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BS Alliance offers R100 000 to catch software pirates

The Business Software Alliance is at it again, peddling unbelievable figures. Apparently, local piracy constitutes an annual figure of R2.8 billion in theft, with the majority of small businesses using illegal software.

When I reported on their claims in May last year, the figure listed was R1.5 billion. So, in one year we’ve added another R1.3 billion to the annual plunder! We must act! Bring on the scorpions! Oh yes

In order to stamp out this heinous crime, the BSA is offering a reward of R100 000 to individuals who report instances of piracy, quite a tempting figure.

Last year I mentioned that the quoted figures were meaningless, and discussed the unthinking parroting of the BSA’s claims by most media. This year seems to be different. ITWeb’s article, for example, is titled Reward for rats, showing just what they (or at least the sub writing the headline) thinks of the idea. Tectonic calls the claims sweeping and presumptive. The mybroadband forum discussion isn’t very sympathetic either.

The BSA internationally too has encouraged ratting, with campaigns such as Bust your Boss!

But before any prospective rats get too excited, the reward is up to R100 000. The figure is apparently 10% of the value of the pirated software, paid out after a successful prosecution, so any disgruntled former employee looking to enrich themselves may, at least if they work for a small business, where most piracy occurs, not get much more than the dubious satisfaction of revenge .

According to their figures, a reducing piracy by 10% could generate 1200 more jobs, R6 billion more local industry revenue, and R490 million in additional tax revenues.

Yes. the BS alliance indeed.

Of that R6 billion, perhaps R5.9 billion would be sent off to the US. These 1200 more jobs would be more than counterbalanced by the R6 billion drain on local business. As for the fine levied on the offending companies, Alastair De Wet, chairman of the BS Alliance, says that it could be so high that companies could be shut down. It’s not what we want to do, but we have a moral obligation to the local economy. Yes, closing down local companies – that’ll help the tax revenues.

Perhaps we can instead consider the DTI report that if, instead of sending the money across the Atlantic, if 10% of the companies running pirated software rather switched to FOSS, 5531 jobs would be created, and the positive increase would be an estimated R20 billion a year over the next 10 years.

This claim can also be challenged (I can’t find a source for it – it was mentioned in a comment), but how anyone can take the BS Alliance claims seriously I don’t know.

Charging for software is a dying model. When you can get better FOSS than proprietary software, there’s no reason to continue to pay for software. With it being so easy to create digital copies, fighting software piracy will become more and more difficult, and itself be a drain on software companies.

As Mark Shuttleworth said recently, I’ve never seen selling shrink-wrapped packages of free software as a workable idea. The only way to build business around software is with [added costs] services.

Add the difficulty of convincing some developing markets that piracy is unethical into the equation, and it’s clear that the software as sales model is fighting a losing battle.

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