BSA dubs Manchester second worst for piracy

'So much to answer for...'

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) has claimed that Manchester is the second worst city in England for software piracy.

It said thousands of firms in the city will be targeted in the group’s latest campaign to clamp down on counterfeit software in Blighty, which it claims costs the economy nearly £1bn a year.

The anti-piracy outfit, which represents the interests of the computer software industry, has already fired off letters to some 5,000 businesses in the Manchester area warning them against punting and using dodgy software. As if last week's working over by Rangers fans wasn't enough.

Any companies guilty of using or selling pirated software that have received the BSA’s letter will be given a so-called “cooling off period” of six weeks to give them the opportunity to dump any pirated software and line Microsoft’s pockets go straight.

The BSA said it has already singled out five Manchester-based businesses for having “flouted” copyright law.

Stop me if you think you've heard this one before

Julie Strawson, chair of the BSA's UK committee, said: "Software piracy has a devastating effect on the economy – the sector employs 40,000 people in the UK. We will be providing a suite of tools to enable the businesses to look at their software and audit whether or not they are legal [products]."

The latest campaign from the group follows its attempts to stamp out computer software piracy in Glasgow, which, late last year, the BSA dubbed the UK’s second worst city for counterfeit copies of propriety apps and operating systems outside of London.

It wrote to 8,000 firms in November 2007 in which it urged bosses in the Scottish city to ensure that the software they used was legal and fully licensed.

However, the BSA revealed in February this year, after stuffing letterboxes of Glaswegian businesses with threatening letters in the run-up to Christmas, that the campaign in Scotland hadn’t exactly proved to a be a trailblazing moment for the BSA to chase pesky pirates from its shores.

Only a few hundred firms actually took heed of the warnings and got their software copyright house in order by the deadline, it claimed. The vast majority of companies targeted in that campaign simply ignored the warnings.

That's undoubtedly an unsettling result for the BSA to stomach. Especially given that, of the thousands of companies harassed by the group, it subsequently pinpointed just 41 unnamed businesses for “flouting” copyright law following the campaign. This seems to suggest that most firms were operating perfectly legit.

Whether businesses in Manchester will be more willing to open their mail and respond to the BSA’s latest anti-piracy plea remains to be seen, however.

Meanwhile, another UK anti-piracy group today launched a new software asset management board to front up research into the struggles and confusions faced by firms that fail to view software as a business asset.

Shoplifters of the world...

The Federation has around 90 big name vendors on the Software Industry Research Board which will look into the typical attitudes on software licensing issues of IT departments in 500 public and private sector companies in the UK.

The group's CEO John Lovelock told The Register today that "it's never the case that businesses fall into the trap of unknowingly using counterfeit software". Instead he reckoned that more often what tends to happen is that firms overstretch licences by using more than they've actually paid for.

He added that the BSA's anti-piracy campaign was a heavy-handed strategy, and said that it was unlikely to garner positive results. Firing off threatening letters, said Lovelock, was not the most effective way to convince firms to adjust their attitudes towards licensing issues.

"As far as I'm concerned there's a general misuse of software in the UK," said Lovelock, "and when I say misuse I mean over-use relative to the licenses people have. It's very difficult to regionalise anything unless you've got definitive evidence from trading standards or the HMRC." ®

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