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"It stands to reason that employees who have been let go have
more motivation to call us," said Bob Kruger, vice president of
enforcement for the Business Software Alliance. "So the increase in
the amount of calls we are getting is almost certainly a result of
layoffs in the technology sector."
And there are a lot of employers using illegally obtained
programs to report. At least one out of every three software
applications installed on computers around the world is pirated,
according to a study released last month by the BSA.
BSA records indicate that many of the people who file piracy
reports are systems administrators, programmers and other
computer-savvy employees who were working in tech companies.
But Kruger said that all companies should realize that they are
"only one disgruntled employee away from a full-blown BSA
Most reports to BSA come in over the company's hotline, Kruger
said. Reports can also be made online at BSA's website, but BSA prefers to talk
directly to people who are filing the report.
"We want to make sure we aren't dealing with someone who has an
ax to grind and is filing a false report just to cause trouble. Our
operators are very good at this, they know how to assess a caller's
credibility, and they know what questions to ask," Kruger said.
"But just because someone is disgruntled doesn't mean they don't
know what they are talking about. Angry ex-employees have supplied
us with some incredibly detailed and accurate information about
their former employers," Kruger added.
Once a report comes in, BSA corroborates the information, usually
by calling the software company whose programs have allegedly been
pirated. The investigator asks the software company to check its
database to see if registration information gibes with the report.
If the initial investigation proves fruitful, BSA usually turns
the case over to lawyers who try to settle out of court with the
But if a company refuses to cooperate, BSA can and will ask a
federal judge to grant a court order allowing BSA investigators to
visit the accused company unannounced and accompanied by local law
enforcement officials such as U.S Marshals.
Kruger prefers this "bolt-from-the-blue" method, which allows BSA
to perform its own audit to see exactly what software is installed
on the company's network.
"It's certainly a rude surprise but it guarantees we'll get
accurate information," Kruger said.
Those court orders are difficult to get, because many who report
software piracy don't want to be identified. Without a complainant
who is willing to sign an affidavit, it's hard to convince a judge
to sign the order, Kruger said.
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