UK businesses caught using unlicensed software paid £2.2 million ($3.5 million) in fines during 2010, industry police force the Business Software Alliance (BSA) has reported.

The largest ‘settlement’ made during the year by a single business was £40,000, almost certainly a reference to the Quacquarelli Symonds Group, caught last December without enough Microsoft and Adobe licenses. The company also paid the same sum again in legal costs.

Other notable scalps included Native Design fined £24,000, Barrhead Travel Services Ltd which paid out £10,000, and Northern Irish firm Armstrong Medical which paid over £12,000 in fines and costs.

The £2.2 million fine total for 2010 is around twice the total for 2009, but that was for a year when the BSA went on publicity offensive to draw attention to the consequences of getting caught without software licenses.

The rise might also have something to do with the BSA’s campaign, announced in September 2010, to get insiders to inform on their employers or former employers in return for a financial reward.

“Informant reports come through frequently and businesses need to be aware that it is easy for employees to blow the whistle on unlicensed software use," said BSA compliance 'marketing' manager, Julian Swan, who has a job title that ranks as one of the oddest in the software business.

“Companies that cut corners to save costs when it comes to renewing their software licenses are breaking the law and this is an ideal excuse for frustrated employees to secure some payback on management that thinks it can get more with less,” he reminded the world.

In a single example publicised by the BSA during the year, one disgruntled employee was paid £10,000 for offering incriminating information on his company.

Across EMEA as a whole, fines of £11.3 million were handed out during the year, the result of 1,795 legal actions and 447 exposed companies. The BSA says it received 3,000 ‘leads’ allowing it to initiate investigations.