UK firms face closure for software 'theft'

Businesses using unlicensed software could face the threat of closure as new powers for the police come into force

The UK police are to be given new powers to search and seize in the fight against illegal software use in British firms.

Companies abusing the terms of their licences or using illegally copied software now face the threat of closure, as the police, working with copyright owners and enforcement agencies, receive new powers under radical changes to the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act which come into force on 20 November 2002.

Paul Brennan, general counsel for the Federation Against Software Theft (Fast), said: "This action reinforces everything for which Fast stands -- and for us is the equivalent to a big stick with which to confront organisations that are flouting copyright law. It clearly demonstrates that using illegal software is a criminal issue, and an offence that will not be tolerated."

Firms which are found to be in breach of the terms of software licences risk losing their equipment as police exercise their rights to seize PCs and servers which are running illegal applications.

Brennan said: "With technology being an inherent part of daily life, businesses are under serious risk of closure if they lose access to it, by having computers removed. Culprits believing they can hide behind their business insurance are also in for a shock -- policies are likely to be invalid because these financial losses will have come about as a result of a criminal activity."

Robin Fry, intellectual property partner at city law firm Beachcroft Wansbroughs, said: "With the proliferation of CD-Rewriters, illegal copying has now moved from far Eastern factories to the home and to the office. Action against end-users will increasingly be the only way to break a widespread habit."

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