US Report: White House orders crackdown on software piracy

The White House ordered federal agencies to purge their networks of pirated software Thursday -- and urged other governments to follow its lead. "Today we are declaring war on software piracy," Vice President Al Gore said in a statement on the order.

The White House ordered federal agencies to purge their networks of pirated software Thursday -- and urged other governments to follow its lead. "Today we are declaring war on software piracy," Vice President Al Gore said in a statement on the order. "At home or abroad, intellectual property must be protected."

The order calls for an inventory of software being used in government agencies and departments, and authorises the development of a new record-keeping system to help the agencies ensure they are only deploying licensed software. It also calls for U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky to encourage foreign governments to take similar audits of software on government systems.

The move was praised by the Business Software Alliance and software vendors, including Novell and Autodesk -- who said it is vital for governments to set an example for corporate and individual software users. "The signing of the executive order is great news for the American people and signifies the administration's commitment to promoting legal software -- the engine that drives the growth of the software industry" which created some 600,000 new jobs last year, BSA President Robert Holleyman said in a statement.

With federal agencies among the largest users of software, a renewed effort to stamp out piracy among them will improve the economic outlook for the software industry, Holleyman said. A 1997 BSA study estimated that some 40 percent of new software installed in businesses worldwide is unlicensed.

The U.S. government is the world's largest purchaser of computer products and services, spending more than $20bn (£12bn) a year, Gore said in a statement. The economic impact of software piracy worldwide was $11bn (£7bn) in 1997, costing 130,000 American jobs, according to the White House. The BSA said U.S. companies lost $2.7bn (£1.64bn) last year from the use of pirated software.

Eric Schmidt, chief executive officer of Novell, said in a statement that the move "underscores U.S. global leadership in information technology." Autodesk Chief Executive Officer Carol Bartz said in a statement that the order "creates a global model for curbing software theft."

Also Thursday, the White House announced the creation of 79 new Advanced Technology Program grants from the Department of Commerce. The grants, worth $82m (£50m), are earmarked for federal research into computer-based training, digital video technology, and diagnostic medical testing, White House officials said.