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BSA UK catches unlicensed quartet

Industry software body takes legal action against four manufacturing companies
Written by Kayleigh Bateman

Anti-piracy body The Business Software Alliance (BSA) has launched legal action against four manufacturing firms.

As part of its ongoing crackdown on unlicensed software use, the BSA has agreed settlements of more than £50,000, which does not include any legal costs incurred and reputational damage.

According to the BSA, in each case there was a shortfall between the software on the company’s computers and the licences produced.

The companies were Samuel Bruce Limited, J Tools Limited, Garran Lockers Limited and International Automotive Components Group Limited (IAC). Samuel Bruce Limited, a dealer and manufacturer of office products, agreed to a £20,000 settlement to reflect unlicensed use of Adobe, Autodesk and Microsoft software on an estimated 50 computers. The company also purchased about £8,000-worth of software to become legal.

Coventry-based J Tools Limited paid £7,000 in settlement fees for using unlicensed Autodesk and Microsoft software on about 20 computers. The company also bought an additional £10,000-worth of software licences.

Caerphilly-based Garran Lockers Limited was caught using unlicensed copies of Microsoft software on about 25 computers. As a result, the company had to pay £5,000 in settlement costs and new licences. The firm attributed the shortfall in licences to an under-performing director who has since left the company.

Julian Swan, director for compliance marketing EMEA BSA, said: "In the manufacturing sector, ensuring orders are completed on time and within budget is vital. If unlicensed software is used, companies do not have access to the same support services as legal versions, which can result in downtime and major delays, affecting profitability and the ability to deliver.

"In an industry where competition is fierce and reputation is paramount, businesses should not risk jeopardising their future by trying to cut corners – perceived cost savings from using unlicensed software is just an illusion."

International Automotive Components Group Limited (IAC), a manufacturer of car parts, was found to be using unlicensed Microsoft server software at one of the sites it acquired in early 2008.

Swan added: "The IAC case demonstrates the importance of showing due diligence and auditing software assets when purchasing or transitioning to new sites. The same principle applies to mergers and acquisitions; it is very common for companies to overlook the legality of their inherited software estate. Mistakes tend to happen when the management consider software compliance as just an IT problem.

"They do not realise that on a larger scale, failure to manage their software properly could expose the company to legal redress, not to mention operational failure as a result of running unlicensed and unprotected software."

The BSA said Samuel Bruce, J Tools Limited, Garran Lockers and International Automotive Components Group Limited were all co-operative throughout the investigations.

Matt Fisher, director of Centennial products at FrontRange Solutions, said: "The BSA is right to point out the 'reputational damage' which goes hand in hand with the financial penalty, as businesses cannot afford to lose the trust of consumers and partners in the current economic climate.

"With tools to facilitate software asset management readily available and simple to implement, there really is no excuse for any organisation to be found under-licensed, and all businesses should take heed of those being punished for non-compliance."

reader comments

UK businesses certainly do need wake-up call regarding software asset management

From the powers accorded to the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) to the importance of ISO 19770 software asset management standards, the stakes have recently been raised extremely high. Yet many organisations still fail to recognise that poor software licensing policies within the IT department could result in up to a 10 year jail term for company directors - not the IT team supposedly in charge of the software asset.

Organisations cannot afford to rely on piecemeal policies and inadequate asset information. It is only by instigating rigorous asset acquisition and disposal policies and recording detailed information about the software loaded onto every machine, including its serial number, that any company can attain real control over the software asset.

With this information to hand, organisations can immediately check for unlicensed software and manage user numbers against agreed licenses. If a machine is scrapped, rigorously updating the asset register will ensure that software can be reloaded on another machine, if the license allows. Furthermore, using alerts, an IT manager can be warned if user levels are reaching the license limit.

Inaccurate software asset registers are becoming a corporate liability. And, given the growing penalties facing senior managers across the UK, inaccurate software asset information is a board level issue.

Posted by: Karen Conneely, 28 Aug 2009

First published August 17, 2009

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