Firms not ready for piracy law, poll finds

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 November, 2007, 12:00am

Hong Kong firms are ill prepared for new copyright laws under which directors or partners will be criminally liable for software piracy in their enterprises, a survey has indicated.

They have little awareness of software asset management (SAM), a process that enables companies to track illicit use of software as well as ensuring their legally purchased software and equipment is being efficiently used, the survey found.

The poll, conducted by the Business Software Alliance and the Hong Kong Productivity Council, questioned 400 companies, including 221 small and medium-sized firms with fewer than 20 staff.

Almost 60 per cent of respondents had not started implementing the system and about one third had no plan to invest in it in the future.

Forty-three per cent of interviewees indicated finance was their biggest constraint on implementation, and most said they required support such as subsidies and training.

Under the amended Copyright Ordinance, to take effect next year, directors or partners of organisations involved in software end-user piracy will be liable to prosecution.

Responding to the survey results, the productivity council's general manager of IT industry development, Yung Kai-tai, said the government should work more closely with the private sector and the process should be more widely promoted.

'Free SAM resources kits should be given to smaller businesses to explain the scheme, and a hotline or website should be established to provide sufficient information.'

A free consultancy service is already available but has helped only a handful of companies so far because of limited resources.

The Intellectual Property Department, the Customs and Excise Department and the alliance launched a 'genuine business software campaign' last year to encourage companies to adopt the system.

But only 160 groups - including the Federation of Hong Kong Industries - have used the service, in which software tracking tools are installed on the firms' computer systems.

According to a report by the alliance, the piracy rate among commercial and domestic software users stands at 53 per cent, about 10 per cent more than in Taiwan and Singapore, but close to the international average.

Breaches of the amended ordinance carry a maximum penalty of four years' imprisonment and a fine of HK$50,000.