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The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) is stepping up its attempts to educate those users that are unitentionally using illegal software.
The industry lobby group has reported an ongoing increase in the number of users choosing to use its whistleblowing service to report those failing to pay for software licenses.
But some of those falling foul of the law are unaware of the legal issues and are being encouraged by FAST to get on top of things.
“Many software products have strict licensing rules attached to them, and there are many unscrupulous people out there looking to make an easy dollar through distributing unlicensed or counterfeit software," said Julian Heathcote Hobbins, general counsel at FAST.
"It can therefore be easy for business people to slip up and find themselves using software that isn’t licensed correctly or isn’t genuine – especially when it is common for them to download software directly from a variety of internet sources. This makes it far easier for a business to buy in error even if well intentioned but this has a very tangible effect on the creators of the software programs, especially SMEs," he added.
The channel and vendors suffer when users choose to use illegal software because it depreives the industry of revenue and the opportunity to service those products.
The hope is that by drawing up a list of tips to help identify illegal software the number of those users that have inadvertently strayed onto the wrong side of the law will correct their mistakes.
"For those who don’t have an understanding of the complexities of software pricing, it can be very difficult to tell when software is not genuine – and some might not even be conscious of unauthorised software as an issue," added Heathcote Hobbins.
Tips on staying legal
• Counterfeit software is distributed from unapproved websites. Check how the product is normally sold.
• Check with the software publisher which channels they sell their products through. They will usually indicate who their resellers are.
• Check if the relevant product or product editions can only be purchased via a Corporate or Volume Agreements – this means that they have to be sold in certain quantities.
• A price that seems too good to be true can be a key indicator that software is being sold illegally, and is always worth investigating further.
• Take great care when buying second-hand PCs to check the authenticity of any pre-installed software it comes with.
• When in doubt contact a mainstream software company or reseller for advice, especially when you are buying larger quantities.