MANILA--A coalition of law enforcement agencies has uncorked an intensified nationwide campaign against software piracy, focusing primarily on the country's business districts.
Members of the Philippine Anti-Piracy Team (PAPT) said in a press briefing Thursday that the crackdown would soon commence in Makati City, the country's main financial hub, where businesses have been given until Mar. 26 to "legalize their software or face the risk of a raid or routine inspection".
After Makati City, the PAPT is set to swoop down on the Ortigas business complex in Pasig City as well as the Alabang area in Muntinlupa City. The southern city of Cebu has also been included in the lineup.
As in the case of Makati, the PAPT will announce a date in which companies will be given 15 days to get rid of bootlegged software and comply with copyright regulations. Law enforcement activities will then start after the grace period ends.
Established in 2005, the PAPT is composed of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Optical Media Board (OMB) and Philippine National Police (PNP). The group's main backer, however, is the local representative office of the Business Software Alliance (BSA), an industry association that represents the interest of global software vendors, with members that include Microsoft, IBM and SAP.
Officials from the PAPT member-agencies, including NBI's director Nestor Mantaring, new OMB Chair Ronnie Ricketts, and PNP's director of criminal investigation and detection group Francisco Don Montenegro, said in their speeches that they will not relent in pursuing local firms that use illegal software.
According to BSA's consultant Bien Marquez, the PAPT has seized a total of 404 million pesos (US$8.8 million) worth of pirated software since the group was established five years ago. Of this figure, 95 million pesos (US$2.1 million) worth of illegal software were confiscated last year, he said.
Since 2005, the NBI, OMB and PNP have conducted a total of 139 raids on business establishments and Internet cafes, Marquez revealed. Based on 2005 data, the top five most pirated software products are Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, Autodesk Autocad, Adobe Photoshop, and Norton Anti-Virus.
Marquez, who is a lawyer, said the PAPT, along with the BSA, is awaiting approval for a set of "special rules on intellectual property (IP)" that it submitted to the Supreme Court. One of the provisions contained in the proposal is the setting up of special IP courts dedicated to handle both civil and criminal cases, he explained. Currently, IP-related criminal suits are managed by the regular trial courts, while civil cases are lodged with the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPO).
Marquez said the antipiracy efforts are being directed at the business sector to encourage enterprises to treat software as assets that will give them "competitive edge", and not as a liability that can cause legal troubles.
According to an IDC study, commissioned by the BSA, the piracy rate in the Philippines stood at 69 percent in 2008, similar to the year before. However, revenue losses rose to US$202 million in 2008 compared to US$147 million in 2007.
Melvin G. Calimag is a freelance IT writer based in the Philippines.