The Business Software Alliance (BSA) has fingered Manchester as a haven for unlicensed and counterfeit software usage as it launches a "Fair Play" campaign in the city.
The anti-software-piracy body, whose members include Microsoft, Adobe and Oracle, will contact 11,000 businesses in the Manchester area over the next month to encourage those using counterfeit or unlicensed software – knowingly or unknowingly – to get their houses in order.
The recipients will be directed to an individual profile on the BSA Company Index portal which will enable them to check their licensing status and ensure all the software installed on their computers is properly licensed.
Although the BSA plans to roll out the campaign elsewhere in the UK, Manchester provides an ideal testbed, Warren Weertman, senior counsel EMEA at the BSA, told CRN.
"Over the past year or so a number of companies have been reported to us in the Manchester area for using unlicensed software," he said.
In particular, the BSA has observed widespread use of unlicensed Adobe and Autodesk software among design and architecture firms in the northern city, Weertman said.
"There are a couple of other areas [in the UK] where we are seeing the same thing but we have seen a particular spike in the Manchester area so we thought it would be a good place to try an initiative like this," he explained.
Paul Bromelow, group commercial director at VAR APSU, which has a growing SAM practice, said he had some sympathy with firms that fall foul of the enforcement activities of not only the BSA but also the big vendors acting unilaterally.
"In the past 12 months we have seen our SAM business grow by 300 per cent and that's because the vendors are getting more frisky in how they maintain protection of their intellectual property rights," he said.
"Many clients of software vendors find themselves in a position of non-compliance by surprise. It's rare for big companies to do this deliberately and that's why getting assistance with software licensing early on is really important."
Bromelow added: "It will save the end user money in the long term and avoid them getting in a position where they are slapped with a compliance penalty from a software vendor. There have been a number of surprises at the clients we work with and it's very hard for people charged with this mission in an organisation to stand in front of their boards who are asking about a £500,000 bill from a software vendor they were not expecting to get."
The BSA and other vendor-backed bodies like it have been perennially criticised for being too heavy handed and for having an agenda to confuse, rather than educate, end users. The latest broadside came from new end-user body The Campaign for Clear Licensing.
Although Weertman admitted the BSA's enforcement activities stemming from whistleblowers are up year on year, he claimed education forms a key part of his organisation's agenda, offering up the latest campaign as proof.
"You can enforce as much as you want, but that's not going to make companies aware of the security and legal risks around unlicensed software," he said. "To do that, that means educating companies."
Weertman advised those concerned about being on the wrong end of an audit to turn to software asset management software, which he said should be aligned with the latest standard on SAM, ISO 19770.
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