SINGAPORE--The Business Software Alliance (BSA) has extended its free software asset management (SAM) initiative to Singapore, following similar programs in other Asian markets.
Jointly initiated with the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, the BSA SAM Advantage Program aims to help companies ensure that their software is fully licensed. Under the initiative, businesses will be taken through a simple software self-audit process, after which the results will be submitted to the BSA.
Companies with verified software audits will receive a program certificate from BSA, which has said it will not take piracy enforcement action against those companies for 12 months.
Participants of the program reported for infringement through BSA's hotlines and Web site will also be given 14 days to rectify licensing discrepancies, while non-certified companies face the risk of action without warning at any time.
According to Jeffrey Hardee, Asia-Pacific vice president and regional director for BSA, the program will only be available from Apr. 9 to May 30 this year.
Earlier initiatives started in Thailand, Philippines, Hong Kong, and India have been well received, Hardee said.
Short of revealing the number of companies that were certified under similar programs in Asia, Hardee said: "What we found was that the certification process does give them some guarantee of no enforcement action for a period of time.
"It does provide some incentive for companies to come forward and do what they should do anyway," he added.
Hardee said SAM is a critical process that companies can undertake to find out what software is installed in their computers and identity the best way to acquire the software they need. Regular audits should also be conducted to ensure that their licenses are valid and current.
Under Singapore's Copyright Act, it is a criminal offence for a person or company to obtain a commercial advantage from unlicensed or pirated software. Offenders face a fine of up to S$20,000 (US$12,250) and up to six months imprisonment.
"It's just not worth taking the risk," Hardee said, adding that while BSA believes most companies in Singapore are law-abiding, software non-compliance can occur if businesses do not have a process to manage their software assets.
"Often times, businesses may not know what employees install on their computers," he said. "Employees may be playing games and taking up a lot of bandwidth and slowing things down."
Adrian Chan, a legal counsel for Singapore's Association of Small and Midsized Enterprises (ASME), which is a supporter of the BSA SAM Advantage Program, noted the program's benefits to SMBs.
Chan noted that "although SMBs in Singapore want to stay on the right side of the law, they usually face two problems".
"The first one is cost," he said. "It is very heartening that this program is absolutely free; it costs nothing to undergo this self-audit program and obtain certification.
"Secondly, SMBs lack resources and IT expertise, and one of the last things they want is to spend money to hire a large IT department [to ensure they stay legit]," Chan added.
According to BSA's latest statistics, the average piracy rate among Asia-Pacific countries was 54 percent in 2005. Projected loss in revenues from software piracy totaled US$8 billion for the region, an increase of 1.25 percent from US$7.9 billion in 2004. BSA's 2006 piracy figures will be revealed later this year.