Having waited for almost a year and a half, the changes in the law that were designed to crack down on software pirates and protect intellectual property are being used to remove sources of counterfeit product from the UK channel.
The government has helped the fight back against piracy by taking intellectual property more seriously and enabling Trading Standards to knock on doors and inspect premises without the red tape that would have prevented them in the past.
The raid in East London last week by FAST used the powers set down in Section 107A in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (see below), to allow Trading Standards to enter premises to check for counterfeit goods.
Although that law has been around since April last year, it has taken a while for Trading Standards to get to the stage where it understands how to work with the industry to crack down on counterfeiters.
“The difficulty has been being able to exercise the law, because it has not been clear how it could be exercised,” said John Lovelock, chief executive of FAST.
But with Trading Standards now able to go into any business premises without warning and, as last week’s raid in Becton showed, happy to use the police to carry out a residential inspection, those fighting counterfeit goods are armed with stronger powers.
They should become even stronger as FAST develops a forensic tool that Trading Standards can use to check for unlicensed software, which can be used to provide evidence in criminal prosecutions.
“Trading Standards are investigating a criminal offence and are not looking for a settlement,” he added.
This year has already seen a high level of activity, with FAST working with Trading Standards in Cardiff and the BSA liaising with business leaders in Manchester to highlight the dangers of using illegal products.
“The government’s willingness to protect intellectual property has always existed. What was lacking was enforcement, subsequent prosecution and courts giving appropriate sentences to deter piracy,” said Najeeb Khan, vice-chair of the BSA UK Country Committee.
“The sequestration of criminals’ assets has been a single major contributor to criminals not only losing the money that they gain, but losing face in their community too.
“At times the psychological impact is just as important as the physical punishment,” he added.
On top of the efforts of the BSA and FAST, Microsoft has been putting its considerable muscle behind its own efforts, through its Feet on the Street team and marketing campaigns, to make sure the message about counterfeit is clearly understood by its channel.
Michala Wardell, head of anti-piracy and licensing at Microsoft UK, said that the law was helping those fighting counterfeit but there was also an impact of the current economic conditions.
“There is more talk about doing everything you can do to support the good resellers and there are more powers and people are using them,” she said.
She added that getting rid of the counterfeiters was positive for law-abiding resellers because it allowed more spending to be redirected back through legitimate channels.