BSA hits Wham-O, Burt's Bees with fines for illegal software

The fines follow sweeps for unlicensed commercial software at firms in N.C. and Calif.

Wham-O Inc., the maker of Frisbees and Hula Hoops, and Burt's Bees, which makes natural soap, shampoo and beauty products, are among the latest companies to be fined by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) for using unlicensed commercial software inside their businesses.

Durham, N.C.-based Burt's Bees paid a $110,000 fine to Washington-based BSA, a software industry watchdog group, after a software audit found unlicensed copies of applications from Adobe Systems Inc., Apple Computer Inc. and Microsoft Corp. on company computers, according to a statement yesterday from the BSA. As part of the settlement, Burt's Bees agreed to delete any unlicensed copies, purchase replacement software and strengthen its software management practices, the BSA said.

A spokesman for Burt's Bees could not be reached for comment today.

The anonymous report on Burt's Bees software use came in through an online report filed on the BSA Web site. BSA attorneys then contacted the company, which cooperated and conducted an audit.

Earlier this week, the BSA announced that Emeryville, Calif.-based Wham-O paid a $70,894 fine to settle claims that company employees had used unlicensed copies of Adobe and Microsoft software on office computers. Wham-O is also the maker of Superballs, Hacky Sack toys and other novelty items.

A spokesman for the company could not be reached today for comment.

Jenny Blank, director of enforcement for the BSA, said that the problem of unlicensed commercial software is ever present and that her group pursues each case that comes before it. "A lot of businesses are failing to pay attention or make the decision that they don't want to pay the money for licenses," Blank said. "It ends up costing them more [due to additional fines] than if they'd bought the licenses to start."

What often happens is that businesses buy one or two licensed copies of an application, then install it on more computers than permitted. "That is the same as essentially walking into a store and stealing those copies," she said. "These are companies who are otherwise reputable. These are companies that if they needed a new computer, they wouldn't go and knock off a computer store."

The following three companies also settled claims of illegal software use with the BSA recently:

  • NorCal Moving Services, a San Leandro, Calif.-based commercial and residential moving services company, paid a $75,000 fine for having more installations of Microsoft software programs on its computers than it could confirm it had licenses to support.
  • Patriot Performance Materials Inc., a Sanford, N.C.-based provider of armor products for personnel, vehicle, aircraft and architectural applications, paid a $70,000 fine to settle claims that it had unlicensed Adobe, Autodesk, Microsoft, SolidWorks and Symantec software programs on its computers.
  • Stock Building Supply Inc., a Raleigh, N.C.-based commercial supplier of home building materials, paid an $85,000 fine to settle claims that it had unlicensed Adobe and Autodesk software programs on its computers.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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