The Bill aims to impose tougher penalties for those companies caught using illegal software – whether they are aware of the infringement or not. It will raise the maximum sentence from two years to 10 and apply unlimited fines for copyright infringement.
Euan Robertson, IT manager at media company Feather Brooksbank, was sceptical about the Bill’s validity.
‘It’s quite onerous,’ he said. ‘We might have a research tool on a user’s PC but put it on another for demonstration purposes only – that is technically a breach.
‘The Bill is more likely to put people’s backs up,’ he added. ‘When the industry says x billion pounds are lost to copyright, that’s not really the case. The figures are inflated.’
A Microsoft spokeswoman told IT departments to buy their software only from reputable sources and said that ignorance was no excuse. ‘Businesses, knowingly or unknowingly, using illegal software are legally exposed and could face prosecution,’ she said.
Rob Carolina, partner at law firm Tarlo Lyons, said it was rare for network managers to knowingly violate copyright law. ‘Innocent infringement is more common. It sounds like more of a civil liability issue.’
‘Malicious intent must be proved if you’re going to stick someone in jail,’ he said, ‘although a lawsuit could be brought.’
Carolina added that, for network managers, it was a question of due diligence.
‘It’s impossible for every company to have every single piece of software licensed. Regular software audits are important, and network managers have an obligation to their company to do everything practical to ensure all software is licensed.’
Graham Arthur, legal counsel for the Business Software Alliance, said the Bill was more symbolic. ‘It heightens the profile and makes copyright infringement an arrestable offence.’
He added that network managers didn’t have a valid excuse for breaching software licences, because detecting them was simple. There are products which make checking installations easy.
Andrew Miller, MP for Ellesmore Port, who campaigned for the Bill, said criminals were not being targeted hard enough and the legislation will give network managers a warning shot.
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