The Business Software Alliance has doubled the bounty it offers to employees who report their companies for unlicensed software use, to a maximum of £20,000 ($35,000).

In 2000 the BSA began offering a reward of up to £10,000 for such reports. The new limit will be in effect until the end of June, and goes into force at a time when companies such as Microsoft are turning the screws on users in order to ensure they aren't missing any potential licence revenue.

Microsoft, for instance, is gradually expanding a programme called Windows Genuine Advantage, which blocks users from receiving most software updates unless they comply with licensing rules.

The company recently said it would use Windows Automatic Updates to install a WGA program on millions of desktops, which will display alerts until non-compliant users buy a legitimate licence.

According to the BSA, too many UK businesses still "think they can get away with it"; the company cites IDC findings that 27 percent of software used in UK businesses is not properly licensed.

"By doubling the incentives for informants we are also effectively doubling the risk for businesses of getting caught out," said Siobhan Carroll, the BSA's regional manager for Northern Europe, in a statement. "Hopefully this will make software licensing a higher priority."

The BSA has timed its bounty offer to coincide with the announcement of bonuses and salary reviews at many UK companies, a factor the it warns will put companies at a greater risk of being reported by disgruntled staff.

Twenty-seven percent of workers in a YouGov report said large salary rises for the board or poor salary reviews for staff could spur them to act, the BSA said.

Even more - 65 percent - said they would consider reporting their company if they felt the employer had treated them unfairly, YouGov found. The survey found that 64 percent of employees would report improper licensing activities if they had raised an alarm internally, but their reports had been ignored.

Reports can be made anonymously via the BSA's Web site.

Find your next job with techworld jobs