The Likely Victims of This Year's BSA raid: Internet Cafe's and Other Computer Rental Businesses
Do you run a business that involves any form of computer rental such as internet cafe, for-profit computer training center, and/or hotel that provides computers for the convenience of the guests? Do you live in a country like Taiwan where BSA (Business Software Alliance) does yearly raid to small and medium businesses with the help of your government because they are pressured by, or have some inconvenient relationship with BSA? My guess is that BSA will target this new group of software "pirates" -- yes even if they have already paid for the first layer of the Microsoft taxes. But there is a way -- maybe even a much more profitable way -- out if you are willing to try diskless computers + mother tongue bootable usb keys.
Recently Microsoft quietly made it legal for businesses to rent Windows and/or Office. See for example Preston Gralla's "Windows and Microsoft Office rental: Much less than meets the eye" or Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols's "Windows goes rental". An MS Windows/Office user would be naive to read this as a good news -- especially if s/he runs a business that rents computers but has never bothered to read MS EULA (specifically, point 5).
For according to the EULA, all internet cafe's are illegal businesses -- you hear it right -- even if you have already paid for the licenses for all copies of Windows and Offices on your computers. The very act of renting it to your customers violates the EULA. So the right way to interpret MS's recent move is that: after paying MS the first time for each and every copy of your software, you can now become a legal business once you pay the second layer of the MS taxes for the privilege of renting it to your customers. How nice and charitable! Big applauses and touching music for the generous Emperor, please!
Maybe this is a good time to try a new, intimidation-free, more ethical, and more profitable alternative for your business. I will address specifically to internet cafe owners, but other computer rental businesses may also find similar opportunities using the same technology. (See the "usb boot" tag for more applications.) Consider allocating a portion of your computers to serve foreign visitors instead of the local kids playing online games. Remove their harddisks so that they are as easy to manage as a TV -- no viruses, no software crashes, no upgrades, only "power on" and "power off". Put a sign "Mother Tongue Internet Cafe" outside your business and also mark it on google maps with this term. Sell your customer a linux bootable usb key preloaded with his/her language(s), make a good profit while giving your customer a home-welcoming experience that s/he never has had elsewhere. Ask a local Linux business for technical help and share your profits with them. Then decide for yourself: which part of your business makes more sense? The windows machines with the two layers of taxes that do nothing to save you from the constant crashes and virus attacks, or the zero-management diskless machines plus the highly profitable usb key sales? Oh, yes, it is a good thing to distribute free software for a fee.
If your government truly cares about anti-piracy and also about promoting local economical activities such as tourism and a local computer industry, you should definitely explain the ideas in this article and the "internet mother tongue" article to them, maybe with the help of a local LUG (Linux User Group). We all linux users are eager to see which country is the first to tout about its friendliness towards foreigner visitors in this respect.