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Software Piracy in Asia Expands

A vendor sells pirated DVDs in Vietnam
A vendor sells pirated DVDs in Vietnam

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Despite some gains in fighting copyright infringement in many countries, brazen piracy remains visible in Asia.

In a scene found in many Asian cities, pirated movies, music and software are sold openly in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City.

One study shows that in Vietnam, 85 percent of software is illegal. This shop owner sells unlicensed copies of movies and music on a street filled with pirated CD and DVD shops. "I don't display these DVDs here, just only when someone asks, then I'll bring them out," the owner said.

Merchants in this shopping mall in Thailand employ the same tactic to protect pirated stock from law enforcement raids. "Right now, they just have it in the car or van, [with] high-tech equipment that easily can produce fake copies of CD or DVD," one person said.

Darani Vachanavuttivong, an intellectual property rights lawyer, says counterfeiting is a multi-million dollar business in Thailand. "We would like to have the efficient law enforcer to cope with the counterfeit good and software piracy in Thailand," the lawyer said.

In Hong Kong, law enforcement has been key in reducing piracy.

"Five years ago, we were looking at piracy at the street level we were looking at the sale of optical discs from street vendors. It was a very obvious problem," said Belinda Lui, who heads the Hong Kong office of the Business Software Alliance, a partnership of multi-national software companies that helps battle piracy.

"Now, we are looking more at issues of end-user piracy; And what we mean by that is the use of illegal and unlicensed software within the business environment," she said.

The BSA reported that in 2008 piracy declined in Hong Kong and in more than 50 countries, including Brazil and India. However it is up worldwide and in Asia, driven, the report says, by economic growth - rising computer sales and access to faster Internet.

One man quit a piracy business in the Philippines that earned him $4,000 a month after authorities warned that registered computer shops faced huge fines for selling illegal software. "Computer shops that sell pirated software and games used to buy from us. After the OMB [Philippine Optical Media Board] and Business Software Alliance stuck warnings on their stores, they stopped selling pirated software and stopped buying from us," the man said.

Governments in Asia have gained some ground in the fight against copyright piracy. But with an expanding computer market consuming more cheap software, industry experts say piracy will continue to deny software designers billions of dollars in sales and governments millions in tax revenue.

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