A firm of architects in Belfast have been hit with a £33,000 bill after an investigation by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) found they had illegal copies of Adobe, Autodesk and Microsoft packages.
Coogan & Co Limited settled with the BSA by paying damages of £15,000 and buying additional licences worth about £18,000.
"The case of Coogan & Co highlights the financial penalties that have to be paid if a business does not have correctly licensed software installed," said Philippe Briére, chair of the BSA UK Committee. "If a user makes more copies of the software than the licence permits, they are acting illegally."
The firm has designed a number of high-profile buildings in Belfast, including the refurbishment and extention of a listed building for Queens University, prestigious offices for the Prudential, Zurich and Regus at Clarendon Dock, and a refurbishment on Fountain Street near City Hall.
The BSA has had a lucrative time in Northern Ireland lately. Armstrong Medical, a County Londonderry-based medical equipment manufacturer, was recently caught using unlicensed copies of BSA member software, which cost the business nearly £12,000. This included settlement fees and the cost of purchasing the software licences it needed to ensure it was legally compliant.
Another unnamed company based in Northern Ireland was also recently hit with costs of over £10,000 for software piracy.
The BSA says any company that thinks it might be in breach of software licences should contact the software publisher first. But the organisation also encourages confidential whistle-blowing to expose recalcitrant pirates.
"Enforcement action will be taken against any company found using unlicensed software," said Briére.
In 2010, the total cost to businesses in the UK using unlicensed software was over £2m, more than double that incurred in 2009, according to the BSA.
A 2010 study produced by IDC for the BSA found that by reducing the 27 per cent software piracy rate in the UK by 10 percentage points over four years, 13,011 high-tech jobs, £5.4bn in new economic activity and £1.5bn in new taxes could be created by 2013, with 87 per cent of those benefits remaining in the local economy.