Businesses that allow workers to download pirate MP3 tracks in the office are at risk of costly lawsuits from a recording-industry crackdown.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is threatening to sue individual surfers who download content illegally using file-sharing services such as KaZaA.
As a result, analyst firm Gartner is warning companies to implement and enforce stricter Internet usage policies to avoid being sued for the actions of employees who download pirated music content in the office.
In an advisory note on its website Gartner said: "If a company is found to be liable for copyright infringement for allowing its employees to use the corporate network to illegally download music, it could face serious legal repercussions -- potentially as much as $150,000 per pirated song plus legal costs."
The RIAA is backed by a recent US court ruling that allows it to force ISPs to reveal the details of any IP addresses believed to belong to users of file-sharing services.
In addition to HR policies governing employee Internet use, businesses should have network security measures to identify and prevent file-sharing, such as peer-to-peer blocking software, according to Gartner.
Other compelling reasons for clamping down on staff abuse of Internet use are the demands it places on network bandwidth and the need to reduce lost employee time and productivity, the analyst house said.