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The distribution of unlicensed copyrighted software harms software publishers and developers and exposes businesses to a wide range of security threats.
Bloomberg BNA's Alexis Kramer posed questions to Victoria Espinel, president and chief executive officer of BSA | The Software Alliance on its efforts to detect and remove unlicensed software around the world, best practices for websites and the importance of coding in the legal profession.
What are the primary policy goals of BSA | The Software Alliance?
BSA is focused on making sure software and innovation can thrive throughout the world. We speak for software globally on issues like the importance of movement of data across borders, how to ensure intellectual property systems function in a way that will truly promote innovation, the importance of global trade, the need for clear and predictable rules for law enforcement access to data, and how to best protect the information systems and user security that are indispensable to a thriving digital economy.
What methods does BSA employ to carry out the goal of detecting and removing infringing software and are there things websites can do to help in that effort?
We work hard to help protect innovation and the security of businesses and end-users by curbing the distribution of unlicensed software. Unlicensed software exposes businesses and consumers to security threats including malware, ransomware, spyware and viruses, and leads to decreased efficiencies in organizations.
BSA actively monitors the distribution of infringing software across multiple channels, including peer-to-peer file sharing networks and cyberlockers, as well as e-commerce websites and online marketplaces. When we learn of a site offering infringing software—whether for free or for a fee—BSA sends a takedown notice as authorized by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to the entity hosting the content, requesting that the content be removed so it is no longer available for download or purchase. We then monitor for compliance with these requests. If sellers continue to distribute infringing software, BSA may take additional steps to ensure compliance.
Of course, the overall effectiveness and success of BSA’s Internet enforcement program is dependent in part upon the cooperation of the websites and marketplaces through which this infringing software is made available. Websites can help with this effort by ensuring that they have robust processes in place for removing infringing content as soon as they receive a takedown notice, since the shorter the time that the content is available online, the lower the likelihood that a consumer will pursue the infringing content rather than seeking out a legitimate version of the software. Likewise, implementing a system where sellers are penalized by websites for repeatedly offering infringing software would serve to deter infringing sellers.
Finally, we encourage websites and rights-holders to work together to combat the online distribution of infringing software by developing a set of best practices for implementing the notice and takedown provisions of the DMCA. This helps provide a greater level of uniformity and certainty for all parties as they work cooperatively to address the problem.
How does BSA administer self-regulatory compliance and enforcement programs in over 60 countries, and how do the resources expended in that effort compare to that focused on the U.S. software industry?
BSA operates IP enforcement and compliance programs around the globe. We currently have one central office per region that reports to our headquarters in Washington, DC. We also have an extensive network of legal representatives in the local markets where we have active enforcement and compliance programs. The legal environment of each country determines the nature of the particular enforcement program.
In addition, we offer compliance and education programs around the world designed to reach end-user organizations and the general public to educate them on the business value of legal software, and the critical reputational, legal and security-related risks associated with the use of unlicensed software. It’s particularly important to help companies better understand what software is on their systems, so they can more efficiently and securely manage their IT assets and comply with their license obligations.
Many companies don't know what is running on their network. The BSA 2013 Global Software Survey found that 57 percent of managers and CIOs either don’t perform software audits at all, or do them less frequently than once a year. You can’t manage what you don’t know.
BSA actively promotes best practices in software asset management and license compliance, such as the ISO 19770-SAM standard, to help organizations gain a better understanding of what is on their systems and where the gaps are. Our next Global Software Survey will be released this spring, and will be available on our site, www.bsa.org.
Does BSA have insights into the Digital Single Market that the EU is promoting in part as a way to ease the delivery of software services across borders?
We firmly support the Commission’s efforts to establish a true Digital Single Market. A Digital Single Market is an important contribution to the EU’s efforts to foster the digital and data-driven economy.
The Commission expects that achieving the DSM could create hundreds of billions of Euros of additional growth, and hundreds of thousands of new jobs. We agree, and we also believe that the DSM represents a major opportunity for European business.
At the same time, there are still a number of initiatives that will be released throughout 2016 and possibly beyond that will need to be consistent with one another and create the right conditions for the DSM, as opposed to merely adding red tape.
The success of the DSM will be dependent upon achieving a careful balance of a vast array of issues that are closely linked to one another—and providing the right incentives to ensure that all companies and individuals can benefit from the DSM.
As an attorney and software policy leader with interests in coding—such as your work with expanding opportunities for young women in the coding space—do you think attorneys should be moving to become better versed in the technical aspects of software?
It’s important for everyone to better understand software, attorneys included. Software helps us do things faster and achieve things that would otherwise not be possible or practical. It permeates every industry, including the legal profession.
And today, anyone can learn to code. This is important, as being literate in coding prepares you to live and work in a world in which software is so fundamental to modern life. Not only can an understanding of coding help attorneys better speak their technology clients’ language, it can also make them more efficient in their daily practice.
I am passionate about encouraging young women to pursue STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] fields. BSA sponsors Girls Who Code, a summer immersion program that teaches high school girls coding skills. By the end of the program, the students have written code, designed apps, and programmed robots to dance, among other things. It’s incredible to see these girls blossom into confident young coders throughout the summer.
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