Pilipinas Anti-Piracy team to curb software piracy

Von April B.

The countdown to hunt users of pirated software has begun as the Pilipinas Anti-Piracy Team gears up for its quest in cracking down piracy. Local companies are expected to correct license misuse by Sept. 15, after which the crackdown will officially begin.

The team, composed of members of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Optical Media Board (OMB), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Intellectual Property Coalition, started the 30-day countdown on Aug. 17 in cooperation with the Business Software Alliance (BSA).

Shortly after the announcement of a countdown, calls to the anti-piracy hotline of the BSA doubled as numerous individuals reported companies that use unlicensed software.

The countdown will be followed by a nationwide crackdown phase which will involve a series of raids against software copyright violators.

The undertaking is part of the government?s effort in getting rid of piracy in the country. Eduardo Manzano, chairman of the OMB said that the project is an all-out campaign against software piracy. ?We want to show that the government is determined to make the country piracy-free so that foreign investors will see the Philippines as an attractive destination for their business, without any fear that their products will be pirated.?

Software piracy exists in many forms including corporate end-user piracy, hard disk loading, retail CD-ROM piracy, and Internet piracy. Based on a recent International Data Corp. (IDC) study commissioned by the BSA, the most noticeable among these forms of piracy is the sale of counterfeit CD-ROMs in retail outlets.

However, software piracy has remained rampant among corporate-end users particularly when businesses install more copies of software than it has licenses for it. ?Software piracy has continued to be a big threat to the growth of the local information and communications sector. It has also been causing billions of lost revenues to our economy,? said Manzano.

Among the types of piracy, corporate end-user piracy is the most damaging to the BSA, according to Jeff Hardee, BSA vice president and regional director for Asia. ?A lot of businesses continue to use software without proper licenses. The BSA has been conducting seminars on software asset management (SAM) to help companies realize the value of their IT investment. The adoption of a model SAM practice also minimizes software license misuse.?

The IDC study also places the country?s piracy rate at 71 percent with losses amounting to P3.7 billion in 2004. IP Coalition chairman John Lesaca said that both the government and legitimate businesses continue to be adversely affected by piracy, particularly in lost income and revenues. In the local movie industry alone, revenue losses amount to P16 billion, said Manzano. ?Lost revenues in taxes due to piracy could have been used to fund basic services such as education, health, and infrastructure,? Manzano added.

NBI director Reynaldo Wycoco urged companies to make sure that they are only using licensed software. ?We hope that businesses will heed our call. Legalize your unlicensed software now before the crackdown begins. Do not put your company at risk by using unlicensed software.? The NBI will also involve their regional and local offices to make the nationwide campaign more successful.

The team is bent on eliminating piracy in the country. In a span of 18 months, the team has closed three factories, raided Quiapo, and confiscated 1,000,080 discs. Manzano explained that since 1999, the rate of piracy in the country has gone down by 6 percent. ?It?s still a small figure, but we are definitely going to raise that figure up in the coming months.?

The crackdown is not a matter to be taken lightly. PNP director Arturo Lomibao also cautioned companies using unlicensed software. ?Piracy is stealing and is against the law. Dishonest vendors who are caught selling and using pirated software not only face risk of paying hefty fines but also imprisonment,? said Lomibao.

The BSA even raised the reward for reports of piracy cases from P200,000 to P1 million. ?We are proud to support this government-driven campaign against the use of pirated and unlicensed software. We laud the agencies leading this initiative for recognizing the need to reduce, and consequently eliminate piracy,? said Hardee.