KARACHI June 19: A large air-conditioning equipment and service company was raided here for using illegal software and its IT (Information Technology) manager was taken into police custody for violating copyright laws.

The company, whose name has been withheld specializes in climate control solutions for large and medium size factories, hospitals and storage facilities.

The surprise inspection of computers was conducted by an eight-member team, including officials from Tipu Sultan Police Station, that found at least four computers installed at its head office without licenses, according to a statement issued here today by Business Software Alliance.

The extreme step was taken after the company was warned to replace all pirated software with the legal computer programmes. Despite being reminded of the serious implications of breaking the law, the company ignored the legal notice.

When asked to show licenses for the software in use, the company employees could not produce any such documentation. Therefore, the four computers with illegal software were taken to the Police Maal Khana, while the IT manager was criminally charged and hand-cuffed and taken to the police station.

A criminal case will be lodged against directors and officers of the company in connection with violation of Pakistan's Copyright Laws.

The company officials face stiff penalties that can include a fine of up to Rs. 200,000, seizure of (other) computers without licensed software besides a prison sentence of up to three years.

"Our company lost millions of rupees due to companies using illegal copies of our Urdu word processing software and it is high time that strict action be taken against users of illegal software" said a major Pakistani software developer recently.

The strong action from the enforcement authorities sends a clear signal to all companies to use only legal software.

"Illegal software use can prove very risky for a company. No company wants to be accused of breaking the law and it does serious damage to a company's reputation," explained Ronald Chua, Vice President, Business Software Alliance and Senior Legal Advisor of AutoDesk Inc..

"We urge all users of computers to insist that the software being used is supported by legal licenses," he said and added, "We have installed a help-line in Karachi (0800 01234) to provide assistance regarding the use of legal software."

The law firm of Khursheed Khan Assoc acts for BSA, in Pakistan.

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