While piracy of computer programs declined in some Asian nations last year, the losses to producers rose because demand for software is mushrooming, an industry group says.
Software theft in some countries in Asia reached their lowest levels since the launch of antipiracy campaigns, the 1994 estimates by the Washington-based Business Software Alliance show.Levels of piracy in Hong Kong and Taiwan fell last year, its annual report says. But the "rapid growth of the market in (Hong Kong) pushed dollar losses to record levels," said Alix Parlour, a Hong Kong-based vice president of the BSA.
"These losses are unacceptable to the software industry and the government cannot afford to become complacent."
The BSA, which represents a number of the largest software producers, calculates 1994 losses to piracy in 14 Asian countries exceeded US$4.3 billion with an average piracy rate of 68 percent. Asia accounted for 29 percent of the US$15.2 billion lost to software theft worldwide, it says, a decrease of 2 percent from the previous year.
"These figures represent a slight improvement, however the losses continue to be significant and seriously impact all levels of the computer industry, including software developers, distributors and resellers," Ms. Parlour said.
Software theft in Asia remains among the worst in the world, the BSA said.
Hong Kong and Taiwan get good marks for trying to combat the plague of thefts. In Taiwan, government intervention had what Ms. Parlour called a dramatic effect, with levels of piracy falling to 72 percent of the total market last year from 84 percent in 1993.
The piracy rate in Japan decreased to 67 percent from 80 percent, but actions by the Japanese government drew a sharp rap from the industry body.
"Despite a drop in the piracy rate, which BSA welcomes, the increase in
dollar losses due to software piracy because of the growth in the market clearly illustrates the damage being caused by piracy," Ms. Parlour said.
"The BSA calls upon the Japanese government to increase its educational and enforcement efforts."
Elsewhere in Asia, probably the fastest-growing region for all computer products, the rate of software theft remained the same or increased to levels as high as 99 percent. South Korea, India, Indonesia, Thailand and China remain the worst offenders, the BSA says.
Indonesia, which long had a 99 percent piracy rate, has announced measures aimed at curbing piracy, including more frequent and effective raids, harsher sentences, and increased staff and other resources.
As recommended by the BSA, U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor retained South Korea on the Priority Watch List. Piracy rates there are estimated at 78 percent, with losses to U.S. companies of some US$300 million a year.
"Korea lacks an effective enforcement campaign and supports severe market access barriers to computer software through its customs valuation methodology," said BSA president Robert Holleyman.
sk,1 Acting on complaints by the BSA, Chinese authorities recently arrested three people for suspected illegal software dealing in a series of raids in Beijing's popular computer area.
Officers of the municipal Administration for Industry and Commerce swooped on 10 retail outlets and almost 20 hawker stalls, backed by BSA investigators who provided technical and other assistance.
China is under heavy American government pressure to enforce the numerous laws it has on the books covering intellectual property rights. Officials insist they are doing as much as they can.
The latest raids arose from complaints lodged after the signing of a Sino- U.S. agreement on intellectual property rights.
"We are pleased that the Chinese authorities have taken action so quickly," said Valerie Colbourn, another BSA vice president.
"However, it has become apparent that in order to avoid arrest illegal dealers have become more sophisticated in their operations and more resources will be needed to ensure these thieves are put out of business for good."
ASIA IN U.S. DOLLARS PERCENT OF MARKET
Japan 2.0 billion 80 percent 67 percent
South Korea 545.9 million 78 percent 78 percent
China 526.7 million 94 percent 98 percent
Taiwan 231.7 million 84 percent 72 percent
Thailand 174.2 million 99 percent 98 percent
Hong Kong 132.7 million 66 percent 62 percent
India 127.5 million N/A 82 percent
Malaysia 96.2 million 98 percent 89 percent
Singapore 44.7 million 63 percent 58 percent
Indonesia 18.3 million 99 percent 99 percent
BY REGION IN DOLLARS PERCENT OF WORLD TOTAL
Europe 6.0 billion 38 percent 39 percent
Asia 4.3 billion 31 percent 29 percent
North America 3.1 billion 19 percent 18 percent
Latin America 1.3 billion 7 percent 9 percent
Africa/Middle East/India 392.0 million 5 percent 2 percent