Importing computer software through unofficial channels would be decriminalised under a proposal to allow more competition, officials said yesterday. The proposed bill, which is expected to be submitted to the Legislative Council before the end of the year, will also scrap statutory civil proceedings against the parallel import of computer programs. Parallel imports are products shipped from overseas agents who have a legitimate licence issued by the brand name owner but who are not the official local distributors. The Business Software Alliance said yesterday the proposal could encourage more counterfeiting and might not lower prices. But the Deputy Director of Intellectual Property, Peter Cheung Kam-fai, said they were taking the move after gaining majority support from related sectors and legislators they had consulted. The bill would cover all computer programs, including games, but films and music products would be excluded. 'Under the existing copyright laws, it's both a criminal wrong and civil wrong to parallel import copyright articles,' he said. 'The Government is contemplating proposing the deregulation of parallel import of copyright articles by doing away with criminal sanctions and statutory civil proceedings against parallel imports of computer programs.' Statutory civil proceedings allow the copyright owner to take civil action against parallel importers even in the absence of a contract. Mr Cheung said they were still studying if the proposed deregulation should also govern contracts between the copyright owners and their licensees by making the proposed law override private deals. The penalty for parallel imports is a maximum four-year jail term and a fine of $50,000 for each of the infringing articles. The chairman of the Business Software Alliance's Asia Committee, Tom Robertson, said while the committee remained neutral on the proposal, the move might not bring down prices as many software providers imposed a universal price on products.