The Federation Against Software Theft (Fast) has thrown down the gauntlet to UK organisations that misuse software.
Using the power afforded it by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, Fast will accompany police on raids of organisations suspected of using unlicensed software.
Section 109 of the Act allows the police to secure a search warrant from a magistrate's court if there is reasonable suspicion that an organisation - whether private or public - is infringing software copyrights in the course of its business.
A Fast representative will accompany police in a search of an organisation's premises if they are named on the warrant.
Julian Heathcote-Hobbins, senior legal counsel for Fast, said: "This power has been there for as long as the Act has existed, but now we feel there is a hard core of people that are not taking copyright infringement seriously."
The organisation will work with police forces across the country to help identify organisations and locations where copyright infringement is taking place.
It will also support the police in their moves to obtain search warrants.
"When a member comes to us with a complaint of copyright abuse that does serious harm to their livelihood we will investigate and pass it on to police if we view the activity as sufficiently serious," said Heathcote-Hobbins.
The move extends Fast's mandate to search out and prosecute offending organisations, where it had tended to resort to civil actions in the past.
But the civil process carries severe penalties and allows offenders to settle out of court.
"When people create software, people's jobs and livelihoods are affected by copyright abuse which ultimately harms economic standards," explained Heathcote-Hobbins.
It is hoped that Fast's position will reduce the instances of software copyright infringement by increasing the probability of being caught. Penalties can include jailing company directors or the imposition of crippling fines.
Geoff Webster, chief executive at Fast, said in statement: "The message to company directors is clear: check your software licences.
"Until then you cannot be 100 per cent certain that you are not acting illegally and on the way to receiving a criminal record.
"Software publishers who are members of the Federation will not tolerate anyone making illegal use of software."
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