back to article Software copyright inspection powers used for first time

A forensic examination of the software used by a Welsh business has been conducted under powers recently granted to Trading Standards officers under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Software copyright activist body the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) said that it was the first time that the new powers of inspection …


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  1. Martin Milan


    "The name of the company and result of the audit were not released."

    So they found nothing then - one hopes they had proper "evidence" of a crime being committed before they forced access to an organisations private systems, which no doubt held a good deal of commercially sensitive data...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Random? So there wasn't a suspicion, they just went in and disrupted those businesses?

    So how much does this crap cost the economy exactly? Given UK is a net importer of IT software and services, it must be more than the profits from the extra sales of software (since UK doesn't *make* a net profit from those).

    And how much does the software inspectors cost in wages?

    And how do they protect the companies from leaking privileged info. And what if the company is a solicitors, are you seriously telling me you let inspectors access confidential computers, at great cost to UK industry for a net loss to the UK?

  3. alain williams Silver badge

    Do you get costs if innocent ?

    It sounds like that sort of inspection could be quite costly for a business, especially if they seize kit. So if you are found to be innocent can you claim your costs ?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    They can do this at random?

    Without reasonable cause to suspect something is wrong??

    Sheesh. Can I have my old world back, please? This one appears to be defective.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    but all we do is protect other countries IP, we don't have any of our own, the Science minister should be busy trying to start new ventures and improve research facilities all over the country, not running around like a cowboy protecting some other guys cattle herd.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Hang on...

    ... so Trading Standards can do random searches of business property, solely in order to do the policing of unlicensed software used on a work PC?

    Jesus, I give up with this country.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    I wonder

    "against a business in Cardiff "

    Probably bloody Torchwood again...

  8. Adam

    Bloody Hell!

    Running a sotware business I understand the importance of protecting your IP but how about I tell trading standards that my competitor is running unlicenced software just before the next trade show...... It'll send them under!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What does Health & Safety cost?

    I wonder, it must be possible to determine the cost of accidents and compare that with the cost of Safety police + disruption to business of their random visits.

    I wonder how much overhead H&S represents. I bet it is an overhead, because accidents are expensive for businesses, they can be sued, they can be fined and so it's in their interests to minimize accidents. Yet H&S still insists on visits and prechecks.

    Their budget comes from touting unrepresentative horror stories, a dead body in a restaurant kitchen etc. but I bet the reality is quite different, and that their costs aren't justified as a net gain to the UK economy. It's not as though they wouldn't be tipped off if the restaurant stank and the food was contaminated.

    Just another burden that stops Uk Plc from competing.

  10. Doug
    IT Angle

    just who ?

    "whilst use of OSS by the technology group frees up scarce software development resources for other projects, it remains for the legal department to assess the risk that may arise, involving analysis of the OSS code"

    "In fact, uncontrolled use of OSS could oblige the organisation to share proprietary source code or else face an injunction removing its products from sale"

    "An organisation .. should consider when and with what level of legal supervision the company will accept OSS"

    "There is also a risk that an employee will contaminate the company’s IP with third party IP acquired from the OSS community"

    "organisations should also consider their procurement operations to make sure they have an effective way of verifying that code they buy or license in does not contain unexpected OSS"

    Kemp Little LLP (MSH/RHK), August 2008

    “Within half an hour of opening I had three new instructions from Microsoft,” says Kemp. “The client base ported across lock, stock and barrel, which was pretty lucky really.” Today that client base includes the London Stock Exchange, Standard Chartered Bank and FTSE, as well as more recognisably technology-focused outfits such as Expedia, T-Mobile and Ticketmaster

  11. Craig

    Supporting the smaller developers

    Forget about operating systems and office/collaboration software, the victims of software piracy are the small development houses who write solutions for specific industries (manufacturing processes, warehousing, etc). AC posts that we're only protecting other countries' IP - wrong, we've got enough of our own to protect. Written for the UK industries, by people who understand the intricacies of those industries - fellow Brits.

    I would be interested to learn what compensation might be awarded to a business if found to be completely innocent of any IP infringement crime; that being my only concern I have no problem with random checks because the innocent have nothing to hide. It's the guilty parties who have no qualms about stealing which end up warranting the need for these checks.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Exceeding their powers, massive abuse of authority.

    >"Changes to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act made in April 2007 gave Trading Standards officers the power to enter premises and seize goods and documents they believe to be involved in copyright infringement."

    That clearly gives them no right whatsoever to conduct searches of premises that they do in fact NOT believe to be involved in copyright infringement but merely picked at random. That firm would have been entirely within their rights to use reasonable physical force to eject the trading standards officers from their premises.

    This is a blatantly criminal abuse of authority and there's a huge legal bill for compensation in the offing.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't like it then use GPLd (FREE) software...

    This is a good selling point for using GPLd software... deploy it as much as you like on as many machines as you like. Forget the overhead of keeping track of licenses and keys and tell FAST and their ilk to sod off.

  14. Lukin Brewer

    Using powers last granted by Cromwell,

    ... in the hunt for Royalists, and prior to that, by Henry VIII in the hunt for Catholics, the New Model Trading Standards Agency struck at a nest of Welshmen today.

    "They might think that no one will look at their licencing situation, or find their priest holes, but the Poundheads are on their case now, and the Lord, I mean, the Law is on our side."

    Strutting expansively as he tried to keep it inside his trousers, the spokesman continued, "We will go upstairs, downstairs, or in your lady's chamber if necessary, woooh-hah, searching for old excuses and men who won't pay their dues. Tip-offs aside, we'll be taking a gander at businesses at random because this sort of thing is so common; wealth will go to the software houses that deserve it, and the Lord Copy Protector shall reign unhindered, warts and all."

  15. Gerry


    @Doug, I assume your random musings are there to suggest that it would be a similar scenario whether the organisation were using proprietary or FLOSS software? Nice try...

    Whereas proprietary software providers want to restrict your freedoms, Free Software just wants everyone to have the same freedoms.

    If you have used Free Software in a manner which means that your code base is now licensed accordingly that does not automatically spell disaster; if it is critical software your expertise and experience will still be important.

    in some ways that is the big "so what?" This is nothing like discovering that you have unused unlicensed proprietary software somewhere.

    I hope this incident encourages everyone to do an Ernie Ball...

  16. BioTube


    So I take it you wouldn't mind a random police search just to make sure you've "got nothing to hide"?

  17. Florence Stanfield

    double standards

    This country is going further down the path of double standards, while everything is being done to stop copyright infringement of music, films and games. While they still seem to think it is acceptable to infringe intelectual copyright on websites for commercial gain allowing BT to copy every website the customer visits..

  18. Ethan Grammatikidis

    Can only benefit FOSS

    If copyright continues to be enforced harshly, I'm sure many businesses would find the GPL limitations well worth the hassle -- most of what they would be interacting with would be LGPL libraries anyway... Sometimes I wonder if GPL fears are inflated, how many businesses could actually have to hack GPL code and distribute their modifications in-house anyway?

    Anyway, there is a balance of risk - a choice businesses must make when choosing software. Harsh copyright enforcement swings that balance in favour of OSS. I expect a great many more businesses will find OSS the more reasonable option. A portion of those businesses will find it acceptable to contribute to OSS projects.

    There are still OSS projects that need contribution to come up to the same standard as commercial equivalents, and there's always room for improvement in any software. If this kind of action spreads worldwide perhaps it could lead to a tipping point, where commerce can no longer compete in the software field except in niche applications.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Police State

    I once thought not so long ago that this country was well on the way to being a police state and that the liberties that so many have died to protect over the centuries were being eroded in the erroneous name of making this country safe.

    We have now seen a coroner’s court and its jury barred from making a free decision regarding the blatant killing of a young Brazilian man whose only crime in actuality was an expired visa. The police logic was in this case one of shoot first and ask questions later.

    Witness testimony at this inquest clearly showed that all of the officers directly involved in this shooting had attempted to cover their own arses by lying under oath. Have they been dismissed? Have they been charged? No is the response, they have not, nor would it seem likely that they ever will be! This is a disgrace and a shame on us all by association.

    I have now reviewed my long held belief in the light of this article and I have now concluded that we are indeed now living in a police state.

    I have been a Labour supporter all my life but I say now with the utmost conviction and in the interests of the common man and woman that this government must go and go soon. The kind of protection they offer and the amendments to the laws of this land that they have made we do not need.

    Mr. Brown should at the earliest opportunity be ejected from No. 10 with the toe of a firmly planted boot placed squarely up his arse. The man promised us a referendum on Europe and then in virtually the next breath broke his word and for that alone he should have resigned.

    Organisations such as FAST have prospered under this Labour government like no other. In our country the most precious document we have is Magna Carta. Labour are shredding it inch by inch with no just cause. We all have a part to play, stand up for our rights I beg you for if we do not we will eventually have none at all.

  20. tony benton

    copyright inspection

    Trading Standards ( Weights and Measures ) were designed to protect the man in the street. Short measures on scales in the grocers, not a full gallon in petrol stations. This now seems to be a thing of the past. Now they look for fake perfume, toys etc and software infringements. Their effort is now to look after the big boys, probably not from UK and forget the man in the street.

  21. William Bronze badge
    Thumb Down

    10 years in the slammer?

    10 years in jail for copyright infringement? Are they having a fucking laugh or something?

    The average sentance length for assault is 2.9 months, 9.6 months for actual bodily harm, even grievous bodily harm only gets you 17 months.

    Rape 84 months, manslaughter 64 months, and robbery 38 months.

    This country is a fucking joke when they try and claim that you can do "upto 10 years" in prison for running XP/Vista/Office when you are not supposed to. No doubt they will let out some rapist drug pushing pimp out to make way for this fucking terrible crime of breaking copyright.

  22. Herby

    Coincidence (or not)

    When the Ad next to this article says "Open Office 3.0, The only option". That it is!

    At least in the USA, we have "Innocent until proven guilty" (or at least something vaguely like that.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Don't like it then use GPLd (FREE) software...

    No protection for you there, if the GPL'd software is itself infringing copyright.

  24. kain preacher

    @ Craig

    I would be interested to learn what compensation might be awarded to a business if found to be completely innocent of any IP infringement crime; that being my only concern I have no problem with random checks because the innocent have nothing to hide. It's the guilty parties who have no qualms about stealing which end up warranting the need for these checks.

    My god how daft are you ??? Would you support the music industry doing random inspections of your computer ???

  25. Cortland Richmond

    UNLIMITED fines?

    AKA: Mrs. Jones Biscuits funds the National Health System.

    Where's that jolly Excel? We know it's in your hard disk drive! You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me!

    And where's a billabong to be found in Britain? (Never mind a coolibah tree.)

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing new here

    "Changes to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act made in April 2007 gave Trading Standards officers the power to enter premises and seize goods and documents they believe to be involved in copyright infringement"

    TS have always had the powers to enter premises if they believe copyright infringement has been taking place as part of a business process. I've worked for 2 grey importers in the last 15 years, that were raided countless times on suspicion of counterfeiting and copyright infringement. In every case they left the building tails between their legs because the goods were genuine or no copyright infringement was taking place.

    In each case the raid took place at the request of a copyright holder that simply wanted to aquire our buying and selling info. Happens all the time in the licencing trade. Want to know who your competitors are and how successful they are, quick call to trading standards does the trick.

  27. Joe M

    @Craig - you have a hide mate

    As soon as I read your post I started gathering the stream of Anglo-Saxon invectives, referring mostly to the human reproductive process, which I could throw at you. But it being the season of peace and goodwill to all men I decided against it.

    In a just world anyone who used the tired, idiotic, fu... sorry foolish “if you have nothing to hide” argument to glibly dispose of everybody else's hard won freedoms, would get lots of random and thorough raids on their homes from the constabulary - just to check that they really have nothing to hide.

    In your case my friend it is of course quite true. You have nothing to hide. It's all there in black and white in your moronic post.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    nothing to see here, move along now

    "Changes to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act made in April 2007 gave Trading Standards officers the power to enter premises and seize goods and documents they believe to be involved in copyright infringement."

    THEY BELIEVE...whatever happened to facts and proof?...oh, by the by, we've nicked all your computers because we THINK they have something on them. Oh, sorry, we lost the one that had your customer database on it. Hopefully it will turn up somewhere. We're just here to help you.

  29. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    Looks like time for free software...

    Looks like time for free software to me! It already saves money, now it also keeps you out from under people like these. To totally cover my ass, I would keep a copy of the source CDs on site in addition to the usual install CD (GPL only requires source on request when *distributing*, but then I could show FAST I was being *extra*-vigilant before I told them to fuck right off.)

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Erm Trading Standards ?

    Is this going to help me not get a clocked motor from "Honest Dave's Wheels" or my kids getting horribly injured from cheap toys made by Chinese convicts ? This does bugger all for me as a member of the general public apart from push up my costs to pay for that agent of the American Empire, M$.

    What a F$%^ing waste of MY TAX £'s

  31. Anonymous Coward

    The BSD license is the most open...

    ,in my very limited understanding of OSS licenses. I believe, the people who develop OpenBSD are very careful about any software they add to their OS and/or applications that run on it comply with licensing requirements. I think all software in the OpenBSD system must be absolutely free to use. ie no requirement to provide source code or anything else, except a mention that OpenBSD is being used.

    You can check that more closely at

    Penguin because that's almost as good as the daemon and the OSS versions leave everything else in the dust.

  32. E

    GO GNU!

    nuff sed

  33. MGJ

    Hey Freetards

    If the UK market is viewed as being all consumed by piracy, then a) localised versions of software won't be produced and b) license costs for the honest will go up.

  34. ShaggyDoggy

    Proof ?

    How would they prove that the software you are running was infringing someone else's (IN TH UK) copyright ?

    It's existence on your HDD is no proof that you actually ran it.

    Files existing with dates etc are also no proof (could have been imported from another m/c)

    Come on then - WHAT'S THE PROOF ?

  35. Alan Brown Silver badge

    When will they nail GPL pirates?

    There's a lot of stuff out there in blatent violation of GPL, especially in the area of DVRs

    Will trading standards prosecute these as the software piracy cases they are or is this kind of raid only reserved for pork barrel politics?

    Tux, because he needs protecting too.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    OSS Anyone?

    So let's be honest here, generally speaking the only proprietry software that most business will use will be MS stuff, PC's in the office. The son of the sec comes in once a week for a small fee and manitains it, he knocks out a few PCs with dodgy Office and XP to keep the company going.

    Making very, very broad generalisations, stuff Ubuntu on the majority of desktops with OpenOffice, yes afraid so, needs to be simple and work out of the box, none of that build-your-own-kernel crap! That's spreadsheets and docs done. Anything more adventurous, DTP ( does anyone do that still? ), Photoshop, CAD, etc, you most likely know what you need and will have purchased the correct software and MS O/S licenses for those specialist boxes already.

    FART can turn up, just check the Win boxes and the job gets done a bit quicker and less cost to us the bank-rollers for this little Gov sponsered MS charade!

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @craig - nothing to hide nothing to fear

    I take it you don't smuggle drugs?

    You therefore won't have any objection if the nice policeman calls at your work place and shoves his big thick latex gloved fingers up your arse in front of your co-workers from time to time just to verify you are telling the truth?

    Nothing to hide, nothing to fear eh?


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