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Singapore: biggest pirate software bust

By DEAN VISSER

SINGAPORE, March 27 -- A specialized tactical squad has seized more than $1 million worth of suspected couterfeit CD-ROM computer software from two retail outlets in Singapore, officials said Wednesday. The raid, which yielded around 5,800 discs authorities believe were copied illegally, is the largest in the island city-state's history, a spokesman from the international Alliance Against CD-ROM Theft said. 'This is a significant victory for all software developers in the war against software piracy,' AACT representative Christopher Austin said. The discs were seized Monday from two cargo vans parked near software retail outlets RTA Computer and McGame in Singapore's Sim Lim Square shopping center, which specialize in electronic products. 'CD-ROM piracy is the most serious threat the software industry has faced to date,' Amelia Low, a spokeswoman for Singapore's Business Sofware Alliance, said. The majority of illegal CD-ROMs are produced in Southern China and illegally smuggled across the border into Hong Kong, from which they are distributed throughout the region, Low added. Industry professionals praised Singapore authorities for their actions against illegally-copied software. 'We recognize the counterfeit CD-ROMs seized are only a small fraction of the number available in the market, but these seizures are a strong start in our efforts to eradicate software theft,' said Dany Boolauk, vice president of software distributor Virgin Interactive Southeast Asia. Monday's raid was the latest in a series of seizures initiated by AACT and the second in three weeks. Earlier raids on five outlets March 9 netted 677 CD-ROMs with an estimated retail value of nearly $1 million.

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The total value of the discs seized this week was still being assessed and expected to be much higher. AACT officials said Singapore has one of the lowest software piracy rates in Asia but was selected as the first site for the organization's intensive raid campaign because legal procedings are more efficient in the tightly-controlled island republic than elsewhere in the region. AACT members consist of multimedia, education and business developers with interests in fighting the illegal copying and distribution of copyrighted software. Mass production and distribution of illegally copied software and other 'intellectual property,' such as music compact discs, costs legitimate companies billions of dollars in losses, company representative have said.

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