Australian companies forked out $347k last year in unlicensed software settlements

WA energy firm hit for $40,000

The Software Alliance (BSA) settled 28 cases involving the use of unlicensed software in Australia last year, double the number settled in 2016. 

Businesses forked out more than $347,000 worth in damages in 2017, according to figures released by BSA today.

In each settlement – all of which were settled out of court – the companies were required to purchase genuine software licences for ongoing use, in addition to paying copyright infringement damages.

The largest settlement – involving an unnamed Western Australia-based energy company – totalled more than $40,000.

Despite the increase in the number of settlements, their values have decreased. In 2016 damages totalled $589,000 across 14 cases, the highest value individual case being a $200,000 settlement with a Sydney-based engineering firm caught using pirated software.

In the majority of cases the alliance was tipped off by ex-employees blowing the whistle on their former employers.

The BSA was established in 1988 by Microsoft, and now counts most of the world’s biggest software companies – including Adobe, Amazon Web Services, Apple, Autodesk, CA, Cisco, IBM, Intel, Salesforce and Symantec – as members.

It offers up to $20,000 to anyone disclosing accurate information regarding unlawful copying or use of BSA members’ software, a reward that will stand through 2018, it said.

“Potential recipients must provide assistance and evidence to support the information, as may be required by the BSA’s legal advisers, in connection with any claim or legal proceedings initiated by the BSA members,” it said.

A survey conducted by the BSA in the UK in 2016 found that more than a third of small business workers (38 per cent) said they would report illegal or unethical IT practices

The alliance is using the Notifiable Data Breach legislation as a prompt for businesses to make sure they are using licensed software.

“Businesses need to remember that unlicensed software, or software downloaded from an unknown source, may contain malware which puts an organisation and its customers at significant risk of becoming the victim of a data breach,” said Gary Gan, director of compliance programs, BSA APAC.

“And without properly licensed software, organisations don’t receive patch updates which strengthen the software’s security and address vulnerabilities, which otherwise would leave the business exposed,” he added.