The Business Software Alliance (BSA) has called on businesses to take immediate steps for ensuring that they are using only legal and licensed software following a raid on 18 June 2007 by the Singapore Police Force on a Land Surveying Professional Consultancy for suspected use of unlicensed and illegal software.
The police raid, prompted by a tip-off received through the BSA Singapore Anti-Piracy website, is the second police raid in five months against businesses for suspected violation of Singapore’s Copyright Law. This is also the first professional partnership firm raided by the Police.
The raid, conducted by officers from Intellectual Property Rights Branch of Criminal Investigation Department, saw the seizure of 27 computers and 10 suspected pirated software CDs. The suspected infringing software included applications from Adobe, AutoDesk and Microsoft, which have an estimated worth of S$180,000.
According to BSA’s Director of Anti-Piracy, Asia, professional firms risk jeopardizing their reputation and having their integrity called into question if found guilty of software infringement. Additionally, where the professional firm is also a partnership, personal liability can also attach to the partners themselves. In the wake of the current police investigations, the BSA urged businesses to check their software being used, are properly licensed. Businesses if using infringing software for commercial advantage are taking huge risk. If found guilty of copyright infringements, they expose themselves to severe criminal penalties and civil redress from copyright holders.
Under Singapore’s amended Copyright Act, first- time offenders who commit a willful infringement of copyright to obtain a commercial advantage face a maximum fine of S$20,000 and/ or a maximum jail term of six months. In addition, the amended act allows provisions for copyright owners to claim statutory damages against infringers in a parallel civil suit, among other remedies. Under these new provisions, an infringer could be required to pay up to S$10,000 for each work infringed or up to S$2000,000 in aggregate. If the copyright owner can prove greater losses, a higher amount of damages may be awarded. Also, where a partnership is found guilty of copyright infringement, every partner in a partnership, other than a partner who is proved to have been ignorant of or to have attempted to prevent the commission of the offence, can also be found guilty of the offence and be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly. Liability of partners can also extend to civil claims.
According to BSA’s Third Annual Global Software Piracy Study, Singapore has a piracy rate of 40 percent, with losses amounting to US$86 million in 2005. Reiterating BSA’s continued commitment to support the Government’s tough stand in addressing corporate software piracy, extensive effort have been taken by BSA, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore and Industry Associations to educate companies on the need to use only legal and licensed software.
To help businesses in Singapore to protect themselves from the risk of liability through inadvertent software copyright infringement, BSA launched the SAM Advantage Programme (Software Asset Management), a free and voluntary software self-audit initiative. SAM process helps companies identify and root out pirated software, and ensures that they have the appropriate licensing levels for their software needs, so that they are in line with Singapore’s new copyright laws. Companies, who are successfully enrolled, will receive a BSA SAM Advantage Programme Certificate and protection for 12-month period from BSA-initiated enforcement action from the date of acceptance, subject to terms and conditions. Therefore, for the time being we can just keep our fingers crossed and hope that the above initiatives facilitate in better protection of copyrights in software.