Jail term for piracy 'should deter others'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 September, 2008, 12:00am

A five-month jail term imposed on a 36-year-old computer shop owner for selling computers with unlicensed software should serve as a warning of the consequences of such criminal action, the Customs and Excise Department said yesterday.

It was the first jail term and the heaviest penalty yet for such an offence, the department said.

The man was charged after customs officers raided the shop in Yuen Long on March 13 and seized 27 pirated software discs and a computer with unlicensed software installed worth about HK$5,000. The pirated software included the operating system and office application software.

The male owner of the shop was sentenced in Tuen Mun Court in June for breach of the Copyright Ordinance. Under the ordinance, anyone who knowingly uses pirated software in business or sells the pirated software in the course of any trade or business commits a criminal offence.

The maximum penalty is a fine of HK$50,000 per infringing copy and imprisonment for four years.

Earlier this month customs officers arrested five men and two women after their companies were found using pirated software in the first such arrests since the copyright law was amended this year.

The seven included the proprietor of a cybercafe in Tsuen Wan and two directors of a Mong Kok travel agency. They were held in an operation between September 3 and 5 when officers raided the four companies. Officers seized 72 computers using software that infringed copyright law.

They were the first such arrests since new provisions in the Copyright (Amendment) Ordinance 2007 came into force on July 11. Under the new law, directors and partners could be held criminally liable if their companies use pirated software.