Group tells software pirates: You can be subjected to HDO

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Being the subject of a hold departure order (HDO) is among the consequences awaiting owners of businesses found to be using or selling illegal software by the Pilipinas Anti-Piracy Team (PAPT).

The anti-piracy aired the warning as it kicked off its 2013 campaign with inspection of computers of commercial establishments using or selling illegal software in cities in South Metro Manila including Para?aque, Las Pi?as and Muntinlupa as well as in the nearby provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Quezon, Bicol and Mindoro beginning this March.

The possibility of an HDO loomed large after the Pasay Regional Trial Court (RTC) recently issued a ruling, which disallows alleged intellectual property infringers facing criminal cases from leaving the Philippines.

The court ruling directs the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) not to allow persons who have been criminally charged for copyright infringement to travel out of the country.

The HDO was issued against individuals who were charged with criminal cases for software infringement following an anti-piracy campaign last year.

Even if they are not subjected to an HDO, those charged with software piracy may still not be able to travel to the United States whether for business or pleasure.

This possibility came in the wake of a recent announcement that the US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has partnered with the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) in identifying IP violators and taking actions that may include criminal prosecution or administrative sanctions that could affect eligibility for a US visa or even the revocation of an existing US visa should an individual be found guilty.

?The Hold Departure Order for IP violators issued by the Regional Trial Court is a big step in propelling anti-piracy initiatives in the Philippines,? said Cyrus Valenzuela, executive director of the Optical Media Board (OMB).

?Even as criminal cases are still being litigated against suspected software pirates, they run the risk of not being able to travel to popular business and tourism destinations for Filipinos such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok and beyond to the United States and European countries. For Filipino businessmen, this will mean a major drawback not just for their business but for them personally.?

The possibility of not being able to travel to the United States was further confirmed in a speech by US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Assistant Attach? Mitchell Worley at the 2nd Philippine Anti-Piracy and Counterfeiting Summit held recently in which he cited Pres. Barack Obama?s commitment not to tolerate unfair business practices such as piracy and counterfeiting and keeping software criminals out of the United States as software piracy is considered a crime.

?Not being able to travel out of the country, especially to popular business and tourist destinations like Hongkong, Singapore, Bangkok and beyond to Europe and most of all to the United States is a major disappointment for Filipinos. But all they need to do to avoid such a serious consequence, not to mention the disruption to their business operations, is to stick to using and selling legal software. The risks from being caught red-handed are not worth it,? Valenzuela warned.

?The current software piracy rate in the Philippines stands at 70 percent. We cannot allow this to continue preventing the Information and Communications Technology industry from flourishing, as well as robbing the government of hundreds of millions of pesos through taxes, lost job opportunities for Filipinos, and economic progress in general,? the OMB official further stated.

Software piracy is a violation of the copyright provisions of the IP code of the Philippines (RA 8293) and Optical Media Act (RA 9239) and carries with it penalties of up to nine years of imprisonment, not to mention a fine of up to 1.5 million pesos.

The PAPT, formed in 2005, is comprised of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), OMB, Philippine National Police (PNP) and the IPOPHL, which joined the group in 2011.

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