BSA Brands Birmingham A ‘Piracy Hotspot’

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Two thirds of workers are prepared to inform on their bosses, as BSA swoops on Birmingham

The Business Software Alliance (BSA), has called Birmingham “an illegal software hotspot,” and given it three months to clean up its act.

Birmingham is the source of 15 percent of piracy reports in the UK says BSA, which campaigns against piracy on behalf of the commercial software industry and has started a three month campaign to stamp out software piracy in the city.

Birmingham, capital of piracy?

The description of Birmingham as an “illegal software hotspot” might raise some local hackles, as BSA’s evidence actually suggests the city is the capital of informants, where cheating companies are most likely to be exposed by employees, but local business groups including the Chamber of Commerce are going along with the scheme.

Almost two thirds of workers in the Midlands would blow the whistle on their bosses for improper business practices and over half believe those caught and found guilty of piracy should face legal action, according to a YouGov poll carried out for BSA.

Firms guilty of other abuses are more likely to suffer: a further 27 percent of Midlands workers say they would be more likely to blow the whistle on illegal software, if senior staff are creaming off profits and giving themselves large salary rises.

Three month education campaign

The BSA’s Software Compliance Check campaign will contact more than 1,000 companies in Birmingham, and ask them to check their software is legal. Companies will be asked to complete a self-audit at an online portal on the BSA site, where they can declare what software is installed on their computers and check they are meeting the license requirements.

Companies that take part will get recognition, says BSA – and when the campaign exposes under-licensed software, companies will have a 30 day grace period to get legal, with the support of the BSA. “Those companies that appear to be under-licensed and refuse to take action to address the issue will be subject to investigation and potential legal action.”

Birmingham’s Chamber of Commerce approved the scheme’s aims, but declined to comment on Birmingham’s status as a hotbed of piracy: “We encourage businesses in Birmingham to ensure that they are following copywright laws,” said Katie Teasdale, head of policy at Birmingham Chamber Group “We are not aware of any problems our members may be experiencing so we are not aware of how widespread the illegal practice is. We do however stress how important it is that businesses respect the work of those who create the software and make money through selling and using it.”

Piracy damages the economy

BSA says software piracy can damage businesses and their customers as well as hurting the local economy. A study by IDC – which has been heavily criticised as “propaganda” – suggests that there is a 27 percent software piracy rate in the UK. It claims that reducing piracy by 10 percentage points in four years would generate 13,000 new high-tech jobs, £5.4 billion in new economic activity and £1.5bn in new taxes – and most of these benefits would stay in the local economy.

“Although many businesses do the right thing when it comes to software management, others, either through ignorance, neglect or financial corner cutting, persist in using illegal software,” said  Julian Swan, director of compliance marketing EMEA at BSA, said. “This campaign sends a strong message that this will not be tolerated and companies that persist in avoiding the legal route will be subject to action and investigation from the BSA.”

Already this year, businesses using illegal software in the UK have had to pay over £2 million in settlements and in buying licenses, in actions taken by the BSA, the group claimed.

One in three British adults considers using pirated software to be “acceptable”, according to a survey of 1,000 people by Microsoft earlier this year.

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