Police ponder piracy charges after company search

Christchurch police are considering whether to lay charges after executing search warrants on two local companies suspected of software piracy.

Christchurch police are considering whether to lay charges after executing search warrants on two local companies suspected of software piracy.

It is the first time the New Zealand police have searched end-user companies (as opposed to retail outlets) for suspected copyright infringement and follows a three-month investigation by the software piracy watchdog the Business Software Alliance.

The search warrants were issued under the Crimes Act and the Copyright Act two weeks ago, and BSA technicians were flown to Christchurch to help police execute them. During the search of the companies, both owned by a third Christchurch company, police gained information on the companies’ software use and current licensing.

Detective sergeant Rick McKaskill would not say what software was involved, nor give an overall cost. However, he says the software in question costs $2000 to $2500 per person. The police will probably make a decision later this week, he says.

BSA vice-president Ron Eckstrom estimates that companies using unlicensed software account for half the total loss to New Zealand’s software industry. “That’s nearly $20 million. No reputable company would run its business on stolen computers but there are many New Zealand companies running businesses on illegitimate software,” he says.

He says the problem in New Zealand is mainly occurring in medium-sized and small businesses. “Many large corporates in New Zealand are aware of the issue.”

The Copyright Act 1994 provides for criminal liability not only for the company but also for persons involved in the management of the company.

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