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By | Austin Modine 14th April 2009 20:26

BSA hijacks Somali pirate hype

Yo Ho Ho...ld on a minute

As the world's media continues to follow the scourge of piracy off the coast of Somalia, perhaps it's time to take another look at the label of "pirate" for copyright thieves.

It's an oddly accepted title on both sides in the debate on illegal software and content. Sure, some have adopted the name in pseudo-jest while others enjoy leveraging the implied relation. Nobody, though, is literally comparing downloading illegitimate Hanna Montana tracks with real-life violent maritime crimes.

No? That's exactly what the Business Software Alliance has apparently resorted to. Announcing its new Faces of Piracy campaign, the firm handling press gave decency a walk down the ol' plank.

A snippet from the email apparently sent to Illuminata principal IT advisor Gordon Haff states:

We've all been following the events of the past week of the pirates off the Horn of Africa. Piracy takes many forms, some more violent than others. I wanted to let you know that the Business Software Alliance is launching a new campaign today "Faces of Internet Piracy" that shows the real-life impact of software piracy...

Classy exploitation of current events there. It's like promoting fireworks safety by citing a recent suicide bombing in the news.

The BSA may claim the difference between the two crimes is just the level of violence, but at least going by the site's testimonials, the US navy isn't picking off copyright violators with snipers for kidnapping early copies of Wolverine quite yet.

Not that the BSA doesn't have a history of conflating these sorts of things. For instance, counting every unauthorized piece of software as a lost sale in its publicized statistics on software piracy's financial impact on US society.

As for BSA's new Faces of Piracy site itself, it spotlights "true stories" of software thieves relating tales of their misdeeds and subsequent fines and prison sentences. It even includes a reward program for easy reporting of copyright theft. According to the program's FAQ, cash rewards depend on the settlement the organization gets out of the person fingered, and will pay from $5,000 to up to $1,000,000.

Sounds like there's good money in that gig.

The trouble with changing the name of online piracy is that it's nearly impossible at this point. It's out there, it's stuck, it's lexicon, man. Both forms of piracy are crimes - this is true - but there should always be time to smack folks who inexplicably have trouble distinguishing the two. ®

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