Feeds

Fine unlicensed software users, says BSA

Lobby calls for 'harder enforcement stick'

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Software industry lobby group the Business Software Alliance (BSA) has called for government to mandate stiff penalties for companies using unlicensed software.

The organisation says it wants a "harder enforcement stick" to ensure compliance.

The group, which represents many major software publishers, says the current legal regime is no disincentive to illegal users since those operating without licence cannot be penalised in the civil courts. It wants a punitive fine to be added to the cost of the purchase of a licence for infringing products, said the body's counsel, Graham Arthur.

"When we get in touch with a company about software they don't have a licence for we end up in a scrap because they go out and buy the licences and say that that is the case settled," said Arthur. "With a few wrinkles, that is more or less true. Judges in the UK court can't impose punitive damages, except in certain specific cases.

"What would be useful would be a damages provision like the one in Ireland which says that the judge can award whatever he feels like, taking into account the circumstances and what is fair," said Arthur. "We are certainly at the weak end of enforcement and to change behaviour we need a harder enforcement stick."

Currently, any company which uses software without a licence and is caught has to pay the licence fee that it ought to have paid in the first place, though there are much tougher penalties for counterfeiters actually trading in unlicensed software.

The body was not looking for the kind of punitive damages found elsewhere which charge double the retail price of software in damages, said Arthur, but the lack of a penalty for infringement was a major factor in bolstering the UK's piracy figures. "As much as anything that contributes to high rates of piracy in the UK," he said.

Arthur also said the BSA wanted the government to take more action to educate the market on software licences. "You do hear from the government that they are very supportive of intellectual property rights, but that doesn't mean anything unless something is done," he said.

The BSA earlier this year said around 80 per cent of the infringement cases it comes across are down to negligence and not to malice, and said that many firms neglected to keep software up to date in times of rapid growth. Arthur suggested that these firms need to hear from the government that they must ensure that their software licences are up to date.

The government last year asked former Financial Times editor Andrew Gowers to conduct a review of intellectual property and policy, and Arthur said the BSA had made its views clear to that review.

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Reducing security risks from open source software

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Airbus promises Wi-Fi – yay – and 3D movies (meh) in new A330
If the person in front reclines their seat, this could get interesting
UK Parliament rubber-stamps EMERGENCY data grab 'n' keep bill
Just 49 MPs oppose Drip's rushed timetable
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
Samsung threatens to cut ties with supplier over child labour allegations
Vows to uphold 'zero tolerance' policy on underage workers
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.