The big-name software vendors are enlisting the help of the VAT-man in the war against pirate software.
The Business Software Alliance (BSA) has said it wants those dealers found guilty of piracy to be pursued for other offences they may have committed as well, such as non-disclosure of VAT.
With fines for those convicted of selling pirate software averaging u2,000 to u3,000, the BSA hopes the threat of prosecution by HM Customs and Excise will make dealers realise how seriously the matter is now being taken.
Chairwoman of BSA UK, Yvonne McLean, said: 'Historically, fines haven't been at a level where they act as a significant deterrent. Penalties enforced by Customs and Excise will be much stiffer and will make a real impact.
We will be publishing the names of dealers that are prosecuted.'
McLean, who is also Microsoft UK's corporate lawyer, announced the new approach at the launch of the BSA's dealer kit. The kit is part of a plan to establish a network of dealers that will publicly commit to stamping out the black market in software.
A Customs and Excise representative said that recent changes in European law had made it possible for the department to involve itself in such cases. 'It is likely that someone selling counterfeit products will not be shy about breaking other laws too.
'We are perfectly able to pursue people for selling goods and not paying VAT, as happened with someone convicted of selling counterfeit perfume.
The bill for unpaid VAT in that case ran to millions of pounds.'
Latest available figures, based on 1994 findings, estimate 58 per cent of all business software in Europe is pirate, which costs software vendors about $6 billion.
The BSA's dealer kit contains a code of ethics, booklets for users explaining why they benefit from genuine software and advice on how to detect pirate goods.
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