Business Software Alliance asks Britons to become paid informants

Here in the UK, the Business Software Alliance is running its annual paid informant "Nail Your Boss" program, in which they give big cash rewards to people who fink out their employers for running pirate software. This happens every year, but it reminded me of one of the funniest incidents in my life as a copyfighter:

I was guest-lecturing for a week at a master class on issues related to international copyright to grad students at Budapest's Central European University. The speaker following me was the lawyer who ran the Hungarian division of the Business Software Alliance. He described the many means by which the BSA tried to combat piracy, and then he mentioned this paid informant program.

There was an audible intake of breath, emanating primarily from the Eastern Europeans in the room. They'd lived through the Soviet era. They knew how corrosive it is to pay people to snitch on their neighbors. They know that it leads to score-settling, axe-grinding, and blackmail.

The BSA man instantly recognized his mistake and held his hands up placatingly.

"Oh, we don't use paid informants in Eastern Europe! That would be culturally inappropriate.

"No, we use paid informants in England."

I get the funniest looks when I tell that story here in London.

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