New Zealand could face a deluge of counterfeit software thanks to the recent changes in the country's copyright laws dealing with parallel importing.
Ron Eckstrom, Microsoft's corporate attorney for South Asia-Pacific, says prior to legislative changes making parallel importing legal, the New Zealand customs department could stop at the border any software not being imported by the authorised distributor and inspect it for counterfeits.
"We would get a call from customs about this once a month," says Eckstrom, "each time involving counterfeit products."
In Australia it would be as often as once a week, he says. "Last week Australian customs stopped a shipment of 10,000 copies of Office 97, potentially worth $1 million. One hundred percent of them were counterfeit."
Counterfeit software entering New Zealand is usually from Asia, the US and Europe, he says.
Microsoft will have to develop a new strategy on dealing with pirated imports. In the meantime Eckstrom expects that the company will have to increase its legal budget for dealing with piracy in New Zealand by 20% to 25%.
"That's to cover increased legal fees and added investigators. Now instead of tackling the problem at the border we will have to wait until the counterfeited copies go on sale."
Speaking in general, Eckstrom says in his experience dealing with the copyright laws throughout Asia-Pacific, "This is the first time I have seen changes to the law regarding copyright go through without any input or comment from the industries involved and the public." Other IT vendors have expressed similar disquiet about the lack of consultation.
Eckstrom says Microsoft had drafted submissions on any change but had not finalised them before the legislative changes passed into law.