A publishing firm fell foul of the law by using unlicensed typefaces worth £80,000, according to licensing lobby group the Business Software Alliance (BSA).
The publishing firm had claimed to be using just one font but in fact was found using 11,000.
The publisher was the subject of a BSA enquiry after an ex-employee tip-off, said the BSA, which is funded by software companies.
The organisation conducted a software audit of London's Campden Publishing and a specialist in font auditing and management, Monotype, was brought in by Campden to do the same for the firm's typefaces.
"Of particular concern, given the nature of Campden's business, was the enormous number of unlicensed fonts they were discovered to be using," a BSA statement said. "When completing the BSA's audit report, Campden initially claimed to be using only one font, which – for a leading publishing firm – was clearly incorrect."
Campden had found itself in financial problems and was the subject of a management buy-in when new chief executive John Pettifor took control of the company. After what is believed to have been a tip-off from an ex-employee, the BSA contacted the company about its software compliance.
Pettifor discovered that 95 per cent of the Adobe software used by the company, and 75 per cent of the Microsoft software, was unlicensed. "This came as a complete shock, although with the benefit of hindsight perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised," said Pettifor. "Software asset management is the last thing on your mind when you arrive at a company that is struggling for cash. The business was in real financial trouble and this issue wasn't even on the radar."
The situation with font management was even more serious. "Most companies are dependent on fonts to communicate and for their corporate identity," said Julie Strawson of Monotype. "For many companies fonts are an integral part of their branding, and none more so than publishers who rely on them to produce many distinct publications."
The problem is complicated by the fact that some fonts can arrive as part of other people's documents and can sometimes stay, unlicensed, on a network.
"Many do not recognise that fonts are intellectual property just like any other kind of software and must be paid for," said Strawson. "It is not a question of picking an choosing which software you manage."
The company has now become fully compliant, but the cost of doing so has landed on its books all at once. "I really wish this had been sorted out long before I arrived," said Pettifor. "Purchasing licences for each piece of software may have taken a little time, but it would also have helped spread the financial outlay."
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