Scottish council pays up for Microsoft licence breach

Clackmannanshire Council was forced to pay up after being found to be in breach of its Microsoft Select licensing agreement

A Scottish council has been compelled to pay the British Software Alliance (BSA) an undisclosed sum of money after 470 illegal copies of Microsoft Office 97 were discovered within its offices.

Clackmannanshire Council was found to be in breach of its Select contract with Microsoft, which allowed it purchase software licences at reduced prices, when it was exposed for buying 470 illegal licence agreements at a further discounted price. The loose end-user licences were deemed invalid by Microsoft, as they had been sold separately from the software package.

"This is a classic case of the deal being too good to be true and proves that local councils are not immune to unscrupulous vendors," said Mike Newton, programme manager for the BSA. "Local councils should be setting a good example, operating within the law, and should be vigilant when buying software."

On Microsoft's request, the BSA opened an investigation on Clackmannanshire Council early last year. The council refused to cooperate with the either Microsoft or the BSA, and so legal proceedings were opened on 19 March, 2001. It was agreed on 10 January, in an out-of-court settlement, that the Scottish council should rectify the situation by paying Microsoft. Neither party has disclosed the amount.

"In instances such as this one where organisations find that they possess illegal software, it is imperative that they don't bury their heads in the sand," said Newton.

Independent research estimates that one in four pieces of software used by UK businesses is illegal. The BSA is currently investigating 500 companies across the UK for suspected under-licensing, six of which are government organisations.

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