WH Smith's online division has been fined by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) for using unlicensed software.
The company was today ordered to pay an undisclosed sum after being caught using Corel and Symantec software with more users than it had paid licence fees for.
A spokeswoman for the BSA said it had acted on an email tip-off from an informant who will receive a reward of 10 per cent of the fine paid by WH Smith Online. She said any person providing information on a company using software illegally can receive a reward of up to £5000.
Mike Newton, campaign relations manager for BSA UK, said: "It's disappointing that WH Smith has allowed its online service to fail its own internal processes. We are hoping that this settlement will be taken as an example of the damage that internet companies face if they don't take software management seriously."
"Quite apart from it's being bad practice, using software without a licence leaves you vulnerable to fines which businesses can ill afford," he said, adding that any business in doubt about the legality of its software should ask the BSA for advice "before it's too late".
He said that almost one in three (29 per cent) of copies of software used in the UK are used illegally. Amongst small business, this rate is estimated to be nearer 50 per cent.
UK law currently provides penalties that can result in unlimited fines, or even prison sentences of up to two years, for company owners and directors who knowingly use illegal software, he said.
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