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Video-game industry watchdog clamps down on illegal game activity in Singapore

In an effort to further enforce it’s stance against piracy, the video game watchdog, Entertainment Software Association (ESA) in conjunction with the Singapore Police, carried out raids on local stores selling illegal video games. The shops were selling gadgets that allowed users to download and play pirated games on their Nintendo DS handheld consoles. As the holiday season approaches, and greater demand for the games ensues, the ESA warns that more raids will take place and this will even include housing estates, if the sellers of pirated games do not take heed to the warnings and disengage in their illegal activities.

The ESA is the U.S. association that serves the business and public affairs needs of companies that publish video and computer games for video game consoles, personal computers, and the Internet. The ESA offers services to interactive entertainment software publishers including a global anti-piracy program, business and consumer research, government relations and intellectual property protection efforts. This anti-piracy body’s membership includes some of the world’s largest video-game publishers such as Electronic Arts, Vivendi Games and Square Enix, which produce popular games like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy.

Over 200 devices, imported from Hong Kong and worth about $8,500 (US $5,800) were confiscated by police in the raids. The gadgets themselves bypassed the game console’s copyright protection mechanisms by fooling the system into thinking it was an original game cartridge. They could either store the pirated games or read the bootleg games stored in removable micro-SD (Secure Digital) cards.

Use of such devices, under the Singapore Copyright Act, are actually illegal and those found guilty can be fined up to $20,000 (US $14,000) or face up to two years of a jail sentence or both. No one was arrested in these raids, but arrests are imminent if the sellers do not change their ways, warned the association spokesman Cyril Chua. From 1999 to date, more than 100 people were convicted for selling illegal games in Singapore.

This further proves that governments in the different ASEAN regions are serious about tackling all forms of piracy and in so doing are taking steps to sort out the issues at hand. These Singaporean officials’ actions demonstrate that there is no time for complacency and the time to act is now.