The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) is urging resellers to shop rogue rivals under a "re-emergence' of its channel enforcement activities.
Any reseller harbouring concerns about a bad penny in the channel should report them on FAST's website and the not-for-profit organisation will investigate, FAST general counsel Julian Heathcote Hobbins told CRN.
Asked to give a flavour of typical rogue activity in the channel, Heathcote Hobbins highlighted online sales of counterfeit software packages for Apple environments.
"You might get certain software packages that are easier to duplicate in that technological environment," he explained. "If we come across, by way of example, a business that appears to have a number of accounts on platforms, for instance classic online platforms such as eBay or Amazon Marketplace, and it appears to be too good to be true, we will do test purchases to see if the software is genuine or not and if it's not, we can take action against that reseller.
"Depending on how big or small it is, we can, firstly, put a stop to it so they desist, and we may also seek some payment or damages."
Founded in 1984, FAST claims it was the world's first organisation to promote the legal use of software and defend the intellectual property rights of software publishers. Heathcote Hobbins said its members range from the biggest blue-chip software suppliers "right down to the guy who writes software that designs the contraflow systems we know and love". It also counts over 30 legal firms as members.
In recent years, FAST has focused on end-user compliance activities but Heathcote Hobbins said the current campaign represents a "re-emergence of our channel activities".
Although FAST has strong ties with the police and Trading Standards, its latest efforts are more about getting the industry to act without recourse to law enforcement agencies, Heathcote Hobbins said.
"Law enforcement in each case has to be considered carefully, given its reliance on public money," he said. "So it's important for the industry to do its bit. It's important for FAST to get the message out to various communities so they can tell us if a reseller is acting in any way that causes suspicion."
He added: "99.9 per cent of those in the reseller channel are doing a fantastic job but we are looking to come down on those that are selling counterfeit and try to keep the industry clean of those bad apples in the barrel."
Critics of FAST and rival anti-piracy body the Business Software Alliance (BSA) argue that software piracy is fuelled by vendors overcharging for their software, a critique Heathcote Hobbins parried.
"Firstly, I would differentiate between consumers and businesses," he said. "This is about using software in a business and it's a cost to the business. Software suppliers will charge what they think the market can pay and I'd emphasise that various software houses have different pricing models for those in education and not-for-profits, or SMEs. And they may be seeking to convert people to cloud and pay-as-you-use, as opposed to on-premise, so there is quite a lot of flexibility out there in terms of price."
There is a "degree of overlap" between the BSA and FAST, but Heathcote Hobbins stressed that FAST has traditionally been strong on the law enforcement side.
"I don't think we'll ever lose that because of our connection with, for example, the City of London Police," he said. "FAST has that bent in dealing with the criminal part of it. The BSA is a good and proper organisation working on behalf of the industry too, but we have our own brand and messaging."
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