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Rat on boss for cash, software groups urge
[January 29, 2006]

Rat on boss for cash, software groups urge

(New York Daily News (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Jan. 29--Turn in your crooked bosses for cash.

It can be done -- if you can prove that your supervisors are using illegally copied computer software to run their businesses.

Courting ethical, disgruntled or recently fired employees, software trade organizations are encouraging workers to rat out execs for rewards that reach up to $200,000.

"Some people are unhappy at work, others just think it's the right thing to do," said Laurie Atkinson of the Business Software Alliance, which is paying for radio ads encouraging workers to call (800) NOPIRACY.

With the software industry losing millions of dollars a year due to illegally copied materials, businesses from Microsoft to Adobe have enlisted groups like the BSA and the Software & Information Industry Association to target corporations that use pirated programs.

"If a company has a TurboTax license for 20 copies, we want to make sure they have 20 and not 25," said Keith Kupferschmid, SIIA's enforcement officer.

Rather than target a small business using an extra copy of Microsoft Word, for example, the association goes after companies that have 500 or more workstations loaded with several different illegal expensive software programs.

In the past year, both the software associations -- two of the nation's leading copyright protection groups -- have turned to offering hard cash.

"Money talks. No one's going to say no to a dollar bill waving in front of their faces," said Carmi Levy, senior research analyst for Info-Tech Research Group, a computer consulting firm. "[Software companies] tried other strategies that have failed miserably. This is the last resort."

Both organizations offer online forms for employees to file accusations. The SIIA gets 200 reports a month and checks about 30, and the alliance has 600 active investigations.

After gathering evidence, the association gives the cheating company a choice: Pay a settlement or go to court.

"We demand that they pay three times the market rate for each program they have," Kupferschmid said.

The groups offer similar rewards: If a settlement or judgment ranges from $10,000 to $50,000, the tipster gets $500; from $50,000 to $100,000, the payoff is up to $5,000, and so on. The rewards max out at $200,000.

The SIIA has doled out about $75,000 in reward money since the program began last year, with one tipster making $50,000 for turning in a midsize company with offices in several states, including New York. The BSA has not paid any reward money.

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