Monday, 12 March 2007

Warning on software

Shropshire company directors must ensure their computer software is legal or they could face court action.

Stuart Haynes, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said a third of all software installed in the UK was illegal, and directors could face having to take personal responsibility for the crime.

“If you’ve bought computer software, it would be easy to assume that you can do whatever you like with it,” said Stuart.

“But that’s just not the case – when you purchase software, the copyright will almost always belong to someone else and all you have actually bought is a licence to use it.”

Stuart said this agreement would contain restrictions about who could use the software and for what.

“If you do anything that goes beyond this, you’ll be breaching the copyright and guilty of software piracy.

“And the Business Software Alliance has made it very easy for you to get caught out, as they offer a reward of up to £20,000 for employees to tip them off about illegal use.”

Stuart said directors may not even realise they were breaking the terms of the licence agreement.

“Maybe you are using the software on more computers than the licence allows – if so, you could face criminal and civil action, and as a director you could receive a criminal record as well as being struck off if you ignore the situation.”

Companies should carry out an audit of all their equipment and what software is being used, and check the small print on any software licences the company holds.

“You should then draw up a software register so you know exactly what software you have and how you can use it – this way you should avoid being caught out in the future,” said Stuart.

“To protect yourself, steer clear of any software that seems very cheap, that may be badly packaged, or that comes from a supplier you don’t recognise – not only might it be illegal, but it may also damage your computer network.”