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Ex-employees report piracy for revenge

Research says disgruntled employees are more likely to turn in their company for using unlicensed software than directors are to report problems voluntarily.

LONDON--Disgruntled employees are more likely to turn in their company for using unlicensed software than directors are to report problems voluntarily, according to research from the British Software Alliance.

This week the global anti-piracy watchdog settled a 40,000 pound ($56,346) dispute with IT refurbishment company Frazier for the use of pirated software, following a lead from the BSA confidential hotline. In this instance, the Frazier management team reported the situation itself, but the BSA confirms that the majority of tip-offs received come from unhappy or former employees of offending companies.

"Staff will often try to make their initial representation in-house, but we definitely receive the most leads from disgruntled employees," said Richard Saunders, chairman of the BSA committee in the United Kingdom.

The settlement case coincides with the release of BSA's annual piracy figures, which find that the U.K. software industry lost $487 million last year because of business-software piracy. While the United Kingdom has the best piracy rate in Europe, its level of piracy remains the same for the second year running at 26 percent, revealing that one in four pieces of business software in the United Kingdom is illegal.

Saunders believes the United Kingdom has whittled its number of companies using unlicensed software down to a persistent core of people who are harder to educate.

"There are stronger cultural attitudes towards this kind of thing in the U.K.," he said. "The U.K. is generally more willing to observe piracy regulations, with companies often suffering from poor software management as opposed to deliberate malicious intent."

The BSA reserves the right to enforce legal action on any company found to be abusing piracy laws. But Saunders said prosecution is often a last resort, with the BSA preferring to make good any license money lost through a company using illegal software. In the worst-case scenario, a company director could face two years in prison for the offence; most incidents result in financial settlements agreed out of court.

Staff writer Wendy McAuliffe reported from London.