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CIRCULARS

Circular No. 02-01 (CR) January 2002
Criminal Liability for Using Pirated Computer Software

According to the Copyright Ordinance (Cap. 528) as amended last year, any person who, without the licence of the copyright owner, knowingly and in the course of business possesses any infringing copy of copyright work commits an offence. The offence is committed even if the person does not sell or deal in the infringing copies. Employers and employees are equally liable for such infringing acts and may be subject to a maximum penalty of 4 years of imprisonment and a fine of $50,000 for each infringing copy.

The Legislative Council later passed the Copyright (Suspension of Amendments) Ordinance 2001 suspending the application of the criminal provisions to copyright works other than computer software, movies, television dramas and musical recordings. For these 4 categories, the criminal provisions outlined above continue to apply. As to the other categories, the criminal provisions will revert to the position before the amendments took effect for the Government to formulate long-term solutions after public consultation.

Since the amendments took effect on 1 April 2001, the Customs and Excise Department has taken frequent actions against cases of copyright infringement including making arrests and prosecutions. Practitioners should under no circumstances use pirated or unauthorized computer software in their business operation. 

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