The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) is changing tack. The gentle goading of IT directors has been rep-laced by a ?No More Mr Nice Guy? approach. Furthermore, FAST is training its guns further up the food chain, to target chief executives and managing directors.
By threatening corporate big cheeses with imprisonment through a mailshot campaign, the organisation hopes to attract 12,000 new members this year and a further 38,000 over the next two years.
According to FAST?s chief executive, Geoff Webster, the threat of a two-year stint in prison is central to this latest crusade. ?Fear is a key part of the campaign in capturing the imagination of the chief executives and managing directors who tend to hold the purse strings,? he explained. ?We had little reaction last year when we were targeting IT directors, so we decided to shift the focus. We had to push the downside and the fear factor.?
Backing up the rhetoric are the trading standards offices (TSOs) which joined the fight against software piracy at the end of 1995 when they were given the statutory duty to look into copyright offences.
Indeed, for those managing directors and chief executives who thought FAST was a sickly, toothless dog still reeling from Microsoft?s decision to switch support to the Business Software Alliance, Webster has this hard-hitting message: ?A TSO could come through your front door without a search warrant right now and demand that in two days? time you demonstrate that your use of software complies with copyright laws. If you can?t, then your managing director will be hauled away.?
FAST estimates that 90 per cent of corporate UK is using illegal software, costing the industry a total of #400m. In theory, this means that nine out of 10 directors face prison sentences. Webster claims that such scaremongering is helping IT managers win their battle with the board for budgets that will ensure a clean bill of health.
Webster?s macho posturing leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth. FAST?s scaremongering is spearheaded by Stampede, a commission-only, sales and marketing operation which has orchestrated the organisation?s corporate awareness campaign since last July, and is believed to pocket #400 for each member it signs up.
It has already been caught overstepping the mark by using unauthorised DTI logos on FAST envelopes and letterheads. According to Stampede?s managing director Roger Woods, the company had bagged 360 new members by last Christmas, bringing in #1,000 a pop.
It is difficult to pin down FAST?s strategy. For a start, the TSOs have been empowered to bust businesses for well over a year, yet not one company has been successfully prosecuted.
The task is mammoth. FAST aims to ?mailshoot, phone and visit? each of the 12,000 targeted members this year. This would require an omnipresence that Stalin?s NKVD secret police would have been proud of. Even Webster is doubtful: ?It?s a lot of visits to do in 12 months.?
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