UK workers would not blow the whistle on software piracy

Of this group, 13% stated that they would not report software piracy to protect their jobs; 22% because they did not wish to be seen as a whistleblower; and 46% simply did not care, according to a survey of 204 British office workers.

“The big thing we’ve taken from this report is that people know about the [whistleblower] legislation, but they don’t really care….Our job is to educate people one way or the other to do something about it”, said Julian Hobbins, general counsel for FAST.

“Perhaps it comes down to getting the message out that this stuff is valuable, and you should care and you should do the right thing….We have got some work to do”, Hobbins told Infosecurity.

Of the 24% who would report software piracy, half of them cited their belief in "good practice" as the reason they would make a report, while a further 31% felt it was correct to stay within the law.

The research also found that two-thirds of those surveyed were unaware of the law when it comes to protecting whistleblowers in the workplace; 69% of those questioned stated that they had no idea that legislation exists to protect them should they do the right thing.

Under UK law, to be protected as a whistleblower, an employee needs to make a "qualifying disclosure" about malpractice. This could be a disclosure about criminal offenses, failure to comply with a legal obligation, miscarriages of justice, threats to an individual’s health and safety, damage to the environment, or a deliberate attempt to cover up any of the above, FAST noted.

Hobbins explained that if an employee is fired for whistleblowing, he or she can take action in UK court, with the possibility of being awarded up to 50,000 pounds in compensation. “So there is protection for whistleblowers.”

The FAST general counsel offered a number of suggestions for reducing software piracy. First, the UK government could aggressively prosecute companies that engage in software piracy and “bring the hammer down, creating a deterrent effect.” Second, British law makers could pass a law providing for damages in the case of software piracy, something that is not currently available. Third, groups like FAST can educate people on the value of digital products and “make them want to buy genuine software products.”

Victor DeMarines, vice president of products for V.i. Labs, a Waltham, Mass.-based FAST member, said: “We have seen in our own metrics….$1.5 billion in unlicensed software use. The US is in the top five in terms of regions [where software piracy is rampant], which is a surprise to a lot of companies….The problem is a global problem.”

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