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BSA raid lands architect firm with £33,000 software bill

Third Northern Irish firm named and shamed this year

The third Northern Irish company in a year has had its use of unlicensed software publicised in humiliating fashion by the Business Software Alliance (BSA).

Belfast-based architecture firm Coogan & Co has been hit with £33,000 ($54,000) in fines and licensing fees, joining Armstrong Medical which was fined £12,000 in March and an unnamed company that was recently slapped with £10,000 in fines, both for the same offence.

The companies whose software products were involved were Autodesk, Microsoft and Adobe, the latter two of which are ever-present names in every recorded BSA case. This could be down to the ubiquity of their products, or a sign that these two BSA members are politically active in pushing for under-licensing and piracy to be punished.

Coogan & Co agreed to pay £18,000 to correctly license software from these companies plus damages of £15,000.

"A lot of businesses do not realise that when they purchase software they are actually purchasing a licence to use it, not the actual software itself. If a user makes more copies of the software than the licence permits, they are acting illegally," said BSA UK committee chair, Philippe Brire.

The BSA also repeated its IDC-backed claim that by reducing UK software piracy by 10 percent over four years, another 13,000 high-tech jobs would be created. This assertion has been challenged as far-fetched, whatever the rights and wrongs of software licensing.

Many IT professionals in end user organisations comment on the paradox that while software companies can legitimately pursue businesses for under-licensing, software that does not function as promised carries no automatic liability because of the way end-user licence agreement (EULAs) exempt software makers.

In the last three years, the UK arm of the BSA (it operates through separate US and European wings) appears to have particulalry targeted SMEs, publishing the names of a growing number.

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