SEOUL, May 26 (Yonhap) -- A Seoul court has ruled that users of pirated computer software are obliged to fully compensate their manufacturers, regardless of the period of illegality, court officials said Sunday.
The ruling by the Seoul High Court was delivered to seven software firms, including Microsoft and local firm Hancom, which filed lawsuits against two local medium-sized companies for illegally using rip-offs of their computer software, the court said Sunday.
The two companies installed pirated Windows XP computer operating programs, Microsoft Office and other software on their computers in 2009, and used them for as long as several months at their offices.
The two firms should provide compensation for using the illegally obtained programs regardless of the period of use, the appellate court said, ordering one to pay about 47 million won (US$41,800) and the other company 119 million won, the amounts needed to purchase genuine programs.
The ruling by the appellate court upheld a lower court's similar decision given to the two firms for violating the copyrights of the software makers.
They appealed the first decision, claiming that the amount of compensation should be revised depending on how many days the companies have used the pirated software. They also protested the lower court's decision for them to pay full price, arguing that they cannot pay regular prices because these additionally include distribution costs besides the copyright cost.
Delivering the latest ruling, the Seoul High Court said that if the number of days of use is considered, the two firms would only have to provide a small amount of compensation. And the court fears that, "This may lead to illegal copying becoming widespread in society."
Industry experts said the latest ruling means South Korean courts have made a bold step forward to better protect copyrights. The country has long faced complaints that penalties for copyright violations are too weak, they said.