The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)has taken the unusual step of advising small companies to throw away a threatening letter from an organization representing some of the world's biggest software companies. The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is campaigning to stamp out software piracy and has sent out letters to companies asking them to ensure that all the software they use is legit.
While ACCA says that they condemn software piracy, they are objecting to what they say is an intimidating tone taken in the letter to small companies. David Harvey, Secretary to ACCA's Small Business Committee, said, "The language used in the letters deliberately misleads recipients to believe that they are obliged to respond and disclose information to the BSA." He said that ACCA was surprised that companies like Microsoft and Lotus "appear to lend their support to such questionable tactics".
Anne Edmonds-Smith, Chair of BSA in the UK, indicated that the Alliance was disappointed and puzzled both by the approach and the timing of ACCA's announcement. She pointed out that the crackdown campaign, which is the third one that BSA has run, lasted from February to June this year which makes a comment now a bit redundant. Furthermore, she said, BSA contacted several professional and trade bodies, including the ACCA, back in January to inform them about the campaign and to enlist their support. Apparently the ACCA did not respond.
Ms Edmonds-Smith stressed that the campaign is needed because BSA estimates that up to 50 percent of software used by small companies is pirated. "We're talking about theft here," she said and added that she would have thought that accountants would be particularly keen to see such practices rooted out.
The BSA was in trouble only last month with the Advertising Standards Association over the previous version of the contentious letter. The first targets in the BSA campaign were larger companies who received a letter which said it was a "formal notification" and requested a response. The ASA found that the use of the phrase implied that was an official letter to which the recipient was obliged to reply. Ms Edmonds-Smith said that the letter which ACCA was complaining of had been "tonally altered" to take account of
the ASA's concerns and that the BSA ran all their campaigns past the ASA.