Claranet faces action over 'unlicensed' software

The Business Software Alliance is taking legal action against Claranet and four other UK companies

Internet service provider Claranet is among five UK companies facing legal action from the Business Software Alliance over alleged use of unlicensed software. The Alliance said it has settled similar claims against another five organisations for more than £125,000.

Among the five companies facing legal action on Wednesday is games developer Climax Development. Debt management firm Baines & Ernst Financial Management, Hussmann Europe, a provider of refrigeration products, and Learoyd Packaging are also to be sued, said the BSA.

The BSA is backed by software firms including Adobe, Inprise, Lotus, Macromedia, Microsoft, Novell, Symantec and others. Earlier this year the BSA announced 88 legal actions across Europe, which resulted in the payment of about £800,000 in settlements. That action brought the organisation's total number of actions to 159 across 31 countries, resulting in payments of £4.2m. Wednesday's settlements will add to that total.

On Wednesday, Gloucester City Council settled for £12,000; Online Travel Corporation settled for £40,000; Bousfield Heatons, a manufacturer of printing chemicals, settled for £65,000; candle maker Price's Candles £9,500; and the Trafford Centre -- a leisure complex in Manchester -- settled for an undisclosed sum.

The BSA's remit is to stamp out unauthorised use of software, but the tactics that organisations like the BSA uses -- including the use of the term 'piracy' -- are unpopular in some quarters. Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, which developed the GNU Public Licence used by Linux and many other open source software products, has been highly critical of such organisations. "The term 'piracy' is for propaganda," Stallman told a conference on content ownership in Cambridge earlier this year. "They are trying to persuade people that copying software is the moral equivalent of attacking a ship."

Claranet said it was not aware of the impending legal action against it, and declined to comment further.

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