P1M given to piracy informants--BSA

by David Dizon, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Aug 13 2009 12:11 PM | Updated as of Aug 13 2009 08:11 PM

MANILA - The Business Software Alliance (BSA) on Wednesday said it has given more than P1 million in rewards to eight informants who tipped authorities on companies using pirated software in the past 12 months.

Atty. Bien Marquez, BSA consultant for the Philippines, said the information provided by these informants led to successful enforcement actions against companies allegedly infringing on software copyright owned by BSA members, which is a violation of the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines. The BSA is a US-based non-profit organization promoting the use of licensed software.

Owners of companies who are found to use pirated software are charged with copyright infringement, Marquez said. If convicted, software pirates could face a one to three-year jail sentence and a P150,000 fine.

"We've had three convictions so far but because of our current justice system, some cases are still on appeal while at least one individual who has been convicted opted to go on probation. Most of those convicted are first-time offenders," he told abs-cbnNEWS.com.

Marquez said lawmakers should also look at implementing tougher laws against copyright infringement, noting that the Intellectual Property Rights Code was passed more than a decade ago.

He said various business groups are in talks with the Supreme Court and the Intellectual Property Office to come up with special rules on intellectual property cases.

“Some say that the penalities, the imprisonment aspect should be increased. In that sense, that aspect may have to be looked on again because the IP Code was passed more than 10 years ago,” he said.

“I also know that Lee Jeans and Nike have problems defending copyright because of the delaying tactics of defense lawyers,” he added.

500 tips in 1 year

Tarun Sawney, BSA senior director for Anti-Piracy Asia-Pacific, said that in the past 12 months, the BSA hotline has received over 500 calls from informants who gave valuable information on companies using pirated software. Overall, he said the BSA has given out P4 million in rewards in the past seven years to software piracy informants.

He said the influx of calls in the BSA hotline proves that Filipinos are starting to acknowledge the importance of fighting software piracy.

"How do we change mindsets? We know that copying software is wrong under criminal and civil law. How do we make people think and feel strongly enough that they do something? Our challenge is to make people realize that reporting software piracy actually helps the economy,” he said.

“In 2007 to mid-2008, we averaged a certain number of calls. Last year, it tripled. What does that tell us? It says that there is a mindset, that this thing that the company is doing is not right. We've always had a reward for the information but now we've given out more in rewards than in any other year,” he said.

The BSA hotline was established in support of the Philippine government's enforcement initiatives to address software copyright violations. The program operates under strict rules of confidentiality that protect the hotline caller and is mandated under US data and privacy laws.

A BSA study recently showed that the software piracy rate in the Philippines remains unchanged at 69 percent as of 2008.