Details emerged last week of a new crackdown on users of non-authorised Microsoft software aimed specifically at UK firms.

According to a report on IDG.net, Microsoft has brought the Business Software Alliance’s London-based European arm on board to take court action against businesses that fail to comply with the new measures. IDG quoted Ram Dhaliwal, Microsoft's licensing programs manager as saying: "If they are using our software, we are simply going to ask them to pay for it.”

Previously, Microsoft asked UK companies to perform voluntary self-audits of their licences. Now, however, if it doesn't receive a response after 14 days, the company will send a succession of three "escalation" letters over three weeks. If that doesn’t prompt a response, the case will be handed over to the BSA to pursue. Microsoft says that it can track suspicious users with its own purchase records.

The BSA is currently investigating over 100 UK companies for suspected software piracy. The organisation cites ongoing prosecutions on its website and also cites IDC figures that estimate that 27% of software in use in UK businesses is illegal, which equates to losses of over £1bn to local and international software companies. A 10% reduction in piracy in the UK could deliver £2.8bn of additional tax revenues and 34,000 new jobs, it says.

Jim Stirling