BSA Defense Lawyer explains the Business Software Alliance!
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Many companies ranging from small “mom and pops” architects or engineers (the typical targets of an Autodesk/Autocad software audit), to large regional companies such as media companies, manufacturers, and even law firms have trusted our firm to guide them through the settlement and negotiation process with the business software alliance. This blog talks about what the BSA is and what they do when it comes time to audit a business looking for licensing shortages and payment for using unlicensed software.
Is BSA law enforcement?
No, the BSA is NOT a law enforcement agency and they cannot issue you a subpoena or bust down your business doors and conduct a raid without a federal court order. They are a “software trade group” that scan the marketplace looking for instances of unlicensed software usage of its member companies. See the list of members below. They typically hire intellectual property (copyright counsel) to help corner software pirates and force them to conduct an”voluntary” internal audit and then try to force them to settle their cases for paying fines for the software that was used improperly, without the proper proof of licensing. This is usually where our law firm gets called in.
Can the BSA conduct a private raid of my office?
It is possible that the business software alliance might work with the U.S. Marshal's office to obtain a search warrant and conduct a raid of your business. There would have to be solid probable cause evidence to obtain the search warrant, and it has been done in the past. This is something every company needs to keep their eye on, and why having your copyright lawyer keep them in check is so important. You do not want any production downtime or embarrassment at the work place.
What to do when you get a letter from the Business Software Alliance?
We have discussed strategies to fight the Business Software Alliance in many different blogs and videos. In general, some of the important things to keep in mind are:
1. “Lawyer up” – whatever you say to the BSA reps “will be used against you” as they say;
2. Assign an IT team to gather receipts and get a gauge on what software you believe you might be using, without having the proper proof of purchase (in a software shortage case the burden of proving compliance is normally on the business, not the BSA).
3. If you are going to handle the case yourself (not recommended but some companies and their in-house lawyers try to do this), often times calling us to get involved when the staggering fines come forward and their negotiations stall, you will want to make absolutely sure that you get a confidentiality agreement, with Federal Rule of Evidence 408 protection before you go sharing all of your corporate information with the BSA and its law firm representatives. We work diligently to get these agreements in place in order to protect your company.
4. These cases are defended based upon negotiating from a position of strength, not weakness. Often times there are issues with insider informants (current or former employees) who are out to sabotage the company or are motivated by seeking rewards. Yes, the BSA is known to run ads that deal with “busting” or “nailing” your boss. In our best estimation, the BSA and their attorneys do not sit down with these informants and review their evidence with a critical eye, do not interrogate the informant or check their credibility or veracity. This is just our opinion of what we have seen. In other words, if someone complains, they investigate regardless of whether or not the corporate insider is divulging trade secrets, breaking GLB and HIPAA privacy rules, or violating company policy and procedure. In short, the informants are often aided and assisted in carrying out their revenge. These people need to be scrutinized to the same degree as a witness in a murder trial. These informants are a big part of the case.
5. All possible defenses to copyright infringement need to be explored. The case AGAINST “willful copyright infringement” must be examined and argued to the fullest possible extent. Wee have previously written a blog on some of the possible defenses in a software audit case.
These are some of the main issues you will need to be aware of when handling a case with the Business Software Alliance. Our firm is comprised is experienced LITIGATORS with a proven track record in state and federal court. Unlike other firms, we are not IT “geeks” (to use the firm affectionately) we are battled tested negotiators and we seek to FIGHT your case, not just lay down and agree to the outrageous demands of the software company and their attorneys. Fill out the form below to discuss your case.
Listen to Attorney Steve discuss this topic on our Vondran Legal Hour Podcast
Which software companies are members of the BSA?
The business software alliance is a trade group consisting of some of the largest software companies on the planet. For example, some of the members include:
1. Microsoft (CAL exchange and window server licenses remaining a hot issue). Remote server CAL licensing may also present an issue.
6. Rosetta Stone
8. Adobe (fonts now a big issue)
9. Autodesk (Autocad licensing remaining a hot issue)
There are other members, but these are the main companies we see listed on BSA demand letters.
SOFTWARE AUDIT RESOURCES: Also, for more great information on the topic of software licensing, make sure to check out our software law homepage on this topic for lots of valuable resources and videos.
Contact a Copyright & Intellectual Property Law Firm
The best thing to do when your company or small business receives a “love letter” from the BSA, SIIA, or even a United States company that receives a letter from F.A.S.T. (Federal Against Software Theft) or other “software compliance group” is to immediately contact one of our IP lawyers to discuss your possible defenses and strategy to get your case resolved. We have helped numerous companies fight threats ranging from completely bogus and harassing to settling legitimate concerns of copyright infringement with companies such as Microsoft (CAL License shortages are big right now), Autodesk, and others. We offer low flat rate fees while our competition would like to charge you a hefty up front retainer fee and “bill” on your case for many months. We are tenacious litigation attorneys who have experience in this unique field and we know how to fight these software companies to get the best deal for you, and to close out the case confidentially. For more information, contact us at (877) 276-5084 or fill out the contact form below to have one of our federal copyright lawyers contact you, normally within the hour. MAKE SURE TO LEAVE YOUR PHONE NUMBER!!!