Copyright zealots FAST to pursue 'far greater' fines for historic piracy

Not-for-profit organ looking for wider income streams - sources

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The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) will step up its campaign to penalise pirates by seeking to get back monies lost to “historic” illegal use.

FAST claimed it had run educational awareness events to cut down on intentional illegal use of software programmes, but had received 100 reports in the past year of wanton abuse.

“As we have seen there is still a huge number of determined individuals trying to avoid the costs of correctly licensed software,” said Alex Hilton, CEO at FAST, a former director at Microsoft.

“As a result, we have announced that FAST will no longer act to just recoup the losses suffered by our members, but we will also recover money for historic legal abuse.”

The self-appointed software police will not be solely pursing infringers, “we will now be acting retrospectively and that means a far greater financial impact,” Hilton added.

According to claims from the Business Software Alliance, the value of unlicensed software in the UK totalled £1.3bn in 2015, placing it just behind France as the biggest users of illegal wares in Europe.

Hilton said FAST was aware of examples where junior IT staff were “forced to mislead vendors or auditors” only to later become whistleblowers. “This is nothing short of a fraudulent management mindset and we are determined to stamp out intentional software misuse.”

The tools used by FAST include civil lawsuits to halt “software theft” and has referred cases to national law enforcement authorities for criminal prosecution.

FAST is a not-for-profit industry body that is funded by vendors to run its educational awareness campaigns on software licensing but sources expected the fines to generate the lion's share of income in future.

“There is a genuine problem with piracy but when the body uses the fines to fund themselves, there is an enormous conflict of interest. It is up to the vendors to put together programmes that monitor usage,” one source said.

He said the situation was analogous to the UK police force bagging fines paid by speeding motorists, claiming it will stop the wrong sort of behaviour.

“FAST will go after the offenders that can give the most income,” our source from the software industry added.

We asked Hilton for further comment but have yet to hear back from him. ®

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