Malaysia govt, BSA join forces to counter Unlicensed Software Use

YBhg Dato' Iskandar Halim Bin Hj Sulaiman, Director of Enforcement Division MDTCA; YBhg Datuk Seri Haji Hasnol Zam Zam Bin Haji Ahmad, Secretary General of MDTCA; and Tarun Sawney, Senior Director of BSA | The Software Alliance, APAC


Kuala Lumpur–A 90-day campaign by BSA | The Software Alliance and Malaysia’s Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs are encouraging businesses to voluntarily legalise their software assets before finding themselves subject to the government’s enforcement action.

The campaign, ‘Legalize & Protect’, which was launched in Kuala Lumpur today aims to reach10,000 businesses, mainly small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

As part of the campaign, BSA, a global trade association of software publishers, will be sending notices to companies – highlighting the operational, legal, security and reputational risks of using unlicensed software.

Upon receipt of these notices, companies have 90 days to voluntarily legalise their software assets. Those that continue to use unlicensed software at the end of the campaign period will be in violation of the Copyright Act 1987.

The use of unlicensed software is prevalent among companies in the Southeast Asian region, whether due to apathy, intent, or neglect, and the same too can be said of Malaysian companies.

Through the partnership with the Malaysian Government, BSA hopes that the two-prong approach of education and enforcement will lead to a reduction in the rate of unlicensed software use in the country and at the same time, help SMEs protect themselves.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Secretary General of Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, Datuk Seri Haji Hasnol Zam Zam Bin Haji Ahmad said that the government sees the use of unlicensed software as a grave concern, and the ministry’s partnership with BSA reflects this concern.

“This has been an issue that we have been very vigilant about, and we look forward to working with BSA to curb the use of unlicensed software in Malaysia.

“Based on BSA’s Global Software Survey, the rate of unlicensed software use in Malaysia was 51% in 2017. This is an alarming rate, which we hope will be reduced through this campaign.

“Awareness and education are a key approach especially given that the same survey also showed that when organisations take pragmatic steps to enhance their software management, they can improve profits by as much as 11%. Companies must understand that shifting to licensed software is a business imperative,” he said.

On this note, the Datuk Seri Haji Hasnol Zam Zam Bin Haji Ahmad made it clear that companies which fail to voluntarily legalise their software will be subjected to the ministry’s enforcement actions.

“We’re sending a strong warning to companies that the use of unlicensed software is a serious infringement of copyright, and the long arm of the law will reach those found guilty of doing so. Company leadership and senior management should not take a lackadaisical stance when it comes to this issue – they need to ensure that the software used is appropriately licensed because if the company is faced with enforcement action, and is found guilty of violating the law, then it is these company heads and senior managers who will be faced with fines and/or imprisonment,” he said.

Under the Copyright Act 1987, those found guilty of using unlicensed software are liable to a fine of between RM2,000 and RM20,000 for each illegal copy of software found, and in addition, senior managers of the company may also face imprisonment of up to five years.


Hasnol added that in 2016 until 2019, the Ministry successfully mounted 15 enforcement raids and seized computers and copies of suspected pirated software, with a combined estimated value of RM912,100.

This led to legal action being brought against the infringers in addition to the companies having their  computers and related peripherals seized.The companies raided ranged from those in the field of Advertising, Architecture, Engineering, Furniture and Manufacturing amongst others. “We will continue to carry out raids and enforce the law to ensure that companies put an end to this practice.”


BSA Senior Director Tarun Sawney believes that companies will respond favourably to the campaign.

“We want to highlight to companies, especially SMEs, that investing in licensed software is good for their security, good for corporate reputation, good for corporate productivity and subsequently, good for their bottom line,” he said, adding that using licensed software is the first line of defence for a company against malware and ransomware attacks.

He also said that BSA’s Global Software Survey found that organisations faced a one-in-three chance of falling victim to malware attacks when installing unlicensed software.

“Each malware attack can cost a company RM10.2 million on average and can take up to 50 days to resolve. The cost for dealing with malware infections that is associated with unlicensed software is growing too. It can now cost a company more than RM42,000 per infected computer to fix the problem. Not to mention, apart from the downtime companies face and the loss of business data as a result of the malware, there is also the loss of the company’s reputation and damage to its brand.”


Sawney added that BSA’s work with governments of major ASEAN countries and the ‘Legalize and Protect’ campaign will not only deliver greater protection of software intellectual property rights but ultimately, a stronger and more dynamic ASEAN business community able to compete on a global scale. “Organisations can achieve as much as 30% savings in annual software costs by implementing a robust software asset management system, so at the end of the day, this is good news for ASEAN companies and the region as a whole,” he said.