A new UK survey of 70 per cent of primary and 30 per cent of secondary schools shows that Birmingham tops the league of pirated software. Some 40 per cent of state schools in the city are breaking the law by allowing teachers and pupils to copy software illegally.
The survey, carried out for Microsoft by the British Educational Suppliers Association, has prompted the software behemoth to produce a guide Preventing Software Theft in Schools which it is sending to every headteacher in the UK.
"The survey revealed that thousands of schools are sitting on a legal time bomb, and the aim of our guide is to help those schools get legal before that bomb goes off," says David Burrows, Head of Microsoft UK's Education Group.
"Microsoft and the IT industry as a whole have a responsibility to work with the education sector to help the understanding of software theft. There is currently huge confusion in schools surrounding the theft of software and most schools are only unwittingly breaking the law."
Under British and European legislation, schools face unlimited fines if software manufacturers find their programs have been copied or are unlicensed. A Microsoft spokeswoman said there was little likelihood of the company taking schools to court and that the aim was to educate rather than to punish. Asked why Birmingham had come out worst, she admitted they didn't know.
"But what I can tell you that Scottish schools seem to be the most law-abiding," she added. ®