Michael Gaertner worried he could lose his company. A group called the Business Software Alliance had written him to claim that his 10-person architectural firm in Galveston, Texas, was using unlicensed software.
The letter demanded $67,000 — most of one year's profit — or else the BSA would seek more in court.
"It just scared the hell out of me," Gaertner said.
An analysis by The Associated Press reveals that targeting small businesses is a lucrative strategy for the Business Software Alliance, the main global copyright-enforcement watchdog for such companies as Microsoft Corp., Adobe Systems Inc. and Symantec Corp.
Of the $13 million that the BSA reaped in software violation settlements with North American companies last year, almost 90 percent came from small businesses, the AP found.
The BSA is well within its rights to wring expensive punishments aimed at stopping the willful, blatant software copying that undoubtedly happens in many businesses. And its leaders say they concentrate on small businesses because that's where illegitimate use of software is rampant.