The Malaysian government is making renewed efforts to combat software piracy, spurred into action by the recent appearance of pirated copies of Microsoft's Longhorn operating system on sale for under $US3 in the south of the country.
The Longhorn product is not finished, and won't be officially ready until 2005, but CDs have been spotted on sale in the city of Johor Bahru, which abuts Singapore.
"Microsoft is aware of the pirated copies of Longhorn being sold in the country (Malaysia)," a Microsoft attorney, Jonathan Selvasegaram, said. "The version of Longhorn which has been released to date are developer codes, not fit for business or consumer use as it is not a complete product."
Malaysian authorities will send mobile patrols to key locations such as shopping malls to try to interdict the software piracy trade, secretary general of the ministry of domestic trade and consumer affairs, Sulaiman Mahbob, said. This is a new phase in the government's anti-piracy drive, known as Ops Tulen.
"By taking Ops Tulen right down to the street, the government wants all computer software users, especially commercial businesses, to know that we are serious about ridding Malaysia of software piracy," he said.
Ops Tulen combined enforcement with education, Sulaiman said. It would advise senior company officials on the risks of using pirated software which might be flawed.
Selvasegaram said the risks of using the pirated Longhorn - which might have been copied from CDs offered at a developers' conference in the US - were severe.
"Customers who run the illegal copy of the product are doing so at their own risk since the product is incomplete and customers are exposing themselves to vulnerabilities," he said.
Malaysia has strict anti-piracy laws allowing for offenders to be jailed for up to five years, but officials admit their efforts are yet to show much success.
"Software piracy rates are still very high," Sulaiman said. In Malaysia, it is at 68 per cent. This is bad for the country. Software piracy harms everybody - businesses, consumers, students and community-at-large."
"We are working closely with the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs to ensure that our customers and businesses are protected," Selvasegaram said.