Nearly a third of UK small businesses admitted to knowingly using unlicensed software in a recent survey commissioned by anti-piracy body the Business Software Alliance (BSA).
Some 30 per cent of the 250 SMBs questioned in the study conceded they had installed software on more PCs than their licence agreement allowed, or had used the wrong kind of licence for their organisation.
Growing businesses are particularly likely to be infringing the law through software mismanagement, found the study – which was conducted by Vanson Bourne in December. Nearly two in five (39 per cent) said they often allocate additional PCs and software to staff before stumping up for additional licences.
Businesses engaging in M&A activity are also susceptible, with nearly half admitting they had not carried out a software audit on organisations they had acquired, the research found.
Companies looking to cut costs through copyright infringement may be engaging in false economy, the BSA warned, stressing that it regularly takes action against companies for unlicensed software use.
This appears to somewhat fly in the face of the BSA's complaint last summer that software piracy in the UK is currently risk free because – unlike other countries – it is possible for software infringers to buy a licence for software after an infringement has been discovered and avoid the payment of a penalty.
However, Michala Wardell, UK committee chairwoman at the BSA, maintained that it makes sense for SMBs to get their houses in order before it comes knocking.
"It is shocking that almost a third of small businesses are infringing the Copyright Act when it comes to managing their software," she said. "And simply bewildering that many of these businesses do not change their software management practices until they face a legal challenge. Given the costs involved, you would think the job of sorting out software licences would be a priority from the word 'go'."
According to the most recent joint BSA and IDC annual piracy study, the UK's software piracy rate fell one per cent in 2011 to 26 per cent, meaning that more than one in four programs users installed were unlicensed. The commercial value of this piracy was £1.2bn, the BSA said.
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