Soft on the causes of crime
I read Rosemary Norton’s article, ‘Named but not shamed’ (Information Age, March 2003), with great interest. As Chairman of the Business Software Alliance in the UK I thought it would be helpful if we made some comments about the article.
First of all we should state that we wholeheartedly agree with the points that Rosemary Norton makes about the importance of paying for all the software you use.
As she says in the article, “Copyright infringement can also constitute a criminal offence and, as a director, you may be held criminally liable for any offence committed by your company that you have aided or procured.” Rosemary also gives some good housekeeping tips on how companies can ensure they stay up to date with payments such as audits and licence reviews.
However the author’s main objective in the article seems to be to encourage companies not to engage with the Business Software Alliance. As your readers may imagine, we regard this stance as misguided. Most business people agree with the principle that one should pay for the intellectual property one uses and that software piracy/intellectual property misuse is wrong. However many of those, for various reasons, still believe that they can get away with not paying for it.
The Business Software Alliance exists to help educate governments, businesses and consumers on the importance of intellectual property in the field of software, as well as to enforce compliance where required with the help of the appropriate authorities. Visitors to our website can find a number of tools that can help them to assess their compliance, such as the ‘Software Audit Return’ and the ‘Guide to Software Management’.
Rosemary Norton seems to assume that businesses, already stretched with other regulatory compliance requirements, will make the time to audit, report and update their software asset registry. Without our efforts, and those of our members, we believe that many businesses in the UK would not bother to ensure that they remained up to date and legal with their software licences.
It is our efforts that ensure the issue remains top of mind and therefore is acted upon. Through our Software Audit Return we make compliance easy and hassle-free. We believe this work of ours also has a broader impact on the on-going awareness of the role of intellectual property in UK business – an awareness that helps to fuel the revenues of lawyers throughout the UK!
Business Software Alliance
Why piracy can pay
I was interested and amused by your article in Information Age in April regarding software piracy and how we, as users of software, should react to a BSA or FAST ‘investigation’.
A few years back, I was the IT director of a company that was the subject of the attentions of one of these organisations. We were treated with great suspicion, even though our infraction was pretty minor, certainly by the standards of other companies we knew about, and we wrote back saying we would look into their concerns.
However, a few days later, we were contacted by a sales representative from one of the software companies involved, who was very friendly, and even took our side. As a result, we jointly put together a plan that involved us buying more of his software and, in the process, throwing out that supplied by a rival.
This not only seemed a very sensible approach, but it also seemed to support the theory that piracy has, to a certain degree, helped seed the market. In fact, I have heard it said that Microsoft deliberately ignored software copying protection technology in the 1980s and 1990s because it didn’t want to risk rival packages becoming established.
I’m definitely not advocating software piracy – it’s illegal and people should be rewarded for their endeavours (unless, of course, they are open source suppliers who choose to forego the privilege). But let’s put it in context. Without free Unix software in the US education system in the 1980s, and free local phone calls to the Internet for US consumers, and even open source web servers, the IT industry would not have progressed nearly as fast as it has.
Which brings me to my final point. All these figures about the millions of ‘lost’ sales of desktop software due to piracy are bunkum. They assume that people would have willingly paid the full price if they couldn’t copy it. That’s simply not true: I know quite a few people who use Word on their home PCs and laptops who haven’t paid for it. But if they had to pay full price, I’m sure they wouldn’t. They’d make do with Works, or Star Office – and someone might even write a cheap Word clone.
Name and address withheld
Doing it together
I was pleased to see the articles in the April issue of Information Age on IT integration and on maximising the role of the IT department in business.
For too long the role of the IT department has been confined solely to the implementation and maintenance of computer systems for the company. The realisation of projects that needed an IT input was left solely to the discretion of the IT manager – which has often been proved to provide a myopic viewpoint that fails to consider the needs of other departments. It is refreshing to see that IT liaison with main line departments is gaining recognition and approval.
For a long time my company has been attempting to teach clients that the understanding of IT projects by the rest of the company is a crucial consideration. The sooner more companies understand that their firm is impacted through the wide impact of IT projects and systems, the sooner we may see the company-wide involvement in their IT implementation. The money wasted on badly thought out IT projects that have little or no comprehension of the overall company’s strategy is staggering.
I’m hoping that this apparent comprehension of the magnitude of IT projects is the beginning of a wider trend.
CA on the right track
I found your article on Computer Associates, ‘Model makeover’ (Information Age, April 2003), very objective and balanced. CA has a clear option of transforming itself or reverting to past history. I think the company is doing an excellent job of the former. We shall only see the results in time, but my feeling is that they have the ability to make it.
I thought your article, ‘Procurement perfected’ (Information Age, March 2003), was entirely on the mark. Whilst, in hindsight, it’s easy to see that the wildly exaggerated claims of B2B providers would never be realised, e-procurement has the potential to generate significant benefits for organisations, including cost savings and increased speed and improved efficiency of the purchasing process.
Companies need to understand the broader scope of e-procurement beyond e-auctions, which are simply inappropriate for most companies. Simpler and more affordable e-procurement solutions are available that are designed to take the grunt work out of the daily indirect spend that organisations make in the course of their normal operations – from stationery supplies to IT equipment, toilet rolls to office furniture.
For most companies, this involves a convoluted paper-based process that entails employees chasing sign-offs, manually matching orders and goods received notes, and multiple re-keying of data. Not only is this time-consuming and expensive, but it is also difficult to control – resulting in maverick buying and unauthorised spend.
E-procurement applications offer organisations three main benefits: cost savings from automating time-consuming, manual processes; increased control of spending via the dual prongs of forcing people to buy from approved suppliers and making it easier for them to do so; and increased visibility of the cost pipeline, enabling better budgeting and planning.
As your article so rightly pointed out, companies looking to fully embrace e-procurement should consider the bigger picture beyond the world of on-line auctions. Only then will they achieve the benefits that exist.
I thought your recent article on records management, ‘For the record’ (Information Age, March 2003), was a really useful and balanced insight into the issues surrounding this topic.
All government agencies and other regulated industries have very strict guidelines for managing and archiving their paper-based information, but as we are beginning to find out, not all organisations have made suitable preparations to manage this information electronically.
Could we see more fines by regulatory bodies in the future, or indeed, more corporate accountability scandals?
Perhaps in future editions, you may wish to follow up this article by taking the Sarbanes-Oxley act further, or by covering the topic of corporate compliance in general?
Marketing Director – Northern Europe
Editor’s reply: The issues of corporate governance, including the impact of the Sarbanes-Oxley act, will be covered in greater depth in the June issue of Information Age.
This month saw the publication of more vendor-commissioned research, this time from HDS, into the growing data storage dilemma. Whilst these reports are valuable in that they acknowledge the increasing importance of storage on the IT agenda, it’s important that suppliers don’t just stop there.
As an industry we must take the debate one step further, focusing on educating and advising companies on their storage options rather than just publishing statistics that only add to their woes.
The fact is, storage needs vary from organisation to organisation. They depend on business processes, regulatory control and scalability requirements to name just a few, and can only be addressed effectively if a ‘holistic’ approach is adopted. Ultimately, this entails: carrying out a full risk assessment and detailed cost-benefit analysis; implementing appropriate technologies; and training staff in their management.
Only a multi-faceted approach like this can really address the range of issues that currently preoccupy so many IT managers. On the other hand, they could always free their minds of storage altogether by opting for a managed service, handing this tricky business over to a trusted third party to manage on their behalf.
Head of storage products
The recent BBC2 series, ‘Emails you wish you hadn’t sent’, underlines how emails can fall into the wrong hands, with comical and embarrassing consequences. In reality, this programme barely scratches the surface of just how unsafe emails are and how great the problem of email insecurity really is. Basically, if you’re not protecting your emails – and most people today do not – it is not safe to assume they’ll reach the other end without being read or intercepted by someone else, or that you can prove the identity of the person you are communicating with.
Some people might think this is merely paranoia but the facts suggest otherwise.
Firstly, there’s the problem of human error. The Foreign Office recently emailed confidential details of Prince Charles’ visit to Poland to the wrong address, only to see them again plastered all over the press.
A Devon schoolgirl received emails from the Pentagon and Ministry of Defence for six months because of a typing error in the email address.
Then there’s the fact that we’ve become a nation of closet email ‘hackers’. These days, you don’t need to be a computer genius to hack someone’s emails. According to research, eight out of 10 people admit to opening colleagues’ emails without permission and intercepting an email over the Internet requires little more than basic computer knowledge and common sense.
‘Snoopers’ range from the curious employee keen to find out how much you earn, to criminals intercepting emails to blackmail or damage a company. This happens all the time though a desire to hide the embarrassment means it often never makes the papers.
When it’s so simple to secure your emails, why then do we fail to make safe our personal and business communications?
We really need to change this attitude – and soon – or there’ll be more infringements of privacy far worse than someone’s bedroom antics flying round cyberspace.