Abu Dhabi conglomerate falls foul of piracy laws

The Ministry of Information in Abu Dhabi has raided one of the Emirates largest family-owned industrial groups for breaching UAE copyright laws.

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By  Rob Corder Published  January 29, 2001

One of Abu Dhabi’s largest industrial groups is facing prosecution for using illegally copied software in breach of UAE copyright laws. The Business Software Alliance has asked for the name of the group to be kept confidential, but described it as a major family-owned enterprise.

ITP.net spoke to the IT manager of the raided company, who agreed to speak on the condition that his name, and the company’s name were not used in the report.

He stated that the group’s policy is not to use pirated software. The group has been growing rapidly and it has proved difficult to always manage which machines have licensed copies of software and which do not, he explained.

He admitted that several unlicensed copies of Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office were found during the raid, but said that the company is in discussions with Microsoft at the moment to agree terms on a site license that will cover all copies of Windows and Office for the group.

The Business Software Alliance is publicising the raid as a demonstration that no company or individual is above the law. "It doesn't matter who you are, the law stands and the law is being enforced rigorously and effectively by the UAE authorities," commented Jawad Al Redha, regional director of the BSA. "This kind of action is totally avoidable. The BSA issues warnings to companies time and time again before reporting them to the authorities."

The BSA reported the end user company to the authorities following reports that the organisation was using unlicensed software in its business operations.

"We genuinely regret that action of this sort is necessary to protect the rights of copyright owners: particularly here in the UAE, where a strong and growing IT market and industry has grown up around the country's effective implementation of its copyright laws," said Al Redha. "As a major regional trading hub, the UAE is home to sophisticated and successful companies who use business software products to underpin their operations. Using these tools without paying for them is no longer an accepted practice in the market, and companies face the risk of raids, confiscation of hardware and software and subsequent prosecution. Quite apart from the ethical considerations involved in using illegal software, companies have a legal duty to pay for the software they use."

The penalties under UAE law for the use of illegal software can include fines of up to Dhs 50,000, confiscation of computer equipment and software and prison sentences of up to three years. "Although we are obviously strongly in support of the UAE's strong stance on copyright, we are keen that companies should not leave themselves exposed to such legal measures, and do try to avoid this type of action wherever possible. Sadly, sometimes the only solution is recourse to the law, and this case was one such situation," said Al Redha.

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