When the BSA started out, it was pretty obvious that they were making up the numbers. Having studied statistics and living in the IT world, to me, it was painfu to watchl. Not only were they generalising in a bad way but they were communicating too forcefully. This is a recipe for a backlash.
In the past week I put out a series of articles explaining why BSA Hellas has dropped in revenues this year in Greece and how they are terrible at what matters most right now; social media. They have bought their way into mainstream (=boring + nobody notices) media references but blogs and social media are simply disregarding them. To add insult to injury my guide with “ten things the BSA doesn’t want you to know” seems to be going viral.
BSA has structural and communication problems. Initially it was just a few major American software companies teaming up to clamp down on piracy. They spent on promotion and rode on the novelty. They lobbied hard. In Greece Bill Gates shook hands with the prime minister and received a number of agreements behind the headlines going as far as getting civil servants in tax enforcement to work for BSA! But on this basic level, software piracy is more like pharmaceuticals than the music industry. Especially in times of economic crises the question will inevitably pop up: Why should a poor country, months away from restructuring it’s debts, be paying billions of dollars to extremely profitable companies for a recipe they invented many years ago?
Adobe or Autodesk will be hard pressed to claim they are innovating much in features that really make a difference to productivity. They throw together teams to produce incemental improvements and then do the rounds collecting update revenue.
BSA is also languishing in committee-itis. They can’t catch pirates for the same reason countries around the region can’t clamp down on Somali piracy. As more member companies joined in, it slowed down. Less decisions, less forcefull, slower reactions. More companies, more opinions, more objections, more need for transparency. It is becoming clear to the public that this is more a consortium for lobbying of private interests than anything to do with the good of the economy like they tried to portray themselves when they started. So individual members are just improvising, like Adobe’s CEO saying that cloud computing will reduce piracy.
On a communicational level they made mistakes. Plenty mistakes. The scandals about piracy whistleblower payments, hyperboles about piracy encouraging violence and kidnapping, ridiculous quasiscientific generalisations about the relationship between software piracy and the economy or job losses. Microsoft’s otherwise quite admirable PR machine overdoes it by making claims like the “fact” that Indians are quite consious about piracy.
As the dust settles and the world focuses on getting over this crisis we could rename BSA as the Bull Shamefully Advertises… except they aren’t even advertising much anymore! It would only take a nudget in social media to position the Business Software Alliance as a first class legitimate enemy. So please, someone from the BSA, please come after me. I have three PCs at home more or less doing everything online with no software installed and two at work. I think it is all legal but I am sure you can find some ridiculous way to go after me. Maybe I don’t have the “proper” (in BSA terms) invoices or proof of purchase for one of the preinstalled software on my laptop. You know the drill. Maybe you expected me to do a software audit annually. I will just wear a Tshirt saying “today I am acting as network administrator” and waste a day doing it and five days communicating with BSA members to ask if they have changed something in their terms. (I won’t be sure I am legitimate even after all that effort – many Greek reps of software companies don’t really know how it all works.) Or maybe I will purchase some used software just to ensure a good legal precedent.
So please sue me. Make my day.