PHUKET TOWN: Dozens of businesses that use computers stayed closed today after reports that police were raiding Internet cafés and other computer-intensive businesses, looking for pirated software or copies of legitimate software being used without licenses. A source claiming to be close to the police in Bangkok responsible for enforcing copyright law told the Gazette that raids were being conducted in Phuket Town yesterday and today, with Patong or Surat Thani being the target for tomorrow. However, the Gazette was unable to confirm the reports. A senior local police officer, who initially said that he had heard of three Internet cafés being “raided and fined”, later denied any knowledge of a special task force conducting raids in Phuket. The Bangkok-based Business Software Alliance (BSA) has been running advertising in national newspapers, offering substantial rewards for informants who tell it of businesses infringing software copyrights. But the ads also give users of unlicensed or pirated software until the end of June to legitimize their position, and Pranee Chaleamsak, public relations officer of the BSA, said that she knew of no plans for raids in Phuket. “Our purpose is to encourage companies and organizations to stop using illegal software. We [have publicized] our hotline so that anyone who knows who is using illegal software can report it to us. “Then we will have our investigation team check. If we find that it is true, and we can collect enough evidence, then we will contact local police to go to arrest the offenders.” The owner of a local computer supply company was incensed by the reports of the raids, which he had heard centered on software produced by Microsoft. “None of my competitors sells Microsoft licensed programs, so if I add licensed Microsoft programs to my package, I will not be competitive. “The sale price of a computer is approximately 25,000 baht. If you bundle it with Microsoft Windows and Office it will cost around 15,000 baht more. If I tell my customers that I won’t sell computers without licensed software, they will simply go to another place and buy the same computer [loaded with software] for a lot less. “I tried to contact Microsoft to ask them if it was possible to have a special vendor price to sell software with new computers – manufacturers such as IBM, Compaq, or Hewlett-Packard have such agreements with Microsoft and get a very cheap price for the license. “Do they come to see us beforehand, to interview, to understand what’s happening here, what the problem is? No. They just check, check, check, and that’s all. “After two months everybody will forget this and will carry on as before, you’ll see. This is not going to help anything.” The Gazette attempted to contact a number of Internet cafés to get their opinion. There was no answer; they remained closed, waiting for the storm – whether real or imagined – to blow over.
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