The Business Software Alliance (BSA), a global advocate representing software companies including Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, McAfee, and Cisco, is calling on Australian businesses to renew their software licences for 2014 before they are slammed with a fine.
According to the BSA, software piracy settlements reached an all-time high in 2013, with 16 cases settled for damage payments because they were found to be using BSA members' software without licences. They were forced to pay a total of AU$536,060 in copyright infringement damages — a 20 percent increase in damages paid in 2012.
BSA Australia chair Clayton Noble said that while overall numbers of piracy in Australia have improved over the last few years, they are still considerably high, indicating that more work can be done to improve in 2014.
"Based on the BSA piracy rate reports, Australian piracy rates — while still high — have been falling over the last few years, and so assuming that trend continues, we are seeing a slowdown of software piracy rates over time," he said.
"Still more than one in five copies of software that are installed based on the studies we've done are pirated — that's greater than 20 percent, which is low compared to other nations, particularly in emerging markets where you see much higher piracy rate, but it is still a very high number."
Three out of the 16 cases in 2013 were nominated as BRW's Faster Starters. These companies were Deals.com.au, tkm9, and Thought World.
"Just because you're growing fast, don't cut corners and don't break the law," Noble warned tech startups.
"Compliance is important, especially for tech businesses; it's galling to see technology companies will use technology without paying for it, but they probably wouldn't like to see their own products not being paid for after all the development and research they've put into it."
The BSA found that companies in the architectural/design industry are the main culprits, accounting for nearly one third of all settlements in 2013, while the remainder spread across a variety of industries, including manufacturing, advertising, media, and sales/distribution. This is a change from the prior year, where the industry that was the most non-compliant was engineering.
On a state-by-state basis, BSA said Victoria is the state with the highest settlement numbers.
According to Noble, the BSA is often tipped off by individuals who are working for a company that is using unlicensed software. These individuals can receive up to AU$5,000 as a reward for their "substantial commitment" in providing information to the BSA, and, if cases are taken that far, for giving evidence in front of the court.
"I think what's led to the higher settlements that BSA achieved last year, relative to early years, is the growing profile of BSA in the market and the increasing awareness of BSA taking action against businesses that use unlicensed software," Noble said.
"We're finally getting more reports from people who know about businesses using unlicensed softwares and better-quality reports, which allow us to take action."
Noble encourages businesses to implement a sound Software Asset Management (SAM) practice and conduct regular checks to ensure that their businesses are not at risk of using unlicensed software.
"It's just not worth taking the risk of using software without licences. We encourage all businesses to keep in touch with what they've deployed in the system, and get in touch with the licensors. Just a good software maintenance practice can help them afford the pitfalls that some of these companies have fallen into," he said.