On this page you will learn:

- Who the sw authorities are

- Where they are coming from

- What they can and might do

Setting the scene
The software authorities are made up of three groups:
  • The software publishers - global
  • The BSA - global
  • Governments + other nationally based bodies

All three groups can and do carry out software audits on end user organisations, but their motivations for doing so can be very different.

Below we look at each of these groups, what they do and why.

The software publishers
As a rule software publishers do not want things to go legal with any of their customers, but they will use the threat of legal action to encourage you to co-operate.

The majority of prosecutions from publishers are against dodgy resellers/criminal groups that manufacture and/or distribute counterfeit licences.

Having said that, publishers are becoming more and more active in terms of auditing customers in both the public and corporate sector.

Microsoft for example have had an active 'Software Asset Management' (read compliance) department in the UK since 2000 and have carried out many hundreds of 'Licence Reviews' on corporate and public sector organisations of all sizes (usually 500 PC's and above).  We discuss this in more detail in Microsoft audits.

Oracle have their own audit department that has been active for many years - Oracle audits - and IBM are getting busy as well - IBM audits

Other publishers that we know are active in this space include SAP, Adobe, BEA and more - Other publisher audits - all with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

The BSA and others

The BSA (Business Software Alliance) is a global organisation funded by the major global software publishers and effectively they are the 'software police'.

Their website does have lots of useful information on it so do check it out, but be aware that as an organisation they are looking to prosecute users of unlicensed software (which they are quite open about), they have a powerful legal department and they use their legal jurisdiction whenever they can.

They do have the authority to prosecute and they will.

They also carry out localised campaigns - article published May 2008

Governments and other nationally based compliance organisations
In the UK
we have Trading Standards who are now empowered (2007 change in legislation) to carry out instant software licence audits.

Although they originally stated that they would not "focus primarily on end users of unlicensed software" (see press article from March 2007) there has been some considerable activity reported to the contrary - see next press article from July 2008.

The UK government has put money behind Trading Standards to specifically knock on the door of businesses and identify unlicensed software.

The message here is that it can happen to you too, often with FAST's assistance...

Who are FAST?
In the UK we also have F.A.S.T (Federation Against Software Theft) and similar organisations exist in other countries.

FAST's status can be confusing in terms of whether they work on behalf of publishers or end users.  It was first set up "to protect the intellectual property of its members (software publishers)."

Then FAST Corporate Services was established, a purely commercial operation whose remit has been to educate corporate and public sector organisations that use software.

Immediately you have to question the apparent conflict of interest. On the one hand they are there to protect software publishers, on the other they are there to 'educate' you as the end user.

Is FAST membership protection against being audited?

A commonly held misconception is that membership of a body involved in the world of software compliance acts as a shield against being audited.

We can categorically state that no membership of any organisation is protection from being audited by the publishers or the BSA.

The only people able to sign off a compliance position are the publishers themselves.  Anything else is just a best endeavours effort.  You as the end user of software are responsible for maintaining a licence compliance position.

FAST jurisdiction?
FAST does prosecute under Copyright Law on behalf of their members (publishers) when required to do so by a publisher.

We discuss this in more detail in How to handle - The compliance authorities.

Now we ask the question - Will you ever be audited?