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Wednesday, October 20

goodbye to downloads?

- kein, posted at 5:59 PM.

[warning! lengthy post ahead!]

I was a little slow in reading the straits times last night, and the recent news that concerned piracy was removed from the straits times and dumped into the archive before I could even read the caption, geez.

Fortunately, some fellow in the HardwareZone forums posted the entire article. They do have an interesting discussion going on in this thread too =)

IF you're lazy to click and read however, here's the article below.

---

Home users face fines or jail for illegal downloads
Law will be changed to make it a crime, with maximum $20,000 fine and 6 months' jail
By Chua Hian Hou

TOUGHER laws, including imposing a jail term, are to be introduced against home users who illegally download music, movies and computer programs from the Internet onto their computers.

Currently, owners of the copyrighted materials have to sue such users in a civil suit and often, the fine imposed is not worth the cost of tracking and taking legal action against them.

The new punishments will be introduced in Parliament today and are expected to come into effect by year-end.

The change was inevitable as it was required under the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, said Mr Lau Kok Keng, head of intellectual property, technology, entertainment and communications practice at law firm Rajah and Tann.

'With Internet piracy rates going up and the ease with which such distribution can be done by individuals over the Internet, there must be a deterrent to discourage such illegal activities,' he added.

The latest Global Piracy Study by the Business Software Alliance, which tracks software piracy, shows fewer pirated copies of software like Windows XP and Microsoft Office, among others, being used here.

It has slipped to 43 per cent from 48 per cent last year. However, the real situation may be worse. 'It is difficult to uncover such illegal activities,' said Mr Lau.

The situation has been made worse by such file-sharing software as Kazaa and BitTorrent, which make downloading and distribution of movies, music and software much easier and faster.
Mr Lau is confident the change 'will close the loopholes and hopefully curb the demand for pirated content.' However, he concedes its effectiveness, not unlike Singapore's pornography laws, will have to rely substantially on tip-offs and good forensic work.

The tough Act to come does not seem to worry Mr B. Tan, a 28-year-old sales manager who downloads movies and music almost daily.

'I may cut down a bit but I don't think I would get caught. Everybody's doing it. They can't catch us all,' he said.

Although the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, or Ipos, had sought public feedback on the proposed changes earlier this year, the responses were not made public. Yesterday, Ipos and copyright owners such as the Record Industry Association (Singapore), the Motion Picture Association, the BSA, and the Entertainment Software Association declined to comment on the proposed amendment.

One area that drew flak from intellectual property lawyers yesterday was the term 'commercial scale'. A crime is committed only when the downloads are of a 'commercial scale', but the term is not defined.

Said Mr Cyril Chua of Alban Tay Mahtani & de Silva: 'The amendment is unsatisfactory as the term is vague and people would not know what constitutes commercial scale.'

Another intellectual property lawyer, who declined to be named, went further. He said: 'If the Government wants to make end-user piracy a criminal offence, it should say where this line is drawn rather than cop out with some vague 'commercial scale' definition.'

Mr Lau said that without clear out-of-bounds markers, 'you'll probably need to wait for the first pirate to be charged in court to see where the boundaries are.'

---

After reading this article and the various rants from forumites, I found myself thinking of the very beginning 12 years ago, when I first came into contact with computers. Back then, a 386 DX-33 seemed like a pretty good machine, and a 486 was power. Piracy at that time was quite rampant too, but limited to the various computer shops that copied the game installers into diskettes and sold them for a few bucks to us young kids. Those were the days =)

With the onset of the Internet era, accessibility to software became even more widespread; you could download whatever you want.. IF you were bothered enough to wait that long. After all, most people were chugging along on a 56k dialup connection at that point, and choking up enormous bills.

When broadband access became widespread, it was like a call to arms.
"Download freely, my fellow Netizens! Everything is for the taking!"
I'm quite sure everyone benefited from this particular development; how else could poor students find the money to buy ridiculously expensive software like Adobe Photoshop, Macromedia Dreamweaver, Flash, or licensed versions of Windows and Norton Antivirus?

Granted that academic licenses are available for students, but the price tags are still woefully sky high after the reduction. Would any parent fork out a few hundred bucks for his/her child just to 'play around' with the software and learn? =)

I seriously doubt that the young people now would be any good at IT applications, had every single individual not resorted to the cheaper alternative at one point or another; it's simply too expensive an option, grins.

And with this, I end my thoughts for this issue. I seriously wonder how things'll turn out when the actual ironclad laws are rolled out, and await with my usual quirked eyebrow ;p

However, ST today posted another article on this issue, as per below grins.

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Tough action aimed at large-scale piracy

Home users who make one or two illegal downloads are not the target
By Chua Hian Hou

STRICT new copyright laws to be introduced next year against the illegal downloading of music, movies and software are not specifically targeted at the home user, the Government stressed yesterday.

The proposed new amendments to the Copyright Act, introduced in Parliament yesterday, were designed to send a message 'that we don't condone rampant piracy', she said.

She was speaking at a press conference at which Ipos released more details on what would constitute an offence when users download music, movies or software from the Internet.

'The lack of clarity was one of the issues raised when we put the original Bill up for public feedback, so we've come up with more details to help clarify it,' she said.

Lawyer Cyril Chua of Alban Tay Mahtani & de Silva said this clarification 'gives leeway to the courts to use a common-sense approach to decide where to draw the line'.

However, this does not mean home users will be precluded from possible prosecution. A home user who commits heavy copyright infringement, for example, downloading thousands of songs, movies and software, would be 'pushing it' and could end up being classified as an offender, Mr Chua said.

The law does not, however, set limits on what will or will not be prosecuted.

'A good law doesn't allow people to work the system, which would be what happens if you set out specific parameters,' he said.

The law does, though, set out specific penalties.

Under the amended law, users and companies guilty of illegally downloading digital material could be fined up to $20,000 and/or face a six-month jail sentence. For subsequent offences, there is a fine of up to $50,000 and/or jail up to three years.

In a related development, Ipos announced the launch of a scheme to help small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) who will be hard-pressed under the new laws to afford expensive original software.

Under the scheme, which begins today and ends on Dec 31, five major software companies - Microsoft, Adobe, Macromedia, Symantec and Autodesk - will offer SMEs discounts of up to 40 per cent on their products. Ipos is hoping to attract other software firms to the discount programme.

A survey of 250 companies conducted by Ipos and the Intellectual Property Taskforce last year found that SMEs needed help to reduce their financial burden if they were to use original software, Ms Liew said. Mr Victor Lim, the vice-president of game development studio SL Interactive, was ecstatic at the news.

'Software isn't cheap and buying new copies each time we hire a new employee really adds up... this is really good news for us,' he said.

---

The article seems to be aimed at appeasing the public, so no further comments =)

Here's a link to test your Internet security vulnerabilities; quite a good way to find out if you're still susceptible to port scans or ICMP attacks.

Garfield for today yet again; I wokeup too late to search for other interesting stuff =X This one is an old strip featuring his nightly caterwauling =)