Any doubts that the Federation Against Software Theft is a commercial software company in the guise of an independent company claiming to represent commercial and user interests in the fight against counterfeit software were dispelled on Tuesday with the announcement of its acquisition by Computer Software Group.
Computer Software Group's (CS Group) core business is in providing business solutions for different markets, including advice on regulatory compliance and financials, distribution, field service, CRM and skills management.
The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) was originally established as an independent group dispensing advice to companies seeking to ensure that their software licensing remained consistent and legally compliant with software issued by the biggest vendors, including Microsoft.
Later it started offering commercial services to help customers remain compliant through the use of sophisticated, and often costly, software asset management (SAM) tools.
CS Group is larger than FAST — it claims to employ around 500 people in the UK and the US. Both FAST and CS Group are private companies (although CS Group was at one time publicly quoted) and so are not obliged to release financial details of mergers or acquisitions.
According to John Lovelock, the director general of FAST, the acquisition "will help The Federation to generate significantly increased interest from software companies to expand The Federation's membership and so further our goals to promote the legal use of software and defend members' digital rights".
FAST has faced criticism in the past over what many see as heavy-handed tactics in the fight against illegal software. Last year it was accused of trying to "indoctrinate" children when it tried to introduce its message of enforcing compliance into the GCSE curriculum. It typically mounts high-profile crackdowns backed by the police to enforce its message of compliance with the software licensing policies of the various vendors.
The Business Software Alliance (BSA), an independent organisation, is the main rival to FAST. Both organisations have been heavily backed by software companies, such as Microsoft, which have used them to help enforce compliance with software licensing.
FAST has many different interests, often in commercial companies working in the area of compliance, and the signs are that the acquisition will expand these interests. For example, Michael Jackson is the chairman of CS Group but is also the chairman of Concorde Solutions, which he joined in February this year. Concorde Solutions is a specialist company in the field of inventory tools, process, asset management and software licensing, fields directly related to FAST's interests.