The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is trumpeting a $2 million payment from 19 US companies that it found had been using pirated software.

The piracy crusaders named each company and announced the terms each company had agreed to, including: deleting any unlicensed copies of programs; purchasing any needed replacements; and strengthening software management practices.

"We hope that these announcements will encourage other businesses to re-examine and update, if necessary, their software management systems," Jenny Blank, director of enforcement at the BSA. "Businesses should be certain that using fully licensed software is part of their corporate responsibility checklist."

Software piracy is illegal, and companies can be fined up to $150,000 for each software title copied, the BSA said. Blank said most investigations begin with a call to BSA's hotline or with an online report to the BSA by a company's current or former workers. "Once we have that information, we review it and assess it to make sure it's something we should act on," Blank said. "Then we contact those companies generally through our attorneys and invite them to co-operate with us by doing a self-audit, as opposed to being involved in a court lawsuit."

The companies involved settled with the BSA "because it made sense to find an amicable resolution rather than go to court," Blank said.

Despite the BSA's heavy-handed approach and often inaccurate claims about its powers and piracy laws, the organisation has still yet to make headway into the multi-billion-dollar software piracy market, especially in the Far East where the comparative cost of software licences has caused an enormous black market.

Ironically, the main reduction in software piracy has come about through the increasing adoption of open-source software.