Pirates take largest slice of region's software market

More than half the software bought in the Middle East is pirated, warns industry body the Business Software Alliance (BSA).

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By  Peter Branton Published  July 11, 2004

More than half the software bought in the Middle East is pirated, the latest research from industry body the Business Software Alliance (BSA) warns. Across the Middle East and Africa region, 55% of all software purchased last year was pirated, according to a survey conducted by research firm IDC, commissioned by the BSA. In the Middle East, software piracy cost vendors nearly $900 million in 2003 alone. For the first time, the survey looked at the entire software market, including operating systems, development software and consumer-oriented software. The results show a wide disparity across the region. While the UAE has a piracy rate of just 34%, in Kuwait it stands at 68%, Oman’s rate is 65% with Bahrain and Qatar close behind. Jawad Al Redha, co-chairman BSA Middle East, said that software piracy is not down to software having a relatively high cost in the region: “If you see a game that costs five, 10 or 20 dirhams then it is still pirated,” he said. So long as software piracy continues at such high rates local developers will suffer, the BSA warns. “There is tremendous IT talent in countries like Jordan and Lebanon, but sadly legitimate industry growth is hampered by high prevalence of piracy,” said Ali Harakeh, BSA spokesman in Easter Mediterranean. Jordan has a piracy rate of 65%, but that is topped by Lebanon’s rather staggering 74% piracy rate, meaning just a quarter of software purchased is legitimate. “Software piracy has been around for a long time and it is unreasonable to expect it to be eliminated in a short time,” said Harakeh. “Raising awareness among the traders and end-users is a challenging task as the price difference between pirated and copyrighted software is huge. Yet we have seen the achievements of several countries in the region, thanks to political will and BSA’s aggressive anti-piracy programmes.”

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