Singaporean police last week charged PDM International Pte. Ltd., an interior design company, with using pirated software under the country’s Copyright Act.

PDM International has been charged with using 51 copies of pirated software “to obtain a commercial advantage,” according to the charge sheet filed last week by the Singapore Police Force. The alleged use of unlicensed software was uncovered during a raid on the company last September.

PDM International is the first to be charged in this way under the Copyright Act, which was amended in 2004 to make large-scale copyright infringement by businesses a criminal offense. The updated law came into effect on Jan. 1, 2005.

A receptionist who answered the phone at PDM International said the company did not want to comment on the charges.

The charge sheet accuses PDM International of using 20 unlicensed copies of Adobe Systems Inc. software, including six copies of Photoshop 7.0; 11 unlicensed copies of Autodesk Inc. software; and 20 unlicensed copies of Microsoft Corp. software, including six copies of Office 2000 Standard.

Under Singaporean law, software piracy by a company can result in a fine of up to S$20,000 (US$12,280) and six months in prison for a first offense. A subsequent offense carries a stiffer penalty: a fine of up to S$50,000 and three years in prison.

Information that led to the police raid on PDM International was provided by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), a group created by software vendors to tackle the problem of software piracy. Microsoft, Adobe and Autodesk are all BSA members.

“The original raid was based on a tip [BSA] received through the BSA hotline,” said Gerard Chong, a public relations executive who represents BSA in Singapore.

The BSA hotline offers a cash reward of up to S$20,000 to callers whose information leads to a successful raid. The offer of a reward is conditional upon the BSA achieving a successful financial settlement and other conditions, according to the group’s Web site.

In this case, the tipster has not yet received a reward, Chong said. “The reward would be paid out upon successful completion of the case,” he said.

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