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'Whistleblower' lands seat firm with £11,000 BSA bill

Informant tipped off controversial industry body

An investigation prompted by an anonymous informant has landed a Worcestershire-based seating firm with £4,500 settlement bill from the Business Software Alliance (BSA).

According to a release put out by the BSA, a 'whistleblower' tipped it off regarding the alleged use of unlicensed software by grandstand seating manufacturer Slick Seating Systems. The firm then carried out an audit during which it confirmed that it had found software that was not correctly licensed.

In addition to the £4,500 "settlement fee", Slick agreed to pay a further £6,500 in licensing fees, making a total of £11,000. The software programs involved have not been revealed.

"Slick Seating Systems Limited was very cooperative throughout the settlement process, but this case highlights the penalties that have to be paid if a business does not make software licensing a priority," said BSA UK committee chair, Philippe Briere.

Each year the BSA investigates hundreds of companies for software licensing issues, with a clutch named and shamed for under-licensing as a tactic designed to highlight the issue of illegal software use.

The controversial element in this case is the use of an inside informant. As the BSA has widely advertised, these individuals can be paid up to £20,000 for information leading to a successful investigation. How many companies are caught this way is unknown but there is evidence that a growing number are attracting the BSA's attention for this reason.

The BSA calls these people "whistleblowers", implying a Wikileaks-like moral dimension to the information they provide, but their status is probably more ambiguous. Some will be ex-employees with a grudge against the companies they inform on or simply after the reward. 'Informant' might be considered as a more neutral description.

Most companies decide not to comment regarding their public exposure by the BSA, but in October calls management firm Tiger Communications expressed unhappiness at its treatment by the industry body, disputing the settlement money involved.

In a political development last week, the BSA's tacit support for the US Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) legislation caused one of its members, Kaspersky Lab, to quit the organisation in protest.

Remaining BSA members include Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, CA, Dell, Intel, McAfee, and Symantec.

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