Last year saw a 25% increase in the number of UK companies settling with the Business Software Alliance (BSA) for illegal software use and IT organisations produced the highest number of offenders.
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The BSA also said it opened over 420 investigations during 2005 into UK businesses suspected of using software illegally, an increase of 24% compared to 2004.
The BSA said it believed the strength of the economy was a key contributor to the rise in settlements, as business managers often overlook their software licensing during periods of rapid growth.
The organisation said 80% of settlement cases in 2005 were a result of negligence, not deliberate illegal use.
Siobhan Carroll, BSA Northern Europe regional manager, said, “While business managers may be getting distracted by busy schedules, we are seeing an increase in respect for intellectual property, as employees become more aware of piracy and it’s detrimental impact.
“As a result, we received a record number of leads from informants during the year,” she said. The largest settlement in 2005 was for £31,000 and there were eight settlements in excess of £20,000.
The majority of reported companies were from the IT sector (15%), with the next highest offenders being in sales and distribution industry (8%). The sectors with the least reported cases of software misuse were accountancy and medical (1%).
“While it may seem ironic that the IT sector appears to be the greatest offender when it comes to the illegal use of software, it is perhaps unsurprising that IT staff are the most aware of software licensing issues and the potential reward for informing the BSA,” said Carroll.