People illegally selling copied software via internet auction sites have been warned that the net is closing in on them.
The Federation Against Software Theft says it is determined to act against individuals profiting by breaching the copyright of its members.
This activity follows on from an announcement by the Software and Information Industry Association in the US that it had launched 17 auction piracy actions against individuals selling counterfeit software via eBay.
"It does not take a rocket scientist to work out that software that should cost upwards of £100 that is being sold on an auction site for a few pounds is likely to be illegal," said John Lovelock, chief executive at the Federation.
"While our focus continues to be on corporate misuse, and the use of high speed corporate internet links for questionable internet activity, we will continue to pursue individuals that set out to defraud our members," he added.
Every year copyright theft costs the UK economy millions of pounds in lost income.
A recent survey carried out by the British Software Alliance showed that a ten per cent drop in illegal copying of software could add over 13,000 jobs and millions of pounds in tax revenue to the UK economy.
While the focus tends to be on films and games, software piracy is often overlooked as a 'Cinderella Sector’. But with more than 80 per cent of UK households now owning or having access to a home computer, the problem illegal software sales is a real and growing issue.
And while cheap software may seem like a good investment, buyers should be aware that the programme they are buying or downloading may come with some nasty surprises in the form of computer viruses or other spyware, not to mention the problems caused by incomplete versions of the software, no updates and a lack of any user manual or support facility.
"Too many people think that software theft is a victimless crime – they believe that the big software corporations can 'take the hit’.
"In principle, there is no difference between selling an illegal copy of a product via an online auction house, or an individual walking out of a shop with a box of software without paying for it and selling it to you in the street. Theft is theft, full stop," said Mr Lovelock.
"Britain’s creative industries are now the driving force in the economy and their rights must be protected. So we will take the fight to the individuals dealing in illegal copies and our message is simple – we can track you down."
Over the last eight years, The Federation has recovered over £8 million for the UK software industry. In one case courts ordered an individual to pay 100 times the value of the software he had been illegally sharing in damages.