Software crime: Would you admit to an accidental breach?

"Tell that to the judge..."
Written by silicon.com staff, Contributor on

"Tell that to the judge..."

Today the BSA urged users to confess to any breaches of software licensing in order to protect themselves from future prosecution. And while we have every reason to take them at their word it raises a number of questions, best outlined by the scenarios below. 1. You're an honest businessman, running a 20-man operation with the job of procuring all things for your company, from biros and post-it notes to software. You don't know all there is to know about software but you know if you shop around for long enough you are going to get a bargain. In good faith you find that bargain online. The seller guarantees you he is accredited and that all the software is shipped fully licensed and legal. He's undercutting the next best offer by about £10 per box and you think you've found a bargain. However, when it arrives one of your members of staff gives you reason to be suspicious. It seems to work OK but the packaging and the manuals all seem a bit amateur - as though they've been knocked up on a colour photocopier. What would you do? If you report this to the BSA you will put them onto the counterfeiter who supplied the software to you, undoubtedly helping them in their fight against piracy. However, you have next to no chance of ever seeing your money again, because the person you bought from online has disappeared, and what's more you'll have to pay again to get the software from a genuine vendor. You may also lose a bit of sleep about whether they believe you... after all surely everybody says "but I thought it was genuine..." The concerned citizen in you says confess but the businessman is screaming "keep schtum" - it works, you paid for it, so what's the problem. 2. You're setting up as a freelance web designer and you hear about somebody who can get you Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Flash for £40 each - as long as you "don't mind keeping quiet about where it came from". You know it's knock-off goods and quite frankly you don't care. What would you do?The BSA has offered its outstretched hand -are you going to grab hold. No, of course you're not, and in a lot of respects this is the problem. The only people who will turn themselves in are those who have made honest mistakes and are forced through guilt or concern to confess. Of course they get to sleep at night knowing they'll never get 'the knock' but how many of these freelancers will ever hear that ominous sound at their door? They've gotten away with it this long... and the BSA can't catch everybody. Of course these are simplified scenarios. Now we want to hear all your questions, queries and experiences of this issue. Email editorial@silicon.com .
Editorial standards