S'pore company charged for software piracy

Latest move by local authorities marks the first time a local business has been charged under the country's revised copyright law.

SINGAPORE--A local company has become the first to be charged under the island-state's revised copyright laws.

According to local media reports, interior designer PDM International was charged in court Thursday for allegedly using 51 copies of unlicensed software from Adobe Systems, Autodesk and Microsoft. The total market value of the software is estimated to be more than US$30,000.

PDM was raided last September by local police, after the Business Software Alliance (BSA) reportedly received a tip-off from whistleblowers. Eight desktop computers, three laptops and five copyright-infringing CD-ROMs were seized.

Tarun Sawney, director of antipiracy at BSA Asia-Pacific, said the antipiracy global trade group receives 30 to 40 tip-offs per month from its Singapore toll-free hotline that was started last February.

The BSA offers a maximum reward of S$20,000 (US$12,256) for information on copyright infringements by local companies. Sawney declined to say how many informants had called to alert the BSA about PDM's wrongdoing, or the value of a reward, if there is indeed one.

Sawney told ZDNet Asia that the PDM case bodes well in Singapore's journey toward establishing a strong copyright regime. "The fact that the case has reached the [judicial] courts signifies a milestone for antipiracy enforcement in Singapore," he said.

Under Singapore's Copyright Act, revised early last year, it is a criminal offence for a person or company to obtain a commercial advantage from unlicensed or pirated software. Offenders face fines of up to S$20,000 (US$12,250) and up to six months imprisonment.

To help companies stay legit, the BSA has already conducted two software asset management seminars, as of November last year, Sawney said. "More education-related projects are in the pipeline to ensure businesses stay on the right side of the law," he added.