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The Business Software Alliance (BSA) urged the UK government on Wednesday to take tougher action against copyright violation to combat the spiralling rate of unlicensed software.
The trade group, which counts Adobe, Apple and Microsoft among its members, commissioned analyst firm IDC to carry out a study of software use within businesses. The study found the value of unlicensed software in the UK had increased from £820m in 2003 to £1bn in 2004, although the proportion of such software declined over the same period from 29 to 27 per cent of all software in use.
Siobhan Carroll, a BSA regional manager, said in a statement: "The level of software piracy remains unacceptably high."
Despite the percentage decline in the ratio of unlicensed software, the BSA claimed it was important the UK government take tougher action against intellectual property violations by implementing the Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive. This Directive, which was adopted by the EU in April 2004, requires all member states to apply "effective, dissuasive and proportionate remedies and penalties against those engaged in counterfeiting and piracy", according to a statement on the EU website. Member states have two years to adopt the directive's provisions into national law.
The BSA said: "[We are] now urging the government to follow through its pledge. It has a responsibility with its presidency of the EU to implement the Enforcement Directive in the UK and set a standard to other members of the EU, many of which have an even higher piracy rate."
But Ross Anderson, the chair of the Foundation for Information Policy Research and a professor at Cambridge University, dismissed the study as 'scaremongering'. Anderson claimed that the BSA is focusing on the issue of unlicensed software as a decoy, while companies are actually more likely to use the enforcement directive to crack down on legal activities such as grey market trading.
Grey market trading is a legal form of trading where companies or individuals circumvent the authorised channels of distribution to sell goods at a lower price than intended by the manufacturer in a certain market. For example, a company may take advantage of a software vendor setting particularly high prices for its products in one country by reselling legitimate copies purchased in a market where the manufacturer has priced them lower.
Anderson said: "What companies object to isn't counterfeiting but grey marketing. Counterfeiting is a complete distraction - it's not what this is about. [The directive] is an assault on free trade."