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Wednesday, 29 March 2017 12:05

Year after year, BSA tries to sell the same snake oil


One of the biggest proponents of FUD in the technology sphere is BSA|The Software Alliance.

This venerable outfit was back again on Tuesday, with its annual dose of misinformation, trying its level best to push all and sundry into paying for costly software that, in most cases, does the user little good.

The BSA is a proxy for proprietary software companies, with one of the main contributors to its coffers being Microsoft. One would have thought that with the coming of a so-called educated man to the rank of chief executive, Microsoft would have dissociated itself from an organisation that has less credibility than Tony Abbott when it comes to speaking the truth.

For some years now, the BSA has been trying to push the myth that the use of unlicensed software — read Windows, Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Office etc downloaded from pirate sites — is somehow connected to cyber crime.

In other words, unlicensed software bad, licensed software good.

But the BSA has never produced anything of substance to shore up this claim. This year it's citing a study by IDC, which it claims to have commissioned, as being the basis for the claim. More on that study tomorrow.


Let's get some facts straight. It was Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates himself who gave the okay for people to copy software that the company produced.

These were his words: "Although about 3 million computers get sold every year in China, but people don't pay for the software... Someday they will, though. As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted, and then we'll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade."

Once people are hooked on piracy and the habit of getting something for nothing, it is exceedingly difficult to get them to go cold turkey. But then Gates, who is not above watching the occasional pirated movie on YouTube, was only interested in the money.

So, one can't blame those multiple thousands who use Windows without having paid a cent to Microsoft. They get their service packs from non-company sources too.

What they are using is exactly what Microsoft sells. The only difference is that they downloaded that software from some site or the other, and obtained the service packs in similar ways.

Are these pirated copies of Windows any more vulnerable to viruses, malware, scumware, ransomware and all the delights that the Windows that I run at home, the official version blessed by Microsoft, attracts? The answer is no.

These people, of course, could be using those unlicensed copies to launch cyber attacks. But then there are perfectly respectable people, who go to church on Sundays, vote for right-wing parties and have sex only in the missionary position, who quietly use pirated versions of Windows too.

The BSA, I note, is offering a reward of $20,000 "to eligible recipients who disclose accurate information regarding unlawful copying or use of BSA members’ software".

I can offer the BSA a surefire way to prevent piracy: ask Microsoft, Adobe and the others who produce proprietary software for mainstream use to set logic bombs in place within the software so that it cannot be used beyond 30, 60, or 90 days without a licence. Adobe does that for trial software; there is no reason that it cannot be done for all proprietary products.

When companies do something like this, then it will be possible to take the BSA seriously. Until then, it might be a good idea for Gary Gan, director of compliance programs, BSA APAC, to hold his peace.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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