The Business Software Association of Australia (BSAA) has warned it is targeting Web developers in its continuing fight against software piracy.
The industry body, contracted by software vendors to investigate claims of piracy, is currently investigating several multimedia companies and Web developers after receiving increasing volumes of complaints concerning the Web development industry.
Working for the likes of Adobe, Macromedia and Microsoft, the BSAA is warning Web developers that it plans to escalate its investigations in this field. Jim Macnamara, chairman of the BSAA warns that infringement of copyright is in some cases a criminal offence, with fines ranging from $60,500 per individual to $302,500 for a company, and imprisonment for up to five years for those involved.
"We have noticed that a high number of those organisations complained about are Web development or multimedia companies," says Macnamara. "There's a lot of ignorance about the regulations in that market. For every 20 or 30 cases we investigate, five or six are Web developers. In fact, three out of the last five companies we took action against were Web developers."
Macnamara says piracy occurs at several levels, but all contribute to higher prices on the shelf. The breaches range from the burning of counterfeit compact discs for sale - a serious criminal offence - to the distribution of software among individuals and home users. The BSAA also targets unethical retailers who copy software onto the hard disks of PCs to add value to their products. But the most widespread breach is what Macnamara terms "Corporate Piracy", whereby business buys a small volume of software or a single licence and copies the software across the whole business.
Macnamara says his team has conducted some anecdotal research which suggests the Web development market is largely made up of small-to-medium-sized businesses that don't have a full-time IT manager and fail to recognise the consequences involved in pirating software.
"It's a shortcut that is very risky," he says. "They should pay more attention to it."
At a recent developer conference in Sydney, software vendor Borland announced its own effort to control piracy of its Web development software. The company is under the impression that many developers unintentionally breach licensing agreements and put themselves at risk of litigation.
"The illegal use of our technologies reduces the amount of money we can invest in product research and development - a problem that our developer community understands," says Ray Bradbury, Borland vice president, Asia-Pacific. "The impact of piracy hits them as well as Borland."
Macnamara agrees, and warns the BSAA will act both through litigation, to stop blatant abuse in its tracks, and education, to ensure the abuse does not filter down below management level.
"We just want to issue a warning that we are investigating cases every month," he said. "If you're producing copyright materials, respect the copyright of the software vendors who helped you create it."