BSA and software company get into spat over illegal Photoshop copy

Calls management developer Tiger Communications plc seems to have reached an uneasy truce with the Business Software Association (BSA) which controversially ‘named and shamed’ it earlier this week for the alleged use of unlicensed software.

On Wednesday the BSA issued a press release stating that despite refusing to accept legal liability Tiger had nevertheless agreed to pay £25,000 in licensing costs and "settlement fees" after asking for an audit that turned up the use of unlicensed software in its business.

Normally, named companies are reluctant to comment but this turned out to be a notable exception.

Within hours, Tiger disputed the settlement sum mentioned by the BSA in a statement on its website, and later said that it had in fact agreed to pay only “a £5,000 lump sum settlement payment and £800 for an additional Adobe Photoshop licence.”

The disparity between the sums mentioned by the two parties remains unexplained but Tiger has now offered further details of an affair which it feels has portrayed the company unfairly.

The licensing breach related to an ex-employee that had installed an illegal copy of Adobe Photoshop on a PC without the knowledge of the IT department, Tiger said.

“We respect the job they [the BSA] do but in this case we feel the negative public exposure is unfair for a company that was ultimately trying to do the right thing,” said Tiger chairman Brian Hoadley in an email sent to our sister site Computerworld UK.

The company took the issue of software licensing seriously and as a software developer had experienced the unlicensed use of its own products by third parties, Hoadley added.

The BSA has refused to expand on its original press release beyond re-stating the £25,000 settlement figure while Tiger's Hoadley emphasised that "We do not want to antagonise the BSA or diminish what they do."

It has become routine in recent years for the BSA to issue press releases every now and again naming UK companies that have agreed to make financial settlements after admitting to the use of unlicensed software.

Unhelpfully, the circumstances of these licensing breaches are rarely explained although the vendors whose software is involved – usually Microsoft and Adobe – often are. It is extremely rare for a company to publically dispute or even comment on a publicised settlement.

As the BSA itself has admitted, software licensing cases can arise after deliberate and illegal use of software but also because companies inadvertently or innocently find themselves under-licensed.

In this case, the named company does seem to have asked for the audit and to have agreed to pay a settlement in order to resolve the matter. Why the BSA decided to name it in the face of what Tiger claims was an inadvertent one-off breach is still a mystery.

In the past, the BSA has been uncompromising in its pursuit of companies engaging in illegal software use, including targeting specific towns for investigation and, recently, offering up to a £20,000 bounty to workers who inform on software wrongdoing at current or former employers.

Clearly, there is no appetite on either side to turn the dispute into a public slanging match, but the question of how and why the disagreement developed between two companies who should be on each other remains a mystery.


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