June 10, 2004

Malaysia closes karaoke bar in crackdown

By PAULINE JASUDASON
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Authorities shut down a karaoke bar in the capital for allegedly keeping thousands of unlicensed songs in its computer system, in the latest crackdown on software piracy in Malaysia.
Domestic Trade Department officials closed the sing-a-long bar in downtown Kuala Lumpur on Monday after finding unlicensed software and more than 5,000 pirated songs on a computer hard drive, enforcement division chief Zainal Abidin Mohamed Noordin said.
Under the Copyright Act, the owners could face a minimum 10 million ringgit ($2.6 million) fine - 2,000 ringgit ($536) for each song not registered, he was cited as saying by the Bernama national news agency.
The karaoke bar was one of three businesses raided this week in a blitz against illegally copied software and other computer piracy, which officials and industry observers say is rampant in Malaysia.
Officials also announced Wednesday they had seized eight computers and pirated software worth about 75,000 ringgit ($19,740) from two retail stores in Kuala Lumpur's suburbs.
Under anti-piracy laws, the companies and their executives could face penalties of up to five years in jail and a fine of 20,000 ringgit ($5,400).
In the karaoke raid, officials seized more than 100,000 ringgit ($26,300) worth of sound equipment and a computer containing the unlicensed software and songs.
No charges have been laid so far in the three raids this week, but officials insist those believed guilty will face prosecution once investigations are completed.
Authorities have raided five businesses since launching their latest crackdown on computer piracy on June 1 with the help of watchdog group the Business Software Alliance, and has sent warning letters to thousands of others that they could be next.
Malaysian officials launched a similar crackdown two years ago, inspecting 780 companies and seizing illegal software worth more than 1 million ringgit ($260,000), although it had little effect in stopping the thriving piracy trade.
The government has since amended anti-piracy laws to stiffen penalties.
The Business Software Alliance says about 70 percent of new software used in Malaysia is illegal, causing losses of millions of dollars a year to the industry.
The figure exceeds the Asia-Pacific region's average software piracy rate of 55 percent. Unlicensed software is believed to be more rampant in Malaysia than Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan - although piracy is worse in China, Indonesia and Vietnam, the BSA says.


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