The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) is encouraging resellers to report customers who have unlicensed software by offering them a slice of the cash collected.
The trade body is hoping the incentive will encourage individuals from resellers and end-user companies to come forward with reports of unlicensed software.
FAST CEO Alex Hilton (pictured below right) said: "We still believe it is a fundamental issue in the industry. In many cases it is completely accidental, but that doesn't necessarily mitigate it. Putting your head in the sand and ignoring it doesn't make it right. This is a mechanism for the reseller to contact us discreetly and anonymously, and that will allow us to investigate and take action.
"When a settlement is reached, it seems only fair that the whistle-blower is allowed a small portion of the fee that they retain. We don't expect this to be something we will carry on offering forever; we think the problem will go away, but until then we think it is important to highlight it."
The payment will be a percentage of the fees from illegal historic use of the software, due on completion of the case. Hilton remained tight-lipped on the exact cut individuals would get.
The incentive announcement comes a week after the trade body announced the launch of a damages programme, which seeks to obtain compensation for its members - any vendor with software IP - for historical misuse of software.
Hilton said FAST is appealing to resellers because they are "often closest" to the end customer.
"I think many resellers have become frustrated with their clients," he added. "When the end user is ignoring licensing issues this is a means for action to be taken on the end user. The reseller is often the one closest to the customer and therefore the closest to knowing what is going on in that organisation. So if we can encourage the resellers to take the responsible line then that has to be a positive thing."
The process is anonymous, Hilton said, and even whistle-blowers who give the trade body their details for the incentive agreement will remain anonymous to anyone outside FAST.
"We guarantee we will not be disclosing the whistle-blowers' details without their agreement. People can still report unlicensed software without giving their details for the rewards programme," he said.
"We are not out to hang end-user companies out to dry. That is not the approach we are taking. We want to work collaboratively with them and enable them to be in a better position going forward."
James Napp, managing director of Bechtle UK, said that reporting customers for unlicensed software is something his company was unlikely to do, opting instead to consult customers on regulations and what they should be doing.
"Our approach would be more consultative, understanding whether they thought they were fully licensed and whether they needed help understanding the requirements via a SAM audit process," he said. "This would very likely negate the need to go down any regulatory route. We have a good enough rapport with our customers that we could have a sensible conversation with them and go from there."
Jo Kenny, managing director of Hugh Symons, said she believes that instead of encouraging resellers to report customers, there should be more work done to teach clients about licensing.
"The legal obligation is they should be shopped. But where I am coming from within education, they bought product A and they genuinely believe they have the licence. So they go and try to use it on another product and don't realise they are doing something wrong. So I don't think shopping them is necessarily the right thing to do," she explained.
"There needs to be more education in delivering the message to clients to say 'did you realise you are potentially stealing by utilising that licence on another product?'. I think it is very contentious and there is obviously the view that yes it needs to be done and what they are doing is illegal. But they are not doing it to be illegal, they don't think they are doing anything wrong. So rather than shopping these people, there needs to be a campaign, almost like a year's amnesty. Something that says if you are running software illegally, get yourself upgraded now, or in a couple years we will be checking."
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