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Singapore Company Found Guilty for Unlicensed Software Usage
Corporate/Events | Corporate News
Fri 28 Apr 2006

Thursday, 27 April 2006, Singapore -- In a landmark criminal case, interior design consultancy PDM International was sentenced to a fine of S$30,000 in court today for the use of unlicensed and illegal software – thereby becoming the first company to be so penalised since Singapore’s Copyright Act was amended on January 1, 2005 to make willful infringement of copyright for commercial gain a criminal offence.

The court case is the result of a successful raid carried out by police officers from the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) branch of the Criminal Investigation Department on September 15 last year where 11 computers were seized.

Following the raid, suspected infringing software belonging to Business Software Alliance member companies Adobe, Autodesk and Microsoft were seized by the police from the premises of the firm, which also has offices across Asia Pacific.

In meting out the sentence, Judge Bala Reddy noted that PDM International had failed to obtain licences for its software when it was raided, even though this was nine months after the amended Copyright Act came into force.

He also pointed out that all companies should have systems in place to ensure compliance with the law, regardless of whether they have IT managers in their organizations.

“The BSA applauds the efforts by Singapore’s enforcement and legal authorities to clamp down on software copyright infringement in the workplace,” said Tarun Sawney, BSA’s Director of Anti-Piracy, Asia.

“This landmark case underlines the seriousness of software copyright infringement – companies that flout the law can face severe penalties. It is extremely important that businesses ensure they act responsibly and practice good corporate governance to ensure they use only legal and licensed software in the workplace,” added Sawney.

Under Singapore’s amended Copyright Act, first-time offenders face a maximum fine of S$20,000 or a maximum jail term of six months, or both.

In addition, under the amended act, a copyright owner may also claim statutory damages against infringers in a civil case. Under these new provisions, an infringer could be required to pay up to S$10,000 for each work infringed, or up to S$200,000 in aggregate.

“The wilful use of copyright infringing software in a business environment attracts criminal penalties and incurs severe consequences. Police take a serious view of such acts and will not hesitate to take action against offenders," said Deputy Superintendent of Police Tan Kah Khin, Head of the Criminal Investigation Department’s Intellectual Property Rights Branch.

Ms Liew Woon Yin, Director-General for the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, added: “This ruling demonstrates that the new infringement law, aimed at protecting the rights of content creators and owners in Singapore, is functioning well. We hope this outcome will send a clear message to businesses, encouraging them to ensure their business practices are compliant with intellectual property legislation.

“IPOS has together with the industry, driven compliance initiatives such as the Software Licensing Programme – aimed at helping SMEs purchase legitimate software. IPOS will continue to reach out to businesses to educate and enable them to be software compliant,” said Ms Liew.

In order to ensure they do not run foul of the copyright law, BSA advocates that companies adopt a sound software asset management (SAM) policy and process.

“SAM helps companies to manage their software assets so that they know exactly what software they have and need. This would enable them to identify and address under-licensing and remove unauthorized or illegal software. Companies that have not implemented SAM must do so now,” said Sawney.

According to the Second Annual BSA and IDC Global Software Piracy Study published in May 2005, Singapore has a piracy rate of 42 percent, with losses amounting to US$96 million in 2004.