Biggest ever fine for unlicensed software – £250,000

The Register reports that an unnamed firm has paid out a quarter of a million pounds for use of unlicensed software:

The company … was running unlicensed copies of Adobe, Autodesk, and Microsoft software on hundreds of PCs across several UK locations.

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) started its investigation into the firm in October 2006, eventually resulting in the agreement of an out-of-court settlement late last month.

“The size of the settlement is a reflection of the serious nature and scale of unlicensed software use at this company,” said Sarah Coombes, director of legal affairs in EMEA for the BSA.

So far there’s no further information on the BSA website. It seems likely that the terms of the settlement will preclude either party from disclosing too much detail, so it will probably not be clear whether this amount was simply a back payment for software in use, or supposed to be a punitive fine. describe the company as being “in the infrastructure and public services sector.”

Since it was settled out of court, it is perhaps a little misleading to call this a fine anyway. Let’s not forget that the BSA is simply a commercial organisation which acts on behalf of it’s members in bringing civil cases. They have no statutory powers, which is why these disputes end in financial payments being made, effectively in restitution for lost business. A real case of piracy under the Copyright laws of the UK could lead to prison terms for those involved of up to ten years (if memory serves me correctly).

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