There have ben various ways that those using illegal software have been caught but one of the most popular is now as a result of whistleblowers.
In the past Trading Standards and bodies like the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) and the Business Software Alliance (BSA) have used the law to go into firms to see what is being used.
There were also other efforts being made by some of the large vendors, with Microsoft particularly active, to also crack down on those users and resellers that decided to cut corners and use and sell unlicensed products.
The concept of whistleblowing has taken some time to take off after first emerging as a tactic to help prevent software piracy at the turn of the decade with laws on the books to help protect those who called out bad practices.
Fast forward to last year and that situation has changed according to the latest numbers from the BSA, which indicated there was a 50% increase in the number of people whistleblowing between 2013 and 2014.
With more employees prepared to report their bosses for using unlicensed products the pressure is mounting on businesses to make sure they are paying their way.
The BSA is taking its message about the need to keep on top of a software estate out to firms in the Capital with 7,000 SMEs being contacted across London as part of its Fact or Fiction campaign.
The campaign will go through the risks of using unlicensed software as well as the benefits of keeping on top of the applications used. Late last year a similar effort targeting businesses in a specific geography was carried out by the BSA in Manchester.
That time the Fair Play campaign targeted around 11,000 firms about the need to make sure they are on the right side of the law over and provided them with an online portal to work out if their licenses were all in order.
Based on where the BSA has encountered users of unlicensed software in the past the markets being targeted for education in the London campaign include financial, professional service and creative industries.
“The facts don’t lie – using unlicensed software is risky,” said Warren Weertman, senior counsel – EMEA, BSA|The Software Alliance.
“Twenty-four percent of software used in the UK is without a licence. And yet a recent study showed a clear correlation between unlicensed software use and malware, suggesting that many organisations are opening themselves up to cybersecurity risks. Plus, with more employees prepared to shop their bosses, the risk of paying damages for using unlicensed software is increasing too," he added.
The threat of paying damages is a very real one with the BSA regularly providing updates of examples of firms that have had to shell out thousands to get themselves back on the right side of the law. Increasingly some of those are the result of whistleblowers.
Fact and fiction
The BSA Fact or Fiction campaign is sharing some key stats with London firms, here are just a few:
In the UK, 24 % of installed business software is used unlawfully
42 % of employees don’t know if there is a policy in place regarding the use of unlicensed software within their organization
Businesses that use licensed software are on average 19 % more profitable than companies that use unlicensed software.
One in three copied software packages has malware in it.
There is a strong correlation between unlicensed software and malware.
“Many organisations don’t use unlicensed software intentionally. They just aren’t aware of the risks and don’t know whether their software is properly licensed.” said Weertman.
“Furthermore, many companies don’t have appropriate software asset management tools and processes in place. Our Fact or Fiction campaign aims to help demystify the issue and provide the tools and knowledge to help companies establish their licensing position and avoid the legal and financial risks," he added.
One of the examples highlighted by the BSA was the case a year ago of engineering design company Project Options, which was forced to pay £16,000 in a settlement and then a further £17,500 to purchase new licenses after it was found to be using unlicensed Autodesk software.
In themost recent survey of the state of software piracy in the UK the BSA found that the level of illegal products was at a level of 24%, which was an improvement on the previous year with a drop of three points and a saving to the industry of around £1.2bn in revenue that would have been lost to the pirates.