Like most businesses, you probably use software products from major companies like Adobe, Dell, IBM and Microsoft. If so, it is possible you could receive a letter from BSA | The Software Alliance (BSA) alleging unauthorised software use.

This article provides some information about the BSA software audit process. Part 2 discusses potential fines and tips for making a settlement proposal to the BSA.

What is the BSA and why have they contacted me?

The BSA is a not-for-profit industry association for software providers. The BSA is authorised to enforce the intellectual property rights of its members in over 60 countries. The BSA partners with local lawyers in each country to contact businesses that it suspects have used its members’ software products without proper licences.

Generally, the BSA will contact a business after receiving a report alleging that the business is using unauthorised copies of software. The BSA is unlikely to reveal the source of the report. The letter may be aggressive and even threaten legal proceedings.

What is a software audit?

After setting out an allegation of unauthorised software use, a letter from the BSA will generally request the business to provide information about the software products installed on its computers. Providing this information will require the business to conduct an audit of its software. As part of the audit, the business will be asked to show evidence of invoices and licences relating to the software installed on its computers. The BSA will give the business a deadline for supplying the information. The BSA will also provide an Audit Check table as a guide for the business in completing the audit.

Online tools are available to assist with software management and audit. These tools may be useful for businesses that have a large number of computers in their organisation, with several software products installed on each computer. For smaller businesses with a limited number of computers and software, it may be possible to complete the audit without using audit software tools.

In general, the audit information you provide will only be available to the BSA and its members.

I have received a letter, what should I do?

The steps a business should take if it receives a letter from the BSA will vary in each case. No matter the circumstances, our first tip is to cooperate and stay calm. It is more likely that you will reach a quick and reasonable resolution if you cooperate with the BSA and the software audit. If you have not used unauthorised software, you should provide the information requested and it is likely that the BSA will take no further action. If you think you may have used unauthorised software, it is still best to cooperate. There is no point ignoring the letter or trying to delete any software from your computers.

Conclusion

Dealing with any commercial dispute can be difficult. The BSA will always have lawyers acting for them, so it is easy to feel a bit out of your depth. For information about fines and settlement offers, check out Part 2. If you need assistance deciding how to respond to a letter from the BSA, it is best to speak with a lawyer. At LegalVision, we can help you respond to the BSA, so give us a call on 1300 544 755.

Thomas Kaldor

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