Fake software probes rise 20%
Crackdown nets 2,881 computers in 2015
The Economic Crime Suppression Division (ECD) reported Tuesday a 20% rise in the number of probes into pirated computer software this year, after the police intensified their crackdown on unlicensed programmes.
The probes result from the "Crackdown 2.0" operation, launched this year, in which police target businesses that infringe on software copyright by installing and working on pirated copies, said ECD deputy-commander Pol Col Kittisak Plathong.
Although the number of investigations has increased progressively since 2009, the ECD has recently stepped up suppression efforts in this area, accompanied by a campaign which stresses the dangers to information security of using unlicensed software.
Police say using unlicensed software not only violates the law, but also exposes the companies' computing systems to cyber-attacks and tarnishes the image of Thailand's business sector, at a time when the government is trying to ease the country's transition towards a digital economy.
A total of 2,881 computers have been seized in 166 investigations this year. The unlicensed software programmes most commonly found on these computers were Microsoft, Autodesk and Thai Software.
The largest users of pirated software are manufacturing companies (34%), construction firms (32%), and distributors and wholesalers (7%).
The high rate of pirated software use in those industries could stem from the large number of industrial estates in Thailand, Pol Col Kittisak said.
"The number of law violations recorded could be proportionate to the number of companies," he added.
Over 80% of these firms found guilty of violating the Copyright Act in using pirated software were owned by Thais. Other business operators were South Korean and Chinese, as well as joint ventures.
The total infringement value found from the probes conducted this year comes to 358 million baht, the ECD deputy-commander said.
The cost of software per company amounts to 2.15 million baht, which the firms can pay, as they earn an average yearly profit of 255 million baht each, he added.
While the new Copyright Act, amended this year, includes heavy penalties for violators -- a fine of 20,000-200,000 baht for pirated software users and six months to four years in jail, plus a fine of between 100,000-800,000 baht for distributors -- only 2% of the investigations lead to lawsuits, Pol Col Kittisak said.
Companies did not want their image harmed by court cases, and were quick to settle with software firms, he said.