An IT industry watchdog, Open Interchange Consortium (OIC), has suggested that small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) be granted a software piracy amnesty in order to alleviate potential Y2K disasters.
In an attempt to ensure that business supply chains are year 2000 compliant, this proposal will create an environment in which SMEs can admit to pirated or unlicensed software without retribution, allowing Y2K checks to be performed and compliance to be achieved.
The good Samaritan legislation presently tabled in parliament similarly encourages open forum discussion on year 2000 compliance that would otherwise be hindered by potential legal action against companies that have stated their readiness for the millennium bug.
However, the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), is adamant that an amnesty will be ineffective, not fair to honest businesses and not necessary to ensure that SMEs are prepared for 01/01/2000.
According to Michael Hedley, corporate affairs officer at AIIA, SMEs need to update their software regardless of the Y2K issue. "Most small businesses generally have word processing capabilities, accounting, financial and a unique application for their particular business. Some of this software is 10-15 years old and tends to be packaged - it is easily replaced." Hedley's reasoning is that any new software bought is year 2000 compliant and with the concession that software companies such as Microsoft are making to avoid prosecution if businesses properly license software now, there should not be any legal or financial implications.
Additionally, in a survey recently completed by AIIA, SMEs were already well on the way to recognising and solving the Y2K problem, with up to 80 per cent of the sector aware of the problem and progress being made on solution implementation.
An amnesty was superfluous and would only hurt software companies and those with legitimate licences, claims Hedley.
Alex Mercer, law and corporate affairs spokeswoman for Microsoft Australia, agrees that amnesties are relatively useless in either counteracting piracy or encouraging SMEs to openly state their Y2K compliance. Instead Mercer believes that an education campaign will be more effective in reducing the current 32 per cent level of pirated software in Australia. "If an SME comes in off their own bat we will help them with both issues," claims Mercer, who believes that the Y2K issue has heightened businesses' awareness of software, to the extent where piracy statistics will begin to drop.