BSAs Follow SAM! Campaign
by: Jerry Liao

Remember the 2001 Sean Penn movie “I am SAM” where he played a mentally retarded man who fought for the custody of his 7-year-old daughter (Dakota Fanning), and in the process teaches his lawyer (Michelle Pfeiffer) the value of love and family. My article has nothing to do with being retarted, but more about the fact that SAM cannot care for her daughter because of his condition but he actually can. My story is the opposite – an organization pretending to care but it has another agenda under its sleeves.

A couple of weeks back, I attended a Business Software Alliance (BSA) conference. BSA is a trade group representing a number of the world’s largest software makers with a task to stop copyright infringement of software produced by its members, among others. Simply put, if you or your company are using illegal software of its members, then BSA can come after you.

The BSA event was about their Follow SAM! campaign, an educational campaign which aims to encourage the adoption of proper Software Asset Management (SAM) among companies. The Follow SAM! campaign is a call for companies to adopt a model software asset management practice in their organization in order to fully maximize their IT resources and avoid the use of unlicensed software. Companies who wants to join the campaign should first submit a software audit report and declaration letter on SAM adoption. The reports and declaration letters will then be evaluated and verified by BSA members, consisting of the world’s leading software manufacturers.

Software asset management or sometimes called Software Distribution Management is the practice of integrating people, processes and technology to allow software licenses and usage to be systematically tracked, evaluated and managed. The goal of SAM is to reduce IT expenditures, human resource overhead and risks inherent in owning and managing software assets. SAM includes maintaining software license compliance; tracking the inventory and usage of software assets; and maintaining standard policies and procedures surrounding the installation, deployment, configuration, and use of software assets. SAM represents the software component of IT asset management, which also includes hardware asset management.

During the said event, BSA official were at hand to answer questions and my question was: “Is this BSAs effort to determine who among the local companies are using licenced or unlicensed software?”, of course the answer is a NO. BSA official were quick to say that the FOllow SAM! campaign involves a lot of objectives and encouraging companies to use license software is one, but is not the main purpose.

I asked again if the Follow SAM! campaign can be applied to companies who are using open source applications, BSA officials said YES. I also asked if Follow SAM can be applied to companies who are using unlicensed softwares, BSA officals said NO, they said what is their to manage if there was no software investment made on the first place. True. But at the same time, I thought using licensed software is just part and parcel of the entire Follow SAM! campaign. And the first requirement wherein companies should submit a software audit report automatically eliminates unlicensed software users.

Philippine Software Industry Association (PSIA) president Fermin “Tarcs” Taruc was also at the event and I suggested to him that perhaps Follow SAM! should be spearheaded by his group rather than by BSA. Why? Because companies will have doubts about the sincerity of BSA in helping them implement SAM. First and foremost, the goal of BSA is to ask or even force companies to use licensed software and that cannot be changed – whether you do it via education campaign or whatever, at the end of the day, companies should use licensed software. And because of this, companies might even be scared to work with BSA and throw away the Follow SAM! campaign altogether.

To prove my point, I visited the BSA website and part of the benefits a company will get from joining the Follow SAM! campaign is companies with verified software audits will receive a program certificate from BSA, and will be awarded one-year immunity from BSA-initiated enforcement actions.. Another benefit is companies will be given 14 days to rectify licensing discrepancies, while non-certified companies face the risk of action without warning at any time. Benefits that concerns licensing.

I am all for software asset management, because I know how important software is to every business, and managing it and treating it as a company asset is as important as treating other company resources. Poor software management can cost a company, in terms of efficiency, productivity as well as financially. But SAM should not be about enforcement, it should be about education and realization about its importance. Companies should be told the advantages of having licensed software rather than forcing them to use one because it is the law.

Let me just say that with all due respect, I don’t think BSA is the right agency to implement this. It may have been successfully implemented in other countries, but I doubt if it can be duplicated here in the Philippines. I hope I am wrong.

By the way, the campaign is being endorsed by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IP Philippines).


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