The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is offering £10,000 reward for information that helps catch companies guilty of using counterfeit software in the UK, the organisation said Thursday.
The Alliance claims that software piracy is rife among businesses in the UK and hopes that the 10k bounty will prompt employees to inform on crooked firms.
According to the BSA around one in every four pieces of software on a computer in the UK is illegal. In the UK alone last year, the BSA estimates that illegal copying and distribution costs the software industry £457m. "This is unacceptable as it not only hurts the software industry but also loses the country legitimate jobs and tax revenues," says Mike Newton, campaign manager for the BSA.
Software houses are also keen to see the illicit trade in software quashed. Microsoft, the world's largest software house, has launched a variety of initiatives to stamp out own software bootlegging. In the UK, it says it will replace illegitimate software with the genuine thing and has developed search technology to trawl for pirated copies of its wares online.
The problem of piracy is down to lax management, the BSA claims. "The problem begins when companies set the priority for software management and auditing very low," says Newton. Company directors and managers face stiff penalties if illegitimate software is found at their company. "It is the responsibility of company owners and directors who are liable for unlimited fines and prison sentences of up to two years when their organisation is caught using illegal software," says Newton.
The BSA has also pointed the finger at Internet auction sites in the UK in recent weeks, accusing them of not doing enough to stop users peddling pirated software.
In the run up to Thursday's announcement, the BSA conducted a survey asking respondents what would encourage them to inform on business software piracy. Over half answered that cash would be the biggest incentive. A hotline has been set up by the BSA for piracy informants and the BSA guarantees anonymity in its investigations.
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