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Whatever the size of your business it is vital that you purchase
the correct number of legitimate licenses to cover all the business
software and workstations you use for your trading and administrative
A recent spate of successful legal actions brought by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) the
legal global advocate against piracy, reveals how costly this can be if
you are found guilty of piracy. Not only will you have to pay a hefty
fine of anything between £320 – £64,000 for each pirated
program you possess; restitution could cost you thousands of pounds as
you will also have to invest in the additional cost of buying the
legitimate licenses you need to continue in business.
The risk of being ‘found out’ has increased considerably as
disgruntled employees become ‘whistleblowers’ and ‘shop’ their current
or former employers by means of the BSA website.
The website enables anyone to file a confidential report of any
incident of business software privacy, safe in the knowledge that they
will remain anonymous. A report can easily be filed by an employee, a
competitor or anyone who holds a grudge.
to see just how easy it is to do. Your business geographical location
is irrelevant; the BSA can take action globally as firms in the UK have
found to their cost.
The BSA doubled its take in 2010 on the previous year, netting a
cool £2.2 million from ‘negligent’ UK businesses. The organisation,
backed by major IT companies such as Microsoft and Apple, said its
enforcement efforts are being aided during the current economic crisis
by staff unhappy about job cuts, impending redundancy or unsatisfactory
working hours who are willing to report the lax licensing regimes of
their companies. In a crackdown in businesses in Reading in April 2012
the BSA provided a further incentive for cash strapped employees by
doubling its Whistle Blower reward to £20,000!
“Companies throughout the UK continue to be negligent when it comes to software licensing,” the
BSA recently said in a statement, citing as examples an English design
company, a Scottish travel company and a Northern Irish medical company.
Those companies paid out £24,000, £10,000 and £12,000 respectively in
settlement costs and new license fees.
A local case study illustrates how serious the financial costs can be:
2011 System Labelling Limited, (a specialist label-making firm based
near Chester in Flintshire, North Wales), paid out over £24,800,
including settlement fees and the cost of purchasing software licenses,
because it was found to be using unlicensed Microsoft Office software.
The case came to light after a Whistle Blower recommended that the
business should be investigated by the BSA. In this instance the
whistle-blower received financial compensation for informing the
Small businesses are seen as soft targets by cyber criminals. The
incidence of attacks against Western European and US small businesses
and the theft of valuable business data is increasing at an alarming
rate. Why? Because cyber criminals know that small businesses take short
cuts with their software licenses and they don’t have the resources to
ensure their internet security is water tight. It’s a fact – you will
increase your business exposure to that risk by installing pirated
software that contains malware, viruses and other malicious software
that can jeopardize your work-stations and hijack valuable sensitive
On May 15th 2012 the BSA issued a report
stating that over a quarter of computer users in UK admit they pirate
software – meaning more than one in four programs that users installed
were unlicensed. Given the persistence of Intellectual Property(IP)
right infringement in the UK, the BSA is calling for a stronger damages
law, including double damages, to clamp down on illegal software use.
This would provide a greater deterrent than the existing law, under
which damages equivalent to the cost of the software license are
If you are at all concerned about your business software licensing,
there are a number of sources that can be contacted for help.
Publishers and software suppliers should be the first port of call to
answer any questions regarding your licensing.
To ensure that you are not caught as an ‘accidental pirate’ the BSA have produced a number tools and resources in the form of .pdf Guides to walk you through the essential steps you need to take for compliance.
Further information and software compliance tools are available from the BSA Website Tools and Resources.