My Letter to the Editor about the changes in the copyright laws

I am very upset that the IPOS has chosen not to be pro active in informing Singaporeans of all the options they have with regards to the changes in the copyright law. It is fine and dandy that they put out ads with proprietary software pvendors offering 40% discounts on people “legalizing” their software. As a tax-payer funded agency, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore must be seen to be fair and be putting out all the necessary information so that people can decide on what is best for them.

If we just go by the amount of advertisements in the press, people would assume that the only way to become legal is to fork out more money.

Anyway, let’s see if the ST will print it, let alone verbatim.

From: Harish Pillay
Date: December 16th 2004

To The Editor:

Come January 1st, running unlicensed software becomes a criminal
offence, which carries severe jail terms and fines. This change
was made in the Copyright Act which was modified to comply with
the US-Singapore FTA. To their credit, the Intellectual Property
Office of Singapore ( has been running
advertisements to highlight these changes. It is most unfortunate
that these press advertisements only offer solutions that need
additional payments (even if 40% discounted) to stay legal.

Singaporeans should capitalize this golden opportunity to deploy
Free(ly licensed) and Open Sourced Software (FOSS) for their
businesses, homes and schools. A key feature of FOSS is that
it’s license terms are very liberal. In fact, you are encouraged
to make as many copies of the software and give it away (at a
price or at no-cost) to anyone. You can run as many copies as
needed within the company, home or school, and yet stay within
the letter of the amended law. This is diametrically opposite to
the “thou shall not copy, lend, sell or share” licensing regime
of the proprietary software companies which, unfortunately, has
been the only solution being advertised.

This law change also affords Singaporeans a chance to break away
from the software lock-in being enjoyed by the proprietary software
vendors. In using FOSS, you will not be burdened with endless
series of payments for software upgrades, version changes and so
on as is the reality with proprietary software products.

Most of your readers need a high quality, standards-compliant
office productivity tool (, a safe and secure web
brower (Firefox), and an spam-removing email client (Thunderbird).
All of these, and more, are found on a freely available CD
downloadable from That CD has all the
smarts to make the setup and installation of these applications
extremely easy, while helping you stay on the right side of the

By switching to FOSS, SMEs will be able to keep the 60% being
asked for software licensing to stay legal. They can deploy
these scarce funds for revenue generation activities instead.
In these times of economic uncertainty, no business can afford
to throw money at a piece of electronic “get me out of jail”
card, especially when you can get equivalent or better solutions
at no cost.

It needs to be stated that in deploying FOSS, businesses and
home users can enjoy total peace of mind in their software usage,
not fearing the midnight knock on the door by the licensing

Ultimately, it all boils down to choice. Businesses should
decide on what works best for them, FOSS or proprietary, and
act accordingly – but do keep in mind that, time is running out.


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