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Strapped for cash? Report your company's software piracy

January 15, 2009 |  4:46 pm

Software Looking to make some extra cash during the recession? Turn in your bosses and co-workers for using pirated software!

The Business Software Alliance said today that it paid out $136,100 last year through its "Know It, Report It, Reward It" program for "verifiable tips about software piracy." The trade group's program uses a combination of guilt and cash to persuade employees to rat out their companies (or other software pirates) for using unlicensed programs. A BSA spokeswoman said tips typically come from current or former employees of organizations that skirt the rules.

According to the BSA, several Southern California companies have settled software piracy cases after being reported.  Among them were Acorn Engineering of City of Industry, Miller Automotive of Van Nuys, Western Power Products of Bakersfield and Z Gallerie of Gardena.

With 42 tipsters collecting money for "verifiable tips," the average reward worked out to about ...

... $3,200. That's a nice little chunk of change during hard times, but the BSA said that many tipsters passed up the money -- they were simply doing the right thing and looking out for Big Software.

Still, the BSA's total payout increased sharply in 2008, from $23,000 in 2007 and $40,000 in 2006. Is it a coincidence that the rewards went up as the economy went down? The trade group, which represents companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Adobe and Symantec, noted that the recession could prompt some bad corporate behavior. Neil MacBride, the Washington group's general counsel and vice president of anti-piracy, said:

When business is down and IT budgets are stretched thin, some managers may be tempted to cut corners, leading to increased use of unlicensed software in their businesses. This is a terrible mistake because in the long run, companies stand to lose more money from being caught than they saved by installing unauthorized copies of software.

Here's an idea for lean times: Instead of handing out annual bonuses, companies could just force employees to use pirated copies of Office and PhotoShop. Then the "bonus" would come from the BSA in the form of a reward to the employees -- who would all report each other at the same time. Everyone wins (except the company)!

Use of unlicensed software can be reported at NoPiracy.com or by calling (888) NO-PIRACY.

-- Chris Gaither

Photo credit: Striatic via Flickr

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