Trading Standards searches company for illegal software

Trading Standards officers in Cardiff have conducted their first random search of a business in the city...

Trading Standards officers in Cardiff have conducted their first random search of a business in the city under new copyright powers to stamp out illegal use of software.

Officers conducted a full forensic inspection of all the company's software, Trading Standards said, but revealed no details of the company involved or outcome of the search.

Business organisations were alarmed last year when the government gave Trading Standards the power to enter workplaces without a warrant or prior notice.

Trading Standards is also empowered to carry out criminal investigations and hand over offenders to the authorities for prosecution.

Critics have denounced the involvement of Trading Standards as misuse of public funds.

They said the agency should be protecting consumers from dangerous or fraudulent goods instead of protecting the interests of software companies.

Trading Standards said the agency is charged with protecting consumers and businesses, which includes protecting their intellectual property rights.

The first search by Trading Standards comes after a joint education programme in Cardiff with the Federation Against Software Theft and Investors in Software (FAST IiS).

Dave Holland of Cardiff Trading Standards said the agency was working with FAST IiS to enforce copyright law and plan a programme of advice for local businesses.

"We want to help business meet legal requirements and remain competitive, but any business flagrantly breaking the law will be brought to account," he said.

In the same week as the Trading Standards search, the Business Software Alliance (BSA) announced it had caught three UK companies using unlicensed software.

The BSA, a government-backed organisation funded by software makers, said it had reached settlements of more than £35,000 with the firms.

They were identified as GI Hadfield & Son in Droylsden, Street CraneXpress in Sheffield, and Atlas Management Corporation in London.

Software piracy, estimated at 26% in the UK, exposes businesses to financial and legal risks as well as operational failure and data loss, the BSA said.

Read more on Operating systems software