Software piracy a low priority for UK firms

UK companies are still not taking software piracy seriously and the move to electronic software distribution is likely to make the situation even worse, according to a recent survey.

Software vendors including giants such as Microsoft and Novell plan to make their software downloadable from the web. But anti-piracy campaigners warn that this will make piracy easier because proving ownership of software will be more difficult than if the customer owns a physical product.

According to the results of a survey of 1900 software managers conducted last month by the Federation Against Software Theft (Fast) and UK consultant KPMG, only 21 per cent of respondents said that their organisations had a board member responsible for the management of the software licencing – a drop of nine per cent from last year. In addition, 38 per cent did not have a written licensing policy.

The survey also revealed that more than half of all respondents (56 per cent) would find it difficult to prove ownership of all their software, but 61 per cent feel that the legal risk to their organisation of non-compliance is high.

Sixty per cent said buying software by downloading it would make licence management more difficult.

Martin Smith, European anti-piracy manager at Novell, said that although awareness of the need for correct software licences has improved, the increase in electronic delivery could be a major headache for IT managers.

‘Many companies now have policies to stop their employees bringing in discs and CDs to stop the use of illegally copied software, but now most employees have been given internet access and have no policies to stop them downloading software over the Net,’ he said.

‘In addition, although at the moment it is easy to tell if software being sold over the internet is legal, despite the purchase being on the web, the software still arrives in the traditional form – in a box. But with electronic delivery it will be very difficult to determine who is a legitimate supplier,’ he added.

Smith advised companies to use known suppliers when buying software via the internet.

He said software piracy currently costs Novell between $150m and $200m in Europe every year.

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