According to the latest figures from Australia's BSA Software Alliance, companies in the architecture and engineering sectors were amongst the worst offenders in Australia when it came to illegal usage of licensed software packages in 2014.

BSA settled 12 cases of illegal software usage in Australia worth a total of $825,000 last year, of which nearly half involved the architecture/design and engineering sectors, at 27 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.

Other industries prominently represented included the manufacturing sector at 20 per cent, sales and distribution at 17 per cent, real estate at six per cent, media at four per cent, IT at two per cent and recruitment at two per cent.

Those businesses caught using unlicensed software were made to purchase authentic software licenses as well as pay fines for copyright infringement.

One of the largest illegal software usage cases settled in Australia in 2014 involved Victorian architectural drafting firm Planning and Design. The company agreed to pay $118,000 for the unlicensed usage of software packages during a period of roughly five years, including Adobe Photoshop, Acrobat and Autodesk AutoCAD.

At the time of the settlement in November BSA Australia chair Clayton Noble said the case served as a timely reminder of the potential perils faced by businesses that engage in software piracy, which include heightened security risks on top of legal and pecuniary ramifications.

“This case highlights the financial risk businesses take by using unlicensed software,” said Noble in an official statement. “It’s also important to recognise the IT security risks these businesses are also taking, such as security threats from malware, leaving systems and data open to threat, which can impair productivity and cause loss of work.”

Another major case settled last year involved a Perth engineering firm that had been using unlicensed copies of Autodesk since March 2012. The unnamed business settled the case out of court with BSA in September, paying $65,000 in damages in addition to buying software licenses for future usage.

Victoria has emerged as the chief hotbed for illegal software usage by industry in tandem with the heavy representation of the architecture and engineering sector amongst settlement cases. Companies in the Garden State was responsible for the vast preponderance of software settlements in Australia last year, accounting of a stunning 73 per cent of the total.

Western Australia came in second, accounting for 14 per cent of cases, while New South Wales and Queensland proved far more circumspect, responsible for nine per cent and four per cent respectively despite their larger populations.

According to BSA Asia Pacific compliance programs senior director Roland Chan, the prominence of Victorian companies amongst software settlement cases is due to the rising prominence of Melbourne as a centre for creative industries, including the architecture and engineering sectors, all of which make extensive usage of sophisticated software applications such as CAD programs and BIM.

“With this surge in industry we are seeing a notable increase in the number of Victorian businesses reported for use of illegal software,” said Chan.