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The computer industry's software police are clamping down on the illegal use of counterfeit software as part of a major new offensive targeted at the UK's 80,000 small businesses. Yes, the Business Software Alliance (BSA) has launched another crackdown campaign – Crackdown 99. With more than half of all software in use by small businesses in the UK believed to be illegal, anyone receiving a letter from the BSA should take the gentle reminder seriously. Last year, the BSA took action against 292 organisations -- an increase in of 34 per cent on 1997. Any company found guilty of using pirated software risks unlimited fines, or the directors could face up to two years’ imprisonment. Either way, being publicly humiliated by the BSA breeds nothing but damaging publicity. In November last year, AOL UK became one of the latest high profile companies to be outed by the BSA. See previous story: Software piracy police bust AOL UK. Other IT-related companies named and shamed by the BSA last year include London-based IT recruitment agency Computer People and Basingstoke-based software reseller CD Revolution. "Small businesses should not underestimate the dangers of using illegal software -- both to themselves and the economy as a whole," said Mike Newton, campaign relations manager for BSA UK speaking at the launch of BSA Crackdown 99. "Buying cheap, pirated software may seem an attractive option -- particularly when you’ve got other economic pressures on your mind -- but in the long run, quite apart from it being a crime, it can be a very expensive risk to take." ®

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