By Maximilian Clarke

The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) has supported the right of software intellectual property rights holders to protect their IP in the face of counterfeiting and piracy, following the news that Microsoft has issued legal proceedings against Comet.

Microsoft has alleged that the high-street retailer has sold to consumers reportedly 94,000 infringing copies of Windows Vista and Windows XP recovery CDs. It has claimed that the group manufactured counterfeit discs at a factory in Hampshire and sold them through its 248 retail outlets in the UK.

“We are fully supportive of the need to maintain a robust IP regime here in the UK,” comments Julian Heathcote Hobbins, General Counsel at FAST. “While we cannot comment on ongoing litigation specifics, it is absolutely clear that constant attention and an incessant push to reduce the problem of counterfeiting and piracy is in the very best interests of both the software industry and the customer, who needs to be reassured to encourage the purchase of genuine product.”

“A recent IDC and BSA report highlights that software piracy is an ever present threat to the economic growth of the nation, which cost the UK economy over £1 billion in 2010 alone. Further, a micro software business has told us that IP infringement erodes the will to create new product, “What’s the point if we will not be paid for our work?” they told FAST. It is therefore vital for software piracy to be reduced systematically, and for this to happen, people are encouraged to report any suspected pirated software that they encounter to FAST” added Julian.

“Our own research suggests that there is not enough awareness of the current IP reform agenda amongst the IT industry; we recently uncovered clear views of what the sector believes government should be doing. Importantly, properly mandated organisations such as FAST, need to be empowered to act (standing in the shoes of the IP owner as claimant) on behalf of members. Many smaller enterprises struggle to fight for their IP rights as they neither have the clout or the know-how,” he added.

Dawn Osborne, partner at law firm Palmer Biggs Legal and Chair of the FAST’s Legal Advisory Group (FLAG), adds:

“The creative industries are today what manufacturing used to mean to the UK’s economy in previous decades. IP contributes a total of £53 billion to our GDP, which equates to around eight per cent overall, while the creative industries that include software, film, music, games, eBooks and other sectors are responsible for employing 1.9 million people. So the message has to be digital piracy is not victimless,”

“According to figures submitted to the recent Hargreaves Report by FAST in March 2011, the UK software industry alone is turning over more than £50 billion and employing around 430,000. In the face of that economic contribution, under-pinned by IP law, software publishers have every right to protect their investment and we are calling for an effective regime to enable that including cost effective enforcement whether the value of the claim is small or large,” she concluded.

Recovery disks allow users to restore software to their computers if there are problems with updates or new programs, and have therefore become increasingly important as people rely on information technology.

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