Six Irish firms face software piracy claims

 

Six companies face legal action over allegations of software piracy. Summonses against the Dublin firms have been issued by the Business Software Alliance (BSA).

The internet service provider Unison, a subsidiary of Internet Ireland which is owned by Independent News & Media and Chorus, and student travel group Usit are among firms which have been served with summonses claiming they have used illegally-copied software.

The legal proceedings follow a campaign by the software industry group to stamp out piracy. A spokesman for Internet Ireland said the company was "baffled" by the BSA's "premature and unnecessary" action as it had agreed to disclose details of its compliance with software licensing agreements, subject to a confidentiality agreement.

Usit said yesterday it could not comment on the allegations.

The BSA estimates 51 per cent of all software used in the Republic is illegal, a practice which costs the software industry more than $70 million (#79 million). It has taken a number of legal actions recently, based on reports from informants concerning companies' illegal use of software.

Informants can receive a reward of up to £5,000 (#6,350) from the software alliance if they provide accurate information which leads to a conviction.

The other companies which have been served with summonses in the latest round of legal proceedings are: Ultragraphics, Data Exchange, Irish Microfilm and Byrne Looby partners trading as Alpha Engineering.

None returned calls to The Irish Times yesterday.

Mr Julian McMenamin, chairman of the BSA, would not comment on the detail of the legal proceedings.

Under legislation, company directors can face up to five years in prison and firms can be fined up to £100,000 if found guilty of software piracy.

Under the new Copyright Act, which became law on January 1st, a company using illegal software is also liable to pay damages. Mr Liam Birkett of FR Kelly & Co, patent and trademark attorneys, said companies could be fined up to £1,500 per piece of software copied illegally.

He said an infringer could now be any person who provided facilities for illegal copyright, be that by way of import, export, sale, rental or loan.

The BSA has taken a tough stance this year with regard to illegal copying, following criticism of Ireland's poor record on the issue.

Last year, the BSA in the Republic received fewer leads on software piracy and pursued fewer legal actions than partner organisations in 13 other European countries.

However, this year alone there have been several high-profile prosecutions.

Recently, a Dublin-based architect's firm, O'Brien & Kaye, paid a substantial fine following a raid on its premises.