It began covertly. Someone with inside knowledge of Meritage Corp. quietly contacted the Business Software Alliance (BSA), a trade group that represents some of the country's biggest software companies, and reported that the homebuilder was using unlicensed software. BSA then demanded Meritage perform a software audit. The results weren't good.
The company couldn't prove it had purchased licenses for all its installations of Adobe, Microsoft, Sybase and Symantec software. "We clearly established through our audit that we had lots of properly licensed software, but the status of a fraction of our installations was less clear," says Larry Seay, Meritage's CFO. "Rather than spending even more time to conclusively determine the status of this remaining software, BSA and Meritage opted to settle the matter." That settlement cost Meritage $200,000.
The BSA maintains corporate infringement can be stopped relatively easily, so long as managers take the issue seriously. "Many companies just fail to give software sufficient attention," Blank says.