk of being found non-compliant.”

Responding to this criticism, Peter Beruk, spokesperson for the BSA stated:

“We agree with License Dashboard and have always said that software is absolutely critical to running a business and demands proper attention.

However, rhetoric doesn’t always work. It’s one thing to say that unlicensed software isn’t an option; it’s another to change business practice in the absence of any real accountability.

While we should absolutely emphasise the cost saving benefits of getting one’s house in order by explaining that software audits help firms identify areas of overspend, they also show businesses where they need to spend money to legalise. This isn’t necessary a lesson they want to hear but we can’t just sit back and see high levels of unlicensed software destroy the UK technology industry including the channel.”

Personally, I can’t see the BSA changing their tune anytime soon. The BSA state they are the “global advocate for the software industry” – I think a more accurate description is the “global advocate for software publishers” (who fund the BSA). Many of BSA’s software publisher supporters are aging publicly listed dinosaurs with increasingly irrelevant portfolios – why on earth would they endorse license optimization and more efficient spend?

READ ALSO:  How much of a focus should software audits be for an ITAM manager in 2020 and beyond? Part 1.

What do you think? Time for a different message from the BSA?

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About Martin Thompson

Martin is owner and founder of The ITAM Review, an online resource and community for worldwide ITAM professionals.

Martin is also author of the book "Practical ITAM - The essential guide for IT Asset Managers", a book that describes how to get started and make a difference in the field of IT Asset Management.

On a voluntary basis Martin is a contributor to ISO WG21 which develops the ITAM International Standard ISO/IEC 19770.

Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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