Anti-software piracy organiation the Business Software Alliance (BSA) has used its latest survey figures to justify its strong approach to UK software piracy and call for tougher legislation.
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BSA's figures show the first increase in the amount of illegal business software used in the UK since the annual global survey began in 1994 - up 1% from 25% in 2001 to 26% in 2002.
However, that figure of 26% for the UK is still a far cry from the 42% recorded in 1994 and in Western Europe is only bettered by Finland and Denmark. The overall piracy rate in Western Europe is 35%.
Richard Saunders, former head of the BSA and member of the UK committee, readily admitted the 1% rise "doesn’t have any huge significance".
"The eight-year trend for the UK is still very much down," said Saunders. "But that still means that for every three pieces of software people buy, someone steals one."
The BSA, which represents software suppliers such as Adobe, Apple and Microsoft, urged EU legislators to take a "zero tolerance" approach to software copyright issues. It also reminded users that non-compliance could result in reputational damage - not to mention the ignominy of being named and shamed by the BSA having been forced to cough up large fines.
However, Saunders claimed the BSA favours education over enforcement. "It’s a complete misconception that anyone who comes to us and asks for help is going to be sued," he said.
The BSA put the slight increase in the UK figures down to tighter IT budgets - with IT departments scrimping on licensing to cut costs - and the ease of distributing illegal software over the internet using broadband.
Saunders said the BSA had discovered 55,000 pirated pieces of software worldwide since January and issued 1,600 "takedown notices" to ISPs.
Saunders also claimed there was "a certain amount of complacency" among UK organisations and a tendency towards poor software asset management.
The study, conducted by the International Planning and Research Corporation (IPR), was based on sales data and market information for 26 business software applications in six major world regions.