25 November 2002 IT directors in the UK now face up to 10 years in jail if they fail to stamp out software theft in their companies.
The UK government has passed new legislation that extends the maximum penalty for software piracy and the use of unlicensed products from two to 10 years in prison and an unlimited fine.
The Copyright, etc and Trade Marks (Offences and Enforcement) Act 2002 also beefs up police powers to search suspected businesses and seize computer equipment.
The act, which came into effect on 20 November 2002, harmonises the UK’s copyrights and trademark theft laws and covers infringements of other copyright material, including music and films.
Civil and criminal prosecutions can be brought against suspected businesses and individual company directors, including chief information officers.
Anti-piracy campaigners welcomed the new law. Paul Brennan, general counsel of the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST), a UK non-profit lobbying group, said: “This action reinforces everything that we stand for. It is the equivalent of a big stick with which to confront organisations that are flouting copyright law. It clearly demonstrates that illegal software is a criminal issue, and an offence that will not be tolerated.”
Brennan suggested the stiffer penalties would encourage the authorities to bring more prosecutions.
“About a quarter of software used [in the UK] has not been accounted for,” he said. Many companies are aware of what is going on, but “turn a blind eye to the problem.”
The Department of Trade and Industry estimates that ‘intellectual property crime’ costs the UK economy £9 billion (€14.3bn) a year and is responsible for the loss of more than 4,000 jobs.