BSA suggests recent surge in copyright violations highlights risks in public works and infrastructure projects

Suspected use of unlicensed software in engineering and design firms in the Philippines raises safety concerns in critical infrastructure projects

BSA | The Software Alliance is calling upon authorities in the Philippines to closely examine the software used by private engineering and design contractors, particularly those engaged in public works and infrastructure projects.

BSA’s call to action follows two recent events.

First, police authorities in neighboring countries recently caught contractors working on critical infrastructure projects using unlicensed, unsecure design software. In Thailand and Malaysia, police officials raised the alarm because contractors involved in public works projects related to dams and irrigation and railways were found using illegal design software.

Secondly, earlier this year, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) disclosed that counterfeit and piracy reports across a range of products increased dramatically by 286 percent during the first half of the year. In 2022, the agency recorded 52 reports, and this year, the number has escalated to 200, highlighting a concerning trend in copyright infringement across the country.

In light of these findings, BSA is urging governments and businesses in the Philippines and across Southeast Asia to ensure the use of licensed and secure software in critical public works projects.

The ongoing risk of unlicensed software use in major national infrastructure projects not only jeopardizes the integrity of these projects but also highlights a broader regional issue of intellectual property rights enforcement.

“There is too much at stake in the development of national infrastructure projects for businesses involved in these to take shortcuts like using unlicensed software,” said BSA Senior Director Tarun Sawney. “It’s crucial for business leaders in engineering firms to take proactive measures to ensure that software is properly licensed, and therefore receiving security updates.”

“In the Philippines, we believe there is a possibility that thousands of engineering and design firms engaged in important public works projects may be using unlicensed software. This poses a significant risk to public safety, and we strongly urge these companies to cease this practice immediately. It is imperative for the government and the enforcement authorities to enforce the law, while business leaders should prioritize the use of licensed software. We cannot use unlicensed software to build infrastructure and expect the outcome to be safe and secure for the public,” added Mr. Sawney.

In Thailand, a recent investigation by the Economic Crime Suppression Division (ECD) of the Royal Thai Police revealed that a local distributor of measurement tools related to dam safety had been using unlicensed software to design blueprints related to specialized measurement instruments used in national infrastructure projects and other crucial applications.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry (MDTCA) conducted raids on engineering design firms involved in projects spanning public infrastructure, real estate, and construction. This included an engineering consultancy firm involved in vital public works projects like national rail construction. The company reports annual revenues of nearly USD 1.5 million and assets of more than USD 1.7 million.

In the Philippines, where enforcement action against users of infringing software is rarely reported by police, Mr. Sawney says the government should be wary of any contractor that cannot certify its software licensing.

“We believe there are many more examples of engineering firms that are intentionally using unlicensed software. We also believe that some engineering firms are not properly managing software assets, and as a result, their designers are using unlicensed software,” said Mr. Sawney.  “Whatever the reason for this, it’s dangerous and unnecessary. Major engineering firms working on national infrastructure projects receive substantial budgets from national governments, and therefore should invest in licensed, safe, secure design software. The taxpayers deserve to know that public works are designed using proper software that keeps them safe.”

During the investigations in the ASEAN region, authorities also discovered that some companies used deceptive practices where end users presented outdated software licenses to falsely imply compliance, only to be exposed during thorough PC checks.

In light of these investigations, BSA highlights the importance of effectively enforcing software intellectual property laws across the region.

“While some countries in the region are rigorously enforcing software licensing laws, there is a need for other nations to intensify their efforts in this regard,” said Mr. Sawney. “Collaborating with BSA to educate engineering and design firms on the advantages of licensed and secure software can be highly beneficial. BSA is fully committed to supporting initiatives that advocate for the use of legal software in public works projects. Our primary goal is to safeguard society from potential risks and ensure public safety remains a top priority.”

The safety and integrity of infrastructure projects is at stake when businesses use unlicensed software. BSA collaborates with governments across the globe to ensure correct software compliance, emphasizing the importance of licensed and secure design software in public works projects. Last year, BSA also launched an educational campaign, publishing a survival guide that outlines emerging cyber risks and provides advice for business leaders for enhancing cybersecurity. BSA will continue to implement similar initiatives to safeguard various sectors against evolving cyber threats.