Trading Standards officers will soon have powers to check companies' software licences without warning, the government has confirmed.
Trade and industry minister Malcolm Wicks said last week that from 6 April, new powers under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act will be at the disposal of Trading Standards, backed by £5m of funding.
The decision is in line with a key recommendation of the government-commissioned Gowers Review of Intellectual Property, and has been lobbied for by the Federation Against Software Theft (Fast) and other supplier-backed bodies.
Fast said that Trading Standards would now have a duty to investigate copyright offences, and could enter workplaces to inspect software licences with no warrants or prior notice needed.
Any successful civil action against a company may also result in damages greater than the subsequent cost of purchasing the correct number of licences, said Fast.
John Lovelock, director general of Fast, said, "Bringing into force Section 107A will make enforcement of copyright the responsibility of Trading Standards and, in theory, give enforcement officers the right to conduct a software inspection regime. It is time for organisations to get their software compliance with the law addressed."
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