Singapore will next year introduce jail terms and stiff fines for people who break software and Internet copyright laws, the government warned.
People found to be illegally using software or downloading off the Internet will face a maximum six months in jail and a fine of 20,000 Singapore dollars (11,900 US) for their first offence, according to ammendments to the Copyright Act introduced into parliament.
Repeat offenders face three years in jail and a fine of 50,000 dollars.
The laws specifically refer to people who break the law "to obtain a commercial advantage" or infringe significantly, meaning individuals who download a limited number of songs or movies off the Internet for personal use may be exempt.
A spokeswoman for the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore said the courts would be left to interpret the definition of "significant".
Although the spokeswoman stressed the courts would set the precedent, she said people who downloaded one song or movie were unlikely to be prosecuted but "1,000 could be pushing it".
She said parliament was likely to pass the ammendents by the middle of the next month, with the new laws due to take effect from January 1 next year.
The tougher laws are part of Singapore's commitments to its free trade agreement signed with the United States that came into effect this year.
Previously people who breached software and Internet copyright laws in Singapore were only subject to civil action.
Tougher penalties for the illegal manufacturing, sale and distribution of software remain unaffacted by the new laws.
From YahooTech Asia