One-in-three UK SMEs knowingly use unlicensed software

15th April 2013

Almost a third of UK-based SMEs revealed they avoid using licensed software in a bid to cut costs, according to a new survey from the Business Software Alliance (BSA).
 
The BSA revealed a number of growing businesses are increasingly likely to own fewer licenses for software than they need. It also warned that firms going through mergers are most likely to break copyright laws.
 
The report found 30 per cent of UK small firms surveyed admitted to installing software onto more computers than their agreement had allowed, or to using the wrong kind of licence for their organisation.
 
Cost-cutting is undoubtedly the main attraction for businesses choosing to infringe copyright law, with another 30 per cent of firms surveyed admitting to buying the wrong kind of licence to keep overheads down.
 
Meanwhile over a third (39 per cent) of growing businesses surveyed admitted to having too few licences for their software, often allocating additional PCs and software to employees without paying for additional licences.
 
Firms going through a merger and acquisition are at most risk of falling foul of copyright law. The report found that 86 per cent of SMEs have either seen the same or more mergers and acquisition activity in the past five years.
 
Almost half (49 per cent) of businesses that have gone through a merger confirmed that a software audit was not carried out on the acquired organisation.
 
These worrying admissions flagged by small firms highlight the need for SME owners to be better educated on the risks of operating under-licensed, as well as being aware of the financial penalties.
 
Michala Wardell, UK committee chair at BSA, said: "It’s shocking that almost a third of small businesses are infringing the Copyright Act when it comes to managing their software.
 
"And simply bewildering that many of these businesses don’t change their software management practices until they face a legal challenge. Given the costs involved, you’d think the job of sorting out software licences would be a priority from the word ‘go’."

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