Companies caught using unlicensed software are usually trapped as a result of tip-offs from disgruntled former IT staff.
The Business Software Alliance (BSA) said today that the majority of its reports of illegal software use come from ex-employees. It receives between two and three reports a day and has doubled the maximum reward for informants to £10,000.
More than a quarter of computer software packages in the UK are used illegally, according to the BSA. Last year, the illegal copying and distribution of software programs generated losses of £457m, it said.
The reward has been upped from £5000 to £10,000 after research commissioned by the BSA revealed that people would be more likely to report a company for using unlicensed software if the stakes were higher.
Mike Newton, campaign manager at BSA UK, said: "People do think twice about dobbing on people, so we need to educate them that it is not just companies that are losing out through piracy but the country as a whole. The increased reward will be an incentive for people to provide information."
Earlier this year WHSmith Online, the internet arm of the high street retailer, was fined an undisclosed amount for illegally using software on its computer network. The BSA said it had acted on a tip-off from an informant, who subsequently received a proportion of the fine paid by the retailer.
The anonymous informant told the BSA: "Before I contacted the BSA, I alerted my employers to their illegal use of unlicensed software. I was told that it didn't matter and that nobody would find out."
People can call the BSA on a confidential hotline (0800 510 510) or via the website at www.bsa.org/uk.
Earlier this month, the BSA warned that it may take seven European web auction sites to court because they are being used by pirates to sell illegal software.
However, Newton said today that the organisation will try to avoid such action with the publishing of a voluntary code of practice for internet service providers and websites. This is expected within the next two to three weeks.
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