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Software anti-piracy outfit gets heavy with architects

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Paul Brookes Architects has paid a settlement of around £1000 to an alliance of software companies after being caught using unlicensed software on its network.

Paul Brookes agreed to pay the Business Software Alliance (bsa) after his 11-strong practice was found to be missing five £400 licences for computer aided design package, Autocad lt.

bsa, which represents Autodesk, Microsoft and Adobe among others, estimates that one third of all business software used in the uk is unlicensed. It says that software piracy costs the industry more than £290 million a year.

Brookes said that a combination of rapid expansion and employees loading their own software onto computers meant that he had lost track of the number of licences needed.

'We had bought five new computers and we had asked the retailer if we could buy a five-user licence but they told us we didn't need one,' Brookes said. 'bsa wrote last year asking us to conduct a software audit and we found that staff had also been loading their own software onto machines. bsa is extremely aggressive; they sent intimidating letters and they demanded compensation far higher than where we actually settled. My advice is to co-operate and to discuss the terms of settlement. We'd expanded into computers too fast and you have to be very careful,' Brookes said.

This latest settlement is a sign that the software industry's crackdown on piracy is intensifying. Construction servicing firm Plot Build Limited was fined along with Brookes. Manser Associates was fined £5000 last summer for unlicensed use of cad software.

Computer experts this week renewed warnings against complacency on licensing. 'bsa often gives warnings it is going to audit and one of the dangers is that people don't pay enough attention to their correspondence,' said Construction Industry Computer Association official, Eric Wintercorn.

'Anyone with a question about licences needs to go back to the publisher, not the retailer. Architects and designers of all people should understand the concept of intellectual property at stake here,' said Autodesk's anti- theft manager, Tracey Howe.

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