More than 900 companies suspected of copyright abuse
STAR  13 May 2003  

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By STEVEN PATRICK

SHAH ALAM: The Business Software Alliance (www.bsa.org) said it had a list of 900 Malaysian companies that it suspects of using illegal software. 

However, rather than going after them with guns blazing, it is opting for a softer, educational approach. 

"Raiding is a last resort," said BSA regional marketing director of Asia Pacific Roland Chan. 

"If we called on the (Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs) Ministry to do 900 raids tomorrow, it would be a waste of resources. We're not in the business of raiding." 

Chan said that these 900 company names were acquired by the BSA through tip-offs. BSA receives about 50 calls daily on its hotline from informants. 

It was the BSA's intention to educate rather than penalise, he said at an announcement of two successful raids under the government's Ops Tulen initiative. 

Last week, two Klang Valley-based companies were raided, and RM368,000 worth of suspected infringing software was seized. 

Anyone found using pirated software can be charged in court under the Copyright Act, 1987, and fined up to RM10,000 or jailed up to five years if convicted, or both. 

Enforcement officers from the Ministry are also empowered to break into premises of the suspected companies using pirated and unlicensed computer software. 

Deputy Director-General Roslan Mahayudin claimed in another interview that under Section 44 of the Copyright Act 1987, enforcement officers had the power to take such action if required, without obtaining a search warrant from court. 

The BSA, a global antipiracy conglomerate of software companies, is appealing to the "moral side of corporate Malaysia" to fight software piracy. 

BSA Asia Pacific enforcement manager Tarun Sawney, in a prepared statement, urged Malaysian companies to "search their conscience" by using licensed software. 

Companies were willing to pay for computer hardware, but would rather "steal" the software that aids their productivity in the first place, he said earlier last week. 

The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry concurred. 

Its Selangor minister Zainal Abidin said that raids would only conducted on "hardcore" companies that had ignored prior warnings from the ministry. 

He said that 10,000 warning letters -- stating the possibility of a raid on the company -- had been sent out this year. 

The letters were either hand-delivered or sent by registered mail. 

BSA's Chan said that a company could not be classified a hardcore company by just the number of warning letters it received. "If it were, companies would go 'Unless I get five letters and a visit, I won’t get raided.' That won't do it." 

Chan said he believed that the constant antipiracy reminders in daily newspapers and on the radio would help contribute in terms of education. This was part of an awareness campaign, but he would not reveal the amount spent on it. 

He added that the 900 companies in question had already received warning letters and hoped that they would adhere to them. He claimed that some companies could have begun using licensed software after receiving letters. 

Chan believed that this "non-confrontational" approach towards software piracy would still reduce software piracy rates by as much as 10% by 2006. 

"The piracy rate was 80% in 1996 and it was 70% in 2001, so reducing it a further 10% is a very realistic target, " he said. 

A recent BSA-sponsored study by IDC claimed that a reduction of a mere 10% in piracy rates could add an additional RM5.3bil to the Malaysian economy. 

Another study of 28 countries, including Malaysia, by Sallstrom Consulting found that every 10% decrease in the rate of software piracy raised the IT sector’s share of GDP by 13%.