Software piracy still a concern for SMBs

An increasing awareness of rogue software on the network, along with security concerns, has helped to decrease the amount of piracy occurring across large organisations, the Business Software Association of Australia (BSAA) has reported. But up to 50 per cent of SMBs are still oblivious to what's being downloaded in the office.

BSAA chairman Jim McNamara said the organisation has spent the past year ramping up its software auditing and compliance toolkits to assist SMBs in becoming more aware of software piracy across their networks. The tools are downloadable for free off its Web site.

The initiative was designed to help SMBs get a greater hold on software downloads. Several surveys undertaken by the organisation via email found that many SMBs of up to 500 staff don't know what employees do not have control of their network.

"52 per cent of respondents had no firm idea of what employees were using," he said. "Then 42 per cent admitted they knew they had illegal software in place. This proves that in some areas there's a lot of illegal software.

"It's the part of piracy that isn't intentional by the organisation."

Despite these findings, McNamara was confident more businesses were becoming aware that there was a problem and were seeking self-help tools to address it. He said downloads of its toolkits were now hitting 500 each month - up from virtually nothing two years ago.

This action has also seen BSAA cut back on the number of cases it takes up against SMBs in the courts, he said.

In a recent CRN UK article, the Business Software Association reported there has been a 25 per cent increase in the number of UK companies using illegal software. It claimed that of 420 investigations into businesses, 80 per cent were the result of negligence. Eight of these were between 20,000 and 31,000 pounds.

While unable to disclose specific figures, McNamara said the BSAA had undertaken several cases that had been settled for over $100,000. This included a recent case against CLA trading, which operates as Europcar in Australia.

"Where companies are ignoring our message, we're going for the bigger cases but we're not focusing on the small ones," he said. "There aren't as many cases, but the settlements are bigger."

The worst culprits continue to be creative professionals, such as architects, graphics and Web designers, McNamara said. Another area is the training sector, followed by the printing industry.

While there continues to be questionable software practices at the lower end of the IT channel and retail market, major retailers can't afford to sabotage relationships with key software vendors, he said. Margin pressures are also seeing competing resellers pipe up against dodgy licensing practices, he added.

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