The Government will make a final push to discourage local companies from using pirated computer applications next month before it starts a crackdown on illegal software. The amended Copyright Ordinance went into effect last April, making it a criminal offence for a business owner or employee to knowingly use pirated software in the workplace. However, a recent survey of 300 small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Hong Kong by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) found that one-third of the companies polled had not heard of the recent amendments to the Copyright Ordinance. Only 26 per cent of SMEs polled indicated that they had audited their computers for pirated software, said BSA vice-president Ringo Wong. The director of the Government's Intellectual Property Department, Stephen Selby, said: 'To maintain Hong Kong's competitiveness as an international city and a commercial hub, and to develop its software industry, the use of licensed software in business operations is essential.' Since the Government began enforcing the amended ordinance last April, the Customs and Excise Department has arrested 16 people and taken action against 10 companies for using illegal software. The Customs and Excise Department's Intellectual Property Investigation Bureau mainly works off the 430-plus complaints it receives from either the company's employees or outside computer experts hired to fix software problems. The volume of complaints regarding software is relatively low compared with the number of complaints other customs bureaus receive, said Tam Yiu-keung, senior superintendent, Intellectual Property Investigation Bureau. 'We will consider increasing our enforcement activities significantly in this area if the situation does not improve after the entire period of the education programme, which ends on May 1,' Mr Tam said. Sources say Hong Kong authorities are planning another crackdown on pirated software on May 1. Next month, the Intellectual Property Department and BSA will hold programmes to educate SMEs about the amended Copyright Ordinance. Among the programmes will be a series of free seminars on software asset management starting April 17. The BSA is also talking to companies to act as sponsors and give SMEs which have been certified as using legal software special commercial privileges.