PracticeConsultingC&L targets pirates

C&L targets pirates

A new organisation has been set up to troubleshoot firms' bad habits in 'sharing' software. John Stokdyk reports

Coopers & Lybrand’s risk management department has played a leading part in setting up a new organisation to help companies avoid prosecution for software piracy.

The Initiative for Software Compliance is headed by chief executive Michael Ludlam, a former deputy chairman of the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST).

The new initiative is being promoted as an alternative to FAST and the rival Business Software Alliance (BSA), both of which were set up to protect the interests of software companies.

‘BSA and FAST come in, either to organisations that have been the subject of whistleblowing or to do a health check,’ said Gerry O’Neill, a manager in Coopers’ risk management services group.

The two competing vendor associations usually give a company 60 days to put them right. But the threat of legal action from the two organisations could dissuade people from seeking their advice, said O’Neill.

The BSA, for example, ran into criticism late last year for sending heavy-handed letters to directors of small businesses outlining the stiff penalties for running unlicensed software.

ISC director Roger Woods, commented: ‘We support what the BSA stands for but they are taking advantage of the law, and corporate organisations don’t know how to protect themselves.’

According to O’Neill, the ISC group takes a more co-operative approach to legal software use. Coopers’ own soundings indicated that there was a need for a service which could give management a confidential report.

After delivering this initial report, the ISC will give a member organisation a copy of its standard for compliance and define a plan for the organisation to meet it.

The membership scheme is based on a sliding scale for annual fees, ranging from #5,000 for companies that turn over less than #2m annually to #30,000 for those turning over #50m a year.

Once the compliance plan is delivered, the ISC member can decide to implement it in-house, appoint its own consultants or ISC partners such as Coopers.

As a founding partner of ISC, Coopers provided seedcorn funding, as did law practices Baker McKenzie, Pinset Curtis and Tucker Turner Kingsley Wood, as well as SGS Yarsley International, which will certify whether members comply with the ISC’s good practice code.

O’Neill denied that the ISC was merely a business development scheme for Coopers’ security experts. ‘We’ve been offering this sort of advice as part of our services anyway,’ he said. ‘What we’re saying is that here is a standard. If you’ve ever wondered what you should be doing to ensure that you are using software legally, this is it.’

When it launched in January, the ISC did not publish its detailed security guidelines, but O’Neill explained, ‘The ultimate intention is to publish the standard and to have it form part of BS 7799.’

Sage’s company secretary Rupert Wyndham, a director of the vendors’ organisation FAST, said he could see scope for the consultant-led organisation, but suggested that it would take the ISC some time to become effective.

‘It’s starting from scratch, where FAST has been around for 12 years.

They will need to get known before people respond,’ he said.

Additional reporting by Sinead Carew, VNU Newswire.

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