Pirated Software Still an Issue in High-Tech

Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony upstart Vonage has confirmed an inquiry from the Business Software Alliance (BSA) into alleged unauthorized use of software products.

The New Jersey-based Vonage, which sells Internet telephone services to enterprise and consumer clients, said it was conducting an internal investigation but declined to provide details of the BSA inquiry.

According to reports, the watchdog group is investigating the alleged use of pirated and unlicensed software at Vonage since January this year. Vonage spokesperson Brooke Schulz told internetnews.com the company was in the midst of conducting an internal audit and would report its findings to the BSA.

If it is found in breach of licensing agreements, Vonage could face a hefty BSA fine.

Schulz downplayed the seriousness of the BSA probe, noting that those inquiries are a dime a dozen in corporate America.

Vonage is not the first East Coast technology firm that has found itself under the BSA gun. Last week, the BSA announced that four New York area companies agreed to pay a combined total of $222,000 to settle claims relating to unlicensed copies of software programs installed on office computers.

As part of the settlement, the four firms agreed to delete any unlicensed copies, purchase replacement software and strengthen their software management practices.

Among the firms were domain name registrar Register.com , which paid $62,500 to the BSA after an internal audit revealed more copies of Adobe and Macromedia software programs on its office computers than it had licenses to support.

Alfy, Inc., a Web portal for kids, paid $50,000 to settle a BSA claim that it was using unlicensed copies of software from Microsoft, Macromedia and Adobe. Bonland Industries and Covington Industries also settled.

The watchdog association claims New York has a piracy rate of 11.9 percent during 2001 for business software. When evaluating the impact to the economy of New York, software piracy of all packaged software resulted in a state tax loss of more than $101 million, the group said.

Worldwide members of the BSA include Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, Borland, Macromedia and Symantec.

The BSA recently launched a grace period program in major U.S. cities to give businesses an opportunity to review their software programs and acquire the licenses they need to get legal without facing penalties for past infringement imposed by BSA.