However, the rate of piracy itself declined slightly from 52 percent in 1998 to 51 percent in 1999.
"A 51 percent piracy rate means more than half of the software being used in Singapore is pirated...if you walk into an office today, there is more than an equal chance that someone in that office is using pirated software," said Business Software Alliance (BSA) Singapore vice president Stuart Ong.
"That is unacceptable," he said. "If we want to be a global player in the New Ecomomy, we have to benchmark ourselves against the likes of the U.S. and UK," which respectively have 25 and 26 percent piracy rates. He emphasized that stricter measures aimed at the corporate sector should be implemented by the government to stem software piracy.
Just last month, six outlets located along Singapore's popular Orchard Road shopping district were raided in a move that led to the seizure of pirated software. The raids were conducted by the island's CID Intellectual Property Rights Warrant Unit, following complaints lodged by Microsoft Singapore.
In the same month, Microsoft Singapore also said that nine local PC resellers were nabbed for software copyright infringement for pre-loading illegal Microsoft software into computers. They were made to apologize publicly. Last year, a Chinese court tossed out a Microsoft piracy suit on grounds that the software giant had not proven that it was suing the right firm.
According to Singapore law, any company or individual found using unlicensed software will be liable under the Copyright Act. If legal action is taken, the offender might have to pay for damages and legal fees. In addition, if an individual or a company reproduces unlicensed software for sale or distribution, criminal action can be taken against them, resulting in a fine per unlicensed copy, or imprisonment of up to 5 years, or both.
For the first time last November, Microsoft took legal action against a local furniture company, Advantec Office Systems, for using unlicensed Microsoft software. In an out-of-court settlement, Advantec agreed to work with Microsoft on a campaign to educate the public on intellectual property rights. It also paid the software titan for damages.
According to the survey, losses worldwide from software piracy rose 9 percent to $12 billion in 1999 from $11 billion in 1998. This brings losses to a massive $59 billion over the past five years.
Last year, the United States led the world with the highest revenue losses of $3.6 billion, followed by Japan's $975 million and the UK's $680 million.