THE Business Software Alliance (BSA), the industry organisation dedicated to the eradication of software piracy, estimates piracy in China is responsible for losses of US$500 million (about HK$3.9 billion) each year. The organisation estimates that pirated programs account for more than 90 per cent of the software used in China. BSA president Robert Holleyman, in Hong Kong yesterday on his way back from a government seminar in Beijing, said: ''A huge problem exists in China regarding piracy, particularly software piracy, and little has been done to address that problem.'' The BSA, whose members include leading software producers including Apple, Microsoft, Novell and WordPerfect, was set up five years ago. It has lobbied for trade sanctions such as the American Special 301 provisions to be implemented against countries which fail to protect intellectual property. However this may not be necessary in China's case. Encouraging signals were given at the seminar, jointly organised by the Chinese Government and the US Embassy to mark the first anniversary of China's accession to the Berne Convention for the Protectionof Literary and Artistic Works. Yang Tianxin, chief of the computer division of the Ministry of Electronic Industry, said: ''We are making great efforts to this effect; however, the job has only just begun.'' Mr Holleyman said China's steps towards copyright protection, although substantial, had been largely ineffective due to the lack of criminal penalties against offenders. At the moment, only civil and administrative cases can be heard in China's new Copyright Protection Court. The BSA will be targeting this area in its continuing lobbying campaign on the mainland. The BSA is to launch an extensive programme to educate users about the pitfalls of using illegal software, and will pursue civil cases through the courts. Mr Holleyman said: ''We hope that by bringing together international experts and concerned groups from China, a concrete action plan can be drawn up which will help eradicate the high levels of software theft on the mainland.''