US body claims software piracy rampant in Saudi

Nine out of ten software packages used in government organisations in Saudi Arabia are pirated, a report from a US industry body warned last month.

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By  Diana Milne Published  March 12, 2006

Nine out of ten software packages used in government organisations in Saudi Arabia are pirated, a report from a US industry body warned last month. The report also claimed that over half of all business software used in the Kingdom was illegal. Saudi Arabia was admitted to the World Trade Organisation in December last year — and has agreed to abide by international standards on intellectual property rights agreements — but piracy remains rampant in the Kingdom, according to US organisation the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA). The problem applies both to consumer and business software, with piracy rates running at 90% and above for entertainment software products, the IIPA said. However, with 30% of all PCs in Saudi being in government hands, the rate of piracy among government organisations is of particular concern. While some ministries have legalised their software, the IIPA said, it estimated that 90% of the software used in government overall was unauthorised. Corporate piracy is also a cause for concern, with 52% of business software used last year being unauthorised, according to the IIPA’s figures. Calls to the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information (MOCI) went unanswered as IT Weekly went to press last week. According to the report, His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, Governor of Riyadh, has instructed that a special committee be formed to review the reforms needed to address piracy issues. The report acknowledges that Saudi Arabia has already made a number of steps to address the problems: in 2005 a reported 27million units of pirate products were seized in the Kingdom, with one raid in Dammam last September resulting in the seizure of 2.28million units. However, the IIPA said these raids have so failed to deter the pirates and it is calling for tougher action against those responsible. In the Damman incident, the pirate raided was back in business the next day with new products, the report noted. “While the Ministry is to be commended for undertaking these successful raids the complete lack of any deterrence in the market has meant that the availability of pirate products has not diminished,” the report said. The report claimed that the maximum fine ever imposed on a software pirate in the region is equivalent to US$13,332. Scott Butler, CEO of the Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance, described that figure as “embarrassingly low”. He believes that Saudi Arabia should follow the example of the UAE, which enforces tougher measures against software pirates such as imposing custodial sentences. This has helped it to achieve an overall software piracy rate of just 34%, lower than countries such as France and Ireland. “In the UAE nearly all the cases are resulting in deterrent penalties, namely imprisonment. There is so much money that can be made from piracy that imprisonment is the only real deterrent,” he claimed.

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