Thai Courts Find Atec Guilty of Piracy Again

BANGKOK (03/03/2000) - The Criminal Court recently fined local computer distributor Atec Computer 400,000 baht (US$10,530) , finding the company guilty for a second time of illegal hard-disk loading of unlicensed Microsoft Corp. software. A company director received an additional sentence of a one-year suspended jail sentence and a fine of 200,000 baht.

"The second decision against Atec Computer confirms the courts' view that software piracy is a serious matter. This is a very large fine imposed by the Criminal Court involving software. It will leave no doubt in the minds of illegal software dealers that they face stiff penalties for violating copyright in Thailand," said Kenny Cheung, legal officer for Microsoft Law and Corporate Affairs. Cheung believes that stiff penalties are required in order to deter software infringement in the country.

Atec Computer was caught loading unauthorized copies of Microsoft software on computers and selling them to consumers without the appropriate documentation, license agreements, original disks or manuals. The salesman responsible for selling the computer installed with the unlicensed software was also punished with a 9 months suspended jail sentence and a fine of 150,000 baht.

According to Cheung, aside from consumers being cheated out of the genuine software, honest dealers trying to develop a successful business end up shouldering the costs of dealers selling illegal software.

"Unless decisive action is taken against illegal software dealers, they will continue to sell unauthorized software, making it very difficult for local developers and dealers of genuine software to compete in the market," Cheung said. "Strong protection and respect for copyright is a critical factor in the healthy development of the Thai software industry," he added. They only needed to be enforced as vigorously as they were in other countries.

Meanwhile, Lawrence Lee, chairman of law firm Baker & McKenzie's operations in Hong Kong, China and Vietnam, added that laws pertaining to the Internet needed to be updated.

"I think there are areas where the laws need to be improved. Especially in verification and certification authority (CA), money transfers, piracy and taxes. This is an old question but with a new ball. We have had similar instances before where the laws are behind what's happening in real life. For example, it was many years before ink replaced rubber seals as a sign of authenticity."

Baker & McKenzie has a track record of helping countries with their privatization plans having done so for Egypt Telecom, Poland Telecom and Peru Telecom and should be well positioned to drive Thailand forward. The company is presently working with the Airports Authority of Thailand and the PTT.

When questioned about the current Microsoft versus the Department of Justice in the U.S., Baker & McKenzie Chairman of the Executive Committee, Christine Lagarde, said they were unable to answer any questions as the company represented Microsoft in many different areas.

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