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Study: Smaller Singapore firms skirt copyrights

Nearly a third of respondents in a survey admit they don't comply with copyright laws. The reason? High costs.

While small and midsize businesses in Singapore are aware of the island state's new copyright laws, nearly a third of respondents in a recent survey are still not compliant.

Under Singapore's Copyright Act, revised early this year, it is a criminal offense for a person or company to obtain a commercial advantage from unlicensed or pirated software. Offenders face a fine of up to $12,250 (S$20,000) and up to six months in prison.

The study, conducted by research firm Intercedent Asia, polled 100 small and midsize businesses (SMBs) in Singapore to gauge their level of compliance since the amended laws came into effect in January of this year, said Liew Woon Yin, director general of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), which commissioned the survey.

According to the study, awareness of the new law is high among SMBs, with three-quarters of respondents saying they are aware of the copyright legislation.

About 28 percent of respondents said they were already compliant. These businesses also indicated they have taken measures to ensure they only buy software from credible sources. In addition, 65 percent said they conduct regular software audits.

Among those that said they were not compliant, 47.3 percent are small businesses with fewer than 10 workstations. "This clearly points to the fact that the smaller companies are still facing problems to be compliant," Liew said.

"One reason provided by (survey) respondents for not being compliant is the relative high cost of software," she said.

To help SMBs become compliant, the respondents suggested vendors change the way their software is priced or packaged, and give the businesses more time to ensure compliance. The SMBs also noted that the use of open-source software would help them stay compliant.

Liew said that after IPOS presented its findings from the survey, software vendors responded by launching a new software licensing program that offers discounts of up to 60 percent for business software.

The program will include software from Adobe Systems, Autodesk, Borland, Computer Associates International, Microsoft, Novell, Siacad, Sun Microsystems and Symantec. The program started Nov. 1 and will end Dec. 23 this year, with the exception of Sun and CA, whose promotions will continue through March of next year.

"We hope (we will see) not just the larger companies, but more of the smaller enterprises, come forward to take this opportunity and become compliant," Liew said.

Aaron Tan of ZDNet Asia reported from Singapore.