HONG KONG, 3 AUGUST 2009 - Hong Kong posts the best performance in Asia Pacific in curtailing illegal use of software, with a three percentage point decline in its PC software piracy rate, said Business Software Alliance Friday.
The reduced piracy rate at 48 per cent is a record low for Hong Kong -- the very first time it has dropped below the 50 percent level, said Belinda Lui, BSA in Hong Kong.
BSA said the sustained and visible enforcement effort by Hong Kong's Customs and Excise Department against illegal software is a contributing factor to this result.
For instance, a District Court decision to jail 10 members of a piracy syndicate on prison terms ranging from 11.7 to 74 months for contravening the Copyright Ordinance and the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance highlights the serious consequences of software piracy, BSA noted.
The sentences were enhanced by 30 percent on each charge pursuant to the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance, said the BSA, adding that the 74-month sentence was the heaviest of its kind ever handed down in Hong Kong.
Officers of the Customs & Excise Department Special Task Force and Financial Investigation Group conducted an anti-piracy operation on February 14, 2007 after a year-long in-depth investigation. In the operation, Customs officers seized more than 33,000 pirated optical discs worth about HK$820,000. These included business software from Microsoft, Adobe, and Autodesk, video games, as well as various movies and music on CDs and DVDs.
"This made an exemplary case of piracy prosecution, confirming that software infringement will lead to severe punishment. We hope that it will serve as deterrence," said Lui.
Hong Kong laws fail in the digital age
While the dropping piracy rate is encouraging, Lui said Hong Kong laws aren't equipped to address new challenges related to piracy in the digital environment.
"In the current economic environment, promoting IPR (intellectual property rights) protection has become an even more important issue as it allows businesses to compete fairly and fuels the local software industry to innovate and prosper," said Lui.
The significance and benefits of a drop in software piracy go far beyond the software industry, she noted. Lowering PC software piracy by 10 points over four years would create 600,000 additional new jobs worldwide, and this projection has been confirmed by actual experience in China and Russia according to the same study, she quoted a 2008 IDC study as saying.
The IDC study also stated that reducing software piracy by 10 points would generate US$24 billion in higher government revenues without a tax increase, as piracy lowers tax revenues at a time of increased pressure on governments to provide essential services.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.