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Published on Wednesday, December 8, 1999

PERSONAL COMPUTING

Piracy erodes hi-tech dream

STELLA LEE
Copyright theft remains serious and could threaten plans to make the SAR a technology hub, an alliance of software publishers warned yesterday.

While the Business Software Alliance expects the piracy rate to dip below last year's level, it expected the percentage to remain high.

A study by the alliance found the piracy rate had improved from 67 per cent in 1997 to 59 per cent last year when a loss of US$88.6 million (HK$686 million) to legitimate software publishers was recorded.

The vice-president of the alliance, Tom Robertson, said: "Fifty-nine per cent is very inconsistent with the aim of the Hong Kong Government to build a technology industry.

"Fifty-nine per cent simply cannot sustain a strong development of a software industry."

The alliance's Hong Kong chairman, Howard Digby, added: "If Hong Kong is to become a regional centre for technology, an environment must be built in which intellectual property is respected."

Mr Robertson said improved anti-piracy efforts were needed to reduce the piracy rate to a level similar to that in the United States, where a rate of 25 per cent was recorded last year.

Vietnam topped last year's Asia-Pacific list with a piracy rate of 97 per cent, followed by China's 95 per cent. Japan had the lowest rate in the region with 31 per cent.

Commissioner of Customs and Excise John Tsang Chun-wah has said piracy was under control, but Mr Robertson said improvements had been made mainly in the optical discs industry.

Mr Robertson said there was still a long way to go before software piracy was brought under control, especially illegitimate use of software by companies.

He said unauthorised software use in offices accounted for half of the US$11 billion loss worldwide last year.

"Some companies know they're using illegal software but they are doing it anyway," he said.

The alliance resolved software infringement claims against 35 SAR companies during the past year with settlements amounting to more than $7.6 million.

The total nearly matched last year's record high of 44 settlements.

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