Department store House of Fraser is among three companies to have settled with the Business Software Alliance for using illegal software.
Euro Car Parts paid £7,500 and Internet media company Prominent Pages paid £20,000, both for illegal use of Microsoft software, the BSA said on Tuesday. The House of Fraser, which had been using unlicensed copies of Macromedia software, settled for an undisclosed amount.
Mike Newton, campaign relations manager at the BSA, said House of Fraser had been found to be using a significant amount of illegal software. "It was not just the odd package that was unlicensed," he said.
Newton said that use of unlicensed software in UK companies is still rife, despite a concerted effort to publicise the problem. "In many cases it is organisations who are not aware they are breaking the law and are just loose in the way they handle their software," he said.
"It is often companies that do not have a good handle on what software is in use within their organisation and then to their horror find that someone has reported them," said Newton.
Companies are often reported by IT professionals who feel compromised by having to work with illegal software, said Newton. "One person who contacted us had gone along to an ad agency with a portfolio of work, and a couple of months later saw one of his adverts in a paper -- he had been ripped off by the agency and later found out that they were ripping off software too, so he reported them to us," he said.
Newton stressed that BSA was not all about trying to catch companies out. "We try to help them too," he said. "We have recently sent out 11,000 letters to companies who have participated in audits before -- we give companies a gentle reminder." Companies can download free audit software called Gasp from the BSA Web site.