BSA Offers Cash Rewards for Piracy Snitches

The Business Software Alliance, a leading software industry organization, has announced a new approach to fighting piracy in the workplace: up to $1 million in cash to those whistle-blowers who rat out their employers. But the reward is only paid out if the BSA receives a cash settlement from the company.

Previously, the maximum reward offered through the two-year-old program was only $200,000. The carrot-and-stick approach worked, but only secured $22 million in settlements from companies with unlicensed or pirated copies of software installed on computers.

But the cash incentive for snitches isn't so cut and dry. The pay-out is based on the BSA's "sole discretion" and the announced payments include the flexible "up to" prefix. Rewards start at $5,000 when the BSA receives $100,000 and go up from there. $1 million is only possible of the BSA receives a settlement of over $15 million.

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Thus far, the BSA has only announced one reward being paid: $15,500 in total to three employees providing information that led to settlements. Considering those employees likely lost their jobs in the process, such a windfall seems quite paltry. The organization does claim to have distributed more rewards that were not publicly disclosed.

In addition to the increased rewards, the BSA is launching a new advertising campaign called “Blow the Whistle,” which encourages employees to report software piracy out of a moral obligation, although a reward surely helps. The group is specifically targeting businesses in California, Texas, Illinois, New York, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia and Arizona.

"Reporting software piracy is the right thing to do and BSA is pleased to reward individuals who come forward with credible information,” remarked Jenny Blank, Director of Enforcement for BSA. “BSA will diligently continue fighting software piracy and we hope the Rewards incentive goes a long way in helping us."

The BSA claims 21 percent of software used in the United States is pirated, leading to industry losses of more than $7 billion. It also notes that companies pirating software could be forced to pay fines of $150,000 for each copy of illegitimate software they have installed.

Those employees hoping to make a quick buck by using pirated software themselves on work computers are out of luck: rewards are not available to anyone who participated in the piracy, unless ordered by a supervisor to do so. Employees are also encouraged to make sure they do not have a clause in their contracts that forbids them from contacting the BSA.

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