Have you recently received a letter regarding an audit of your software licences? If so, the letter likely came from the Business Software Alliance (BSA).

The BSA is a non-profit trade association created to advance the goals of the software industry and its hardware partners. The BSA is currently targeting SMEs in Australia with between 10 to 150 employees in the architecture, construction, engineering, creative, and automobile industries. These industries will be sent a letter with a link to an online questionnaire which will help them to check their software licences.

The BSA members participating in this campaign are Adobe, Autodesk, Microsoft, and Symantec. According to news reports, the online compliance check connects to the back-end systems of Adobe, Autodesk, Microsoft, and Symantec and the SMEs are able to see their registered and active software licences with those four companies. 

The BSA claims that the aim of the compliance check is about education and awareness to ensure compliance and that it’s not about prosecution or generating a settlement out of non-compliance. However, as reported by Mr Stephen Withers on ITWire,[1] Mr Clayton Noble, co-chair of the BSA commented that “damages will not be sought from any business that gets back into compliance…but would not guarantee that information entered on the system would not be used to the detriment of the company involved.”

So what should you do if you receive a BSA compliance check letter?

Do you need to comply with the request? There’s no legal obligation to comply with the request; however, details of companies that don’t comply will be passed to the relevant BSA members and those members may wish to enforce their rights to audit software kept on the company’s system. These rights are available to the members under their various licence agreements and end user licence agreements for the relevant software.

If you’re concerned about completing the online questionnaire, the BSA recently advised us that the same questionnaire is also available in hard copy format by request to the BSA.

In the first instance, we recommend that you carry out a self-audit of the software on the computers within your organisation. There are a number of tools that can automate the process for you or you can carry out the audit manually yourself.

If after carrying out the self-audit you’re concerned or find any discrepancies, you should seek advice from a lawyer as to your options. If the self-audit doesn’t reveal any discrepancies there may not be any fallback from completing and lodging the questionnaire. However, we’d recommend requesting a hard copy to avoid the risk of the BSA members accessing any electronic information you don’t want them to have access to.