THE anti-piracy Business Software Alliance (BSA) is on the warpath. And though the organisation has long been regarded as a heavy hitter in Asia, this time its litigation squadron appears to be wielding an even bigger stick than usual. Two weeks ago, BSA representatives raided a pirate software manufacturer and mail-order syndicate in Singapore, smashing what it said was a clearing house for a vast and sophisticated global network of illegal distributors. Having caught the bad guys, BSA representatives proceeded to bludgeon the squeaky clean Singapore Government, berating legal officials for an apparent unwillingness to prosecute computer software copyright infringements. Last week, the BSA jumped up and down in celebration of the action taken by the new United States administration under Special 301 Provisions, in its Trade Act against countries that failed to adequately protect intellectual property. In Asia, Taiwan and South Korea received top billing as the region's chief trouble spots, having been granted the notoriously named Priority Watch List status. Honourable mentions - in the form of the strange Priority Foreign Country designation - went to Thailand and India (with Thailand alone said to be costing the US software industry US$49 million annually). China and the Philippines gained Watch List (said to have cost the software developers $225 million and $25 million respectively). This, we figure, means there are few countries in the region that are not being watched by the US Government (and the BSA by proxy). Not that we should feel victimised. The war now being waged on software piracy by various organisations is a global one, and right now the war just seems to be going through a particularly violent period. Nobody is taking prisoners. In the US, the lobbyist Software Publishers Association (SPA) has launched a massive education campaign, with SPA publicising its tough tactics. In large part, the 'education' process involves the SPA showing the public that it carries a big stick, and then telling them that SPA is eager to beat the living daylights out of software thieves. SPA advertisments are kind of fun. Like the one billboard in New York said: ''Copy software illegally, and you could get this hardware absolutely free.'' The hardware refers to a pair of handcuffs. The add also carries a toll free number for reporting software piracy and fror requesting self help materials. In Hongkong, the BSA has taken the pirate fight to the masses - and risked a backlash from the small users community - with a campaign against bulletin boards services (BBSs) that allegedly allow members to upload and download copyrighted software illegally. There is enormous interest in bulletin boards in Hongkong and the BSA considers them a significant distribution point for illegal software - a charge hotly contested by local users. Last time the BSA went after the bulletin boards, local systems operators launched a bitter counter-attack on what they claimed were trigger-happy lawyers. The BSA estimates that there are about 50,000 active bulletin board users in the territory - and in anyone's language that is a sizeable army.