The software producer organisation Business Software Alliance (BSA) has, analysts and businessmen agree, achieved results. But some managers believe the tactics used by the group in trying to eradicate computer crime can be counter-productive, and that its decision to send out a recent video featuring a staged police raid was taking an unnecessarily aggressive approach to the problem.
"Sending this [videotape] to businesses without even a letter of explanation was inappropriate," said Juraj Majtán, director of the Agency for the Development of Small and Medium-Sized Firms. "It's like a bad joke," he said, adding that the video portrayed managers, who are often unaware they are using software illegally, like "murderers".
"Using software without paying for it is clearly a crime," he said. "But I don't think scaring people is the way to go. Education, media campaigns, ads on television - those steps would be [more] appropriate."
One Slovak IT manager who wished to remain anonymous added: "BSA is not the police, not legislators, not judges, not our moral authority, and not God. I don't think such a videocassette can be considered as building awareness. It seems more like a threat to me."
BSA President Roman Sládek says, however, that far from working against managers, many of whom are pressured to install illegal software against their will, BSA has directly helped them and offered them a chance to escape the web of illegality at work.
"We are very often contacted by someone looking for help because they were forced into using illegal software by their bosses," said Sládek.
"These people ask us to make a raid because they don't want to be responsible for the illegal software," he said.
He added that BSA media campaigns, such as the videotape - which he admits is the group's most aggressive media tactic yet - helped prevent these situations from occurring because they persuaded company executives to make sure software was used legally in their firms.
"The tape's not shocking if you are using computer software legally," said Štefan Dobák , director of sales for IT applications firm Gratex International, a member of BSA and one of the most successful Slovak software firms (see story page BFI).
"It may look brutal, but sometimes a shock can be educational.
BSA is controversial, but it's darwing people to the problem of software piracy and achieving real results in fighting against this very same problem."
2. Apr 2001 at 0:00 | Matthew J. Reynolds