IDC estimates 27 per cent of software used in businesses is illegal. I urge businesses to stay safe from software misuse by insisting they monitor their software usage closely. As Trading Standards is becoming more stringent in investigating organisations’ suspected illegal activity, companies need to reduce illegal software use by educating themselves on software management and best practices in IT management.

It has become commonplace for businesses to often unintentionally break piracy laws by not paying attention to software licensing. To clarify, if a software application doesn’t have a licence, or if the licence only entitles its use for an individual machine but it is being installed on various computers, then it is illegally installed. According to section 107A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, Trading Standards has the duty and the power to prosecute copyright offences and this could mean inspecting UK workplaces to check compliance after a whistleblower complaint.

Businesses will not benefit from cutting corners when it comes to software compliance. Remember that also viruses, spyware and trojans are a few nasty knock-on effects of using pirated software. Aside from a hefty fine and possible imprisonment for criminal offences by directors knowingly allowing illegal use, an organisation can lose its reputation if it is exposed by the media or FAST for illegal activity. Trading Standards are forewarning businesses to check their licences are in order before any inspection.

Rob Abell, Fair Trading Officer at Trading Standards, says some companies have already been caught using software illegally and they have been fully investigated. “Every year Britain’s digital economy is largely affected by piracy and illegitimate software use: future investment, innovation and people’s jobs are at stake. We want a level playing field for those businesses that are meeting their legal requirements. With the support of FAST we are now looking to do more work in the arena of software theft in the workplace, to minimise the chances of the bad trend continuing, as well as helping and supporting those businesses trying to trade legally and remain competitive in the current economic climate.”

I cannot emphasise enough how vital it is for businesses to monitor their software licences.