New Zealand courts are too soft on software pirates, according to the Business Software Alliance, whose mission it is to stamp out the illegal practice.
Sydney-based BSA vice-president Ron Eckstrom, in New Zealand to launch a reward scheme, says some judges appear to take the side of “underdog” pirates pursued through the courts by multimillion dollar software companies. "I believe there is a certain degree of protectionism in the court system whereby judges are trying to look out for the New Zealand consumer who is being sued by a large multinational company. We have run up against this in New Zealand and other countries."
The maximum penalties imposed by the Copyright Act in a criminal case are three months imprisonment or a fine of $50,000. However, in the past the criminal courts have imposed fines of around $1000 with compensation orders for a similar amounts. In contrast, out of court settlements in New Zealand have reached $200,000.
"I think the software publisher should be able to recover the full cost in legal and investigative fees, and an amount for the programs that were pirated plus a punitive element," says Eckstrom.
The BSA is stepping up its campaign against software theft in New Zealand, targeting PC dealers. Software worth $1500 is being offered to anyone who provides information that leads to a successful action against a dealer involved in "hardloading".
Hardloading is illegally installing software on to the hard drives of computers as an incentive for purchasers to buy. "It is not illegal to preload software," says Eckstrom. "It is illegal to hard load software, which is where the dealer preloads software but does not supply the purchaser with a licence agreement for every product on the hard disk drive." The BSA has identified hardloading as one of New Zealand's major sources of software piracy.
Meanwhile, BSA figures for software piracy in New Zealand (see Kiwis alleged) have been rubbished by a former BSA New Zealand president. Peter Macaulay, of Auckland-based Number One, says the figure is years old and overstates the extent of the problem.