Region facing pirate software nightmare

The Middle East and Africa (MEA) region is losing the war against software piracy, with the rate of software piracy increasing despite a slump in global figures.

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By  Caroline Denslow Published  September 11, 2005

The Middle East and Africa (MEA) region is losing the war against software piracy, with the rate of software piracy increasing despite a slump in global figures. The value of software losses is also escalating, with even the UAE — the region’s anti-piracy champion — experiencing a US$5million increase in 2004 compared to 2003. While the latest IDC report on PC software piracy saw the worldwide rate declining by 1% to 35% in 2004, the MEA region saw its average rate increasing to 58% from 56%. Similarly, losses incurred by the region from counterfeit software rose to US$1.2billion that year from US$1billion last year. Despite serious efforts to combat piracy, most countries in the Middle East, including Bahrain, Jordan, Oman and Saudi Arabia, achieved only marginal declines in piracy rates, while others, like the UAE and Kuwait, only managed to maintain their 2003 figures. “Software piracy levels have more or less remained stagnant in the Middle East and North Africa, and most countries in the region have only succeeded in reducing piracy levels marginally,” said Jawad Al Redha, co-chairman, Business Software Alliance (BSA) Middle East. Despite that, the UAE managed to be named as one of the top 20 countries in the world with the lowest piracy rates. According to IDC, it is the only emerging economy included in the list. The research firm attributed that to the country’s deliberate attempts to adopt stronger intellectual property protections back in the 1990s, when a new generation of policymakers came into power and began luring foreign investments. “We need to highlight the achievements of the UAE because both regionally and globally the UAE has emerged as a prime example of what can be achieved with government support,” Al Redha said. While the UAE piracy rates did not change for the last two years, Al Redha insisted this is not a sign that anti-piracy efforts are failing. The current figures, he said, corresponds to the influx of new PC users in the country. “This is certainly not the case as there is a marked increase in PC penetration in the UAE and a corresponding increase in IT users. The rate is consistent with the growth and indicates that there is a huge reduction in incidents of piracy in the country,” he explained. Increasing piracy losses, however, was not only confined to the region, according to IDC. In fact, globally, US$33billion worth of software was lost to piracy, up from US$29billion in 2003. This meant that for every two US dollars’ worth of software purchased legitimately, one dollar’s worth was obtained illegally. The losses were attributed to several factors, including the growth of the PC software industry and the devaluation of the US dollar by more than 6% against other currencies, according to the analyst firm.

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