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Birmingham schools software piracy revisited

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No wonder Microsoft is keen to do something about UK schools ripping them off, if the experience of one Register reader is typical of what goes on.

The software giant is sending a guide to software theft to every head teacher in a bid to educate them on the issues involved.

A survey, carried out for Microsoft by the British Educational Suppliers Association, last week revealed that some 40 per cent of state schools in Birmingham are breaking the law by allowing teachers and pupils to copy software illegally.

Now, an ex-IT manager, who wishes to remain anonymous, from one of the city's largest secondary schools has filled in some of the details behind the claims.

About six years ago, in a school of over 1000 pupils, there were around 200 PCs, each with an estimated £500 worth of installed software including MS-DOS, Windows 3.1, MS Word, MS Works, Harvard Graphics, Lotus Freelance and AutoRoute.

"In total, the school had bought one copy of MS-DOS, one copy of Windows, one copy of Word and five copies of Works," the erstwhile IT Manager told The Register. "Harvard Graphics, Freelance and AutoRoute were copies that one of the senior teachers had been given by a friend.

"When a new machine was delivered, it was connected to an existing PC using Laplink to clone its hard disk. I sent the head teacher and senior staff memos pointing out that what they were doing was illegal and that they faced potential fines running to thousands of pounds.

"Eventually I became so disillusioned that I left and reported the school to FAST. The school ended up having to wipe every hard disk and pay for a legitimate copy of DOS and Works, which cost them around £20,000."

But despite being found out, the school is now reportedly up to the same old tricks again. An NT server with just 25 user licenses is currently supporting over 200 workstations, all of which were supplied to the school without software, but which are now mysteriously running Windows 98 and Office 2000.

Just fancy that! ®

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