Anti-piracy chief calls for bootleg software taskforce

A REGIONAL taskforce to deal with bootleg computer software needs to be set up urgently, according to the regional anti-piracy tsar.

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By  Rhys Jones Published  May 29, 2005

A REGIONAL taskforce to deal with bootleg computer software needs to be set up urgently, according to the regional anti-piracy tsar. The plea follows recently released statistics by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), which show that software piracy is leading to growing losses for IT providers around the Middle East. Regional losses due to illegal copying of software grew to US$1.2 billion in 2004 from under US$1 billion in 2003. Software piracy levels in the region have “more or less remained stagnant” with most countries having only reduced piracy marginally, according to the BSA report. The industry study revealed that the region has an average piracy rate of 58% with Kuwait at 68%, Oman at 64% and the UAE on 34%. “We feel that there is a need for the establishment of an Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) taskforce that harmonises efforts across the various departments and ministries,” Scott Butler, CEO, Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance (AAA) told Arabian Business. “Such a taskforce would provide a medium for which information could be shared, tracked and acted upon. An IPR taskforce could also meet routinely with the rights holders to gather intelligence and harmonise efforts,” he added. Piracy and violation of copyright — seen as an impediment to joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and concluding other international trade agreements — continues to plague the Middle East because of weak enforcement of IPR laws. The UAE, which registered the lowest rate of software piracy in the Middle East and Oman, are currently negotiating free trade agreements with the US. “The trend is going down and the UAE is setting an example for the rest of the region,” said Jawad Al Redha, regional co-chairman, the BSA, which represents Microsoft and Apple Computer. “Achieving a 0% rate of piracy is impossible but we will continue working to decrease these numbers each year,” he added. The UAE has some of the toughest IPR laws in the region and this has helped lower the country’s piracy rate by 1% over the past year. But elsewhere in the region figures have crept up to previous levels. Between 1994 and 2002, a region-wide crackdown pushed the rate of software piracy in the Middle East and Africa down to 49% from 80% despite the UAE’s efforts. “The UAE has been able to successfully implement many agencies in combating piracy. The ministry of information is ensuring that retail outlets are in compliance while the police are actively rooting out sources of piracy and the municipality is actively seizing pirated units of unauthorised street sales,” said the AAA’s Butler. “The economic department is enforcing IPR laws and the Dubai Customs has even established its own IPR cell to help reduce the redistribution of pirated goods,” he added. The independent study, which indicates that software piracy continues to be a major challenge worldwide, was conducted by IDC. Global losses due to piracy increased from US$29 billion to US$33 billion in 2004. “Worldwide, one out of every three copies of software in use today has been obtained illegally. These losses have a profound economic impact in countries around the world. Every copy of software used without proper licensing costs tax revenue, jobs, and growth opportunities for burgeoning software markets,” said Robert Holleyman, president and CEO, BSA. In 2004, the world spent more than US$59 billion on commercial packaged PC software, up from US$51 billion in 2003. But over US$90 billion was actually installed, up from US$80 billion the year before. The increase in losses to US$33 billion was, in part, the result of the fact that the PC software market grew over 6% and the US dollar fell against many of the world’s currencies.

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