A recent campaign conducted by the Business Software Association of Australia (BSAA) indicates more than one in four resellers is bundling pirated software with the PCs they sell. BSAA operatives purchased equipment from 56 dealers in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth and found that 16 had violated copyright law. Ten dealers have settled with the BSAA out of court, six will face the organisation in court this month.
"Dealers who are selling PCs with pirated software are ripping off three sets of people: manufacturers, who aren't being paid for their products; consumers, who don't get the original discs and manual, technical support, or upgrades; and honest dealers, who aren't going to be able to compete on price with dealers who simply load software illegally," said John Macnamara, BSAA chairman and chairman of Macro Communication.
Macnamara says BSAA research indicates 37 per cent of all PC software used in Australia is illegal, and sales by dealers are a major component of that figure. The cost to software manufacturers, distributors and honest dealers in lost revenue: $200 million a year. "I want to stress that the vast majority of dealers are thoroughly legal," Macnamara said. "In fact, they're probably our greatest ally."
How does a typical BSAA investigation work? "We send someone in to a dealer we suspect may be bundling pirated software and request a particular product, in a particular configuration," said Graham Freeman, general manager of Adobe Systems and a BSAA director. "There's nothing in the purchase where the customer is desperately seeking to have [pirated] software loaded - there's no sort of entrapment. They buy the equipment and bring it back as evidence. If there's been a breach of the law, we take action."
What sort of action? "We meet with the dealer and explain the situation," Freeman said. "At that point they can agree to pay damages, which vary according to the incident, or we take them to court. It's fairly straightforward." He said damages range from "several thousand dollars to, in one case, more than $100,000".
"More than 70 per cent of the cases settle out of court," Macnamara said. "But occasionally they, to a certain extent, call our bluff and that's when we end up in a court room." Is that what you're after? "Not at all. In fact, the entire thrust since we started in 1989 is to educate people about their responsibilities with regard to copyright law. We see success not in terms of prosecutions or settlements, but in a decline of the incidence of pirated software."
Macnamara says the BSAA is currently targeting several industries where bootlegged software is thought to be common. "We've engaged in a direct mail campaign to several vertical markets to remind them what their responsibilities are," he said. "It's funny, no business in the world would dream of having a company car that's stolen, but there are quite a few who see no problem with having $30Ð$40,000 worth of stolen software."