Business Software Alliance Amnesty Campaign
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Holmes Report
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Business Software Alliance Amnesty Campaign

During the past nine years, the Business Software Alliance (BSA), a software watchdog group, has settled claims of software piracy with thousands of organizations, collecting more than $60 million in penalties.

Paul Holmes

During the past nine years, the Business Software Alliance (BSA), a software watchdog group representing the nation’s leading software publishers, has settled claims of software piracy with thousands of organizations, collecting more than $60 million in penalties.  Thus, the issue of software piracy was an important issue that needed to be addressed quickly.  But BSA understood that many businesses do not pirate software intentionally Rather, unlicensed copies make their way onto office computers due to poor software management.  BSA believes education and awareness of the risks associated with software piracy are the best defense in protecting intellectual property rights. As a result, they designed a campaign/program that would encourage businesses to think about software management.  This campaign offered an amnesty period and free resources and tools to encourage software legalization.  In addition, it helped companies to understand the importance of sound software management.
 
Challenge
 
Software piracy is theft.  But many companies are not compliant with United States software copyright laws.  In fact, an estimated 24 percent of all business software in the U.S. is unlicensed and costs the software industry more than $2.6 billion.  As part of its fight to stop software piracy, the Business Software Alliance, with the help of its PR agency, Dittus, launched “Software Truce” campaigns in 20 U.S. cities throughout 2001.
 
Research, Planning, Objective
 
Software piracy can lead to stiff fines of up to $150,000 per copyright work infringedand civil and criminal penalties.  The organization developed Software Truce campaigns in which the key objective was to deliver the following message to businesses:  Proper software management saves time, money, and makes employees more productive. The Software Truce campaigns were designed to offer businesses in targeted cities a month-long opportunity to review their software programs and acquire the licenses they needed to be licensed without facing penalties for past infringement imposed by BSA. 
 
Months prior to the campaign launch, Dittus and BSA conducted extensive research in each target city.  The research included information on the city’s Chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau, and other third party high tech and business associations/organizations.  Dittus and BA would then reach out to these organizations to encourage them to include information on the campaign in their member newsletters or to ask them to act as a partner for press releases.   In one instance BSA teamed up with the mayor of a Truce city to declare that month “Business Software Compliance Month,” and as a result publicly recognized the importance of using legal, licensed computer software.
 
Strategic Approach
 
The success of the campaign rested on several achievements:  the launch of a hard-hitting and comprehensive hotline advertising campaign in each city prior to announcing each campaign; the incorporation of tough language into the direct mail campaign that positioned BSA as an authoritative organization with legal power to enforce laws as they relate to software licensing; and the announcement of newsworthy software piracy settlements both at the beginning and end of the campaign.
 
In 2001, before the media relations activity began, direct mail about the campaign went out to nearly three million businesses in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York City, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Philadelphia, Portland, Rochester, Seattle, and Greensboro/High Point/Winston-Salem.
 
Campaign Execution
 
Two weeks prior to the kick-off of each campaign, Dittus disseminated a general pre-Truce release in the target city.  In some cases the pre-Truce release announced a settlement with a company in the Truce city. 
 
The month-long campaign officially kicked off with the distribution of a press release accompanied by extensive media outreach.  Halfway into the campaign Dittus and BSA sent out a media advisory announcing a two-week deadline for businesses to “get legal” and listed ten reasons why they should participate.  This tactic was implemented in order to sustain media coverage.  After the campaign ended, Dittus and BSA disseminated a post-Truce settlement announcement with an area company.  Combined, all of these activities saturated the media markets and garnered ongoing and extensive coverage of the campaign. 
 
Results/Success
 
By implementing a variety of media activities and tactics, the campaign generated positive coverage in national and local print, broadcast and online mediums and proved to be a great success.  The campaign garnered coverage in each city’s major daily print publications, as well as online and broadcast mediums.
 
More than 330 print, radio, television and online stories covering all four Truce campaigns were generated in 2001.  More than 180 million media impressions were garnered and the majority of coverage appeared in technology and business publications, in addition to appearing in the technology and business sections of daily newspapers.
 
Dittus’ extensive media outreach efforts, secured placements in eWeek, Businessweek, Bridge News, Network World, Fortune Small Business, Fox News, New York News 1, CNBC, TechTV, Detroit News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Miami Herald, Miami Daily Business Review, New York Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Univision, Telemundo, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Minnesota Star-Tribune, Knight Ridder TribuneRochester Democrat and Chronicle, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Seattle Times, and the Puget Sound Business Journal.  (See accompanying publicity report for a list of all placements.)
 
As a result of the extensive media coverage, radio advertising, and direct mail campaign BSA’s Truce Hotline number was called frequently and their Web site visited often.  The campaigns to date have resulted in tens of thousands of calls to the hotline and hundreds of thousands of visits to the Web site.
 
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