Experts have attacked the decision to increase jail sentences for software piracy, arguing that it targets the wrong groups.
A Private Member's Bill covering copyright infringements has just been passed by the Commons, and will now go to the Lords. It could become law by the autumn, and would see maximum jail sentences raised from two years to 10.
Despite receiving a warm welcome in some quarters, the move has been criticised by legal experts.
"It seems unlikely that the length of sentences will materially affect the level of corporate software piracy," said John Salmons, a partner at law firm Masons.
Licence infringements within companies were more likely to be a result of negligence than deliberate criminal behaviour. "Increased sentences would not act as a deterrent. What is needed is greater education," he explained.
Education is a "key element" in reducing the use of illegal software, according to Richard Saunders, European chairman at piracy watchdog the Business Software Alliance (BSA). The legislation should help to raise the profile.
"Company directors should view software asset management as a corporate responsibility like tax," he said.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Consumer Minister Melanie Johnson stated: "Supporting this Bill is just one strand of our fight against counterfeiting. Raising public awareness of the serious consequences for consumers and jobs is also vital."
Saunders acknowledged that the BSA's own education campaign had had little impact on the level of software piracy in the UK. Its figures of one in four pieces of software used in business being illegal has not changed in recent years.
But the impact of the increased penalties would be felt by those who sell pirated games software at markets and car boot sales, not company directors. "There have been no high profile cases of company directors getting jail sentences," Salmons said.
The BSA estimates that illegal software worth £2.1bn is used in Europe each year.
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