By Claire West

The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) has joined forces with Trading Standards in Cardiff, Southampton and the Royal borough of Windsor and Maidenhead to support its innovative campaign to advise businesses on the issue of software misuse and how to ensure compliance.

The campaign based on a comprehensive brochure entitled ‘Software - Stay Legal’, is being undertaken throughout the summer and will see Trading Standards teams and FAST educating businesses on a range of issues such as how to buy software, downloading, the types of products to be aware of and the legal ramifications of misuse.

This is the first such educational initiative in the UK on such a scale and follows a pilot launched in Cardiff in 2009. FAST will be acting as an additional resource providing businesses in the area with detailed information on software compliance.

John Lovelock, Chief Executive of FAST, stated: “Technology is a double edged sword; acting as a catalyst for businesses to prosper but at the same time facilitating software theft, often unintended. As a result we intend to fully co-operate with Trading Standards so that together we can work together to ensure use of genuine software at work. We are focused on the same ends as Trading Standards, doing some groundbreaking work and exploring new boundaries granted by legislation to protect the software industry in the UK and further a-field.”

John Lovelock added: “It has become commonplace for businesses to often unintentionally break piracy laws by not paying attention to software licensing. To clarify, if a software application doesn’t have a licence, or if the licence only entitles its use for an individual machine but it is being installed on various computers, then it is illegally installed.”

According to section 107A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, Trading Standards has the duty and the power to investigate and at the end of the day, prosecute copyright offences and this could mean inspecting UK workplaces to check compliance following a whistleblower complaint without notice.

John continued: “Businesses will not benefit from cutting corners when it comes to software compliance. Remember also that viruses, spyware and trojans are a few nasty knock-on effects of using pirated software. Aside from a hefty fine and possible imprisonment for criminal offences by directors knowingly allowing illegal use, an organisation can lose its reputation if it is exposed for illegal activity.”

Rob Abell at the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Trading Standards said: "With the support of FAST we are now looking to work together tackling software theft in the workplace which includes helping and supporting those businesses trying to trade legally in the current economic climate.”

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