Police and UK music industry body the BPI executed a search warrant at engineering firm Honeywell this week amid allegations that thousands of music files were being shared illegally on the company's computer system.
According to a BPI statement, an employee of the company's premises in Motherwell, Scotland reported illegal file-sharing to the trade body. A two-month investigation followed and a number of employees are reported to be assisting the police with their enquiries. A report will be issued to the Procurator Fiscal, according to the BPI.
BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor said: "File-sharing music in the workplace is illegal, misuses company resources, wastes employees' time and introduces network security risks."
Saving music to a home computer or business network without authority is unlawful. However, the music industry has turned a blind eye to those adding music to home computers, unless hey make it available to others via peer-to-peer networks. This is the first time that the BPI has investigated a company on suspicion of digital music piracy in the workplace.
Copying music for personal use without permission risks litigation. But copying music "in the course of a business" or "otherwise than in the course of a business to such an extent as to affect prejudicially the owner of the copyright" is a criminal offence under section 107 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988. Such copying also risks litigation in the civil courts.
Taylor said: "Any businesses that are complacent in this area should take note: failure to put in place a stringent, enforceable policy to prevent staff copying and distributing music on company systems could expose the company, and the employees concerned, to the risk of civil proceedings or a criminal investigation."
A spokeswoman for Honeywell told OUT-LAW today:
"Honeywell consider copyright infringement a very serious matter and have rigorous policies intended to prevent such activity taking place on their premises. Similar to the recording industry, Honeywell vigorously protects its vast portfolio of intellectual property from others attempting to capitalise on their value and the strength of the Honeywell brand. We will continue to fully cooperate with investigators and with the BPI."
In 2002, the BPI's US counterpart, the RIAA, took action against an Arizona firm that ran a dedicated server for its employees to store and access thousands of MP3 music files over its network. That company agreed to pay $1 million to settle the case.