UK businesses caught using unlicensed software have paid out £2 million ($3.1 million) in ‘settlements’ in the first six months of 2010, the Business Software Alliance (BSA) industry watchdog has announced.

The figure for Europe and the Middle-East was £6.5 million, which comprised £4 million to correctly license software, and a further £2.5 million in additional costs.

The total number of cases brought was over 1,000, with sums realised 20 percent up for the period compared to the first half of 2009. One business cited ended up paying over £200,000 to correctly license its software, the organisation said.

“We hope that these figures act as a reminder to businesses that if they are caught using unlicensed software, the BSA will take action,” said the BSA’s director of compliance marketing EMEA, Julian Swan.” In order to protect themselves, we urge all companies to ensure they are legally sound when it comes to their software use,” he said.

The BSA is not without its controversial side, however, representing as it does a raft of rich software houses that demand license compliance while asking users to sign away their riedress against poorly-performing and insecure software with catch-all end user license agreements (EULAs).

In the past, the organisation’s US wing has also been criticised for using the promise of payments to informers as a means of finding out which companies are, wittingly or not, using unlicensed software. In some people’s eyes, the organisation’s tactics can appear heavy-handed.

The BSA does not say in its latest report how the UK and European cases were uncovered.