Others must follow the UAE’s anti-piracy drive

Last week we reported recent comments by former HP boss Carly Fiorina, in which she claimed that the IT industry was set to “disappear”. Of course, when it comes to the Middle East, many IT companies have become used to one significant part of their business disappearing: their license fees.

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By  Peter Branton Published  March 12, 2006

|~|issue54commentbody.jpg|~|Governments in the region must follow the UAE’s fine example on piracy.|~|Last week we reported recent comments by former HP boss Carly Fiorina, in which she claimed that the IT industry was set to “disappear”. Of course, when it comes to the Middle East, many IT companies have become used to one significant part of their business disappearing: their license fees. The region has long had an extremely bad reputation with the big software houses for pirated software and it is hardly unjustified. With many governments having very little intellectual property rights protection legislation in place (and in cases where the laws have been available, frequently all-too-little inclination to enforce them) piracy has been rampant across the region. Now that many countries here in the region want to become part of international organisations, most notably the World Trade Organisation (WTO), there is pressure on them to change. It has to be said, this is not really not before time. Losses incurred in the region due to counterfeit software topped US$1.2billion in 2004, up from US$1billion the year before. While the UAE is the regional champion for anti-piracy, with a piracy rate of 34%, less than more developed nations such as France, Greece, Ireland, Portugual and Spain, that does not tell the full story. Despite the fact that the levels of software use have risen in the country, propelled by its remarkable economic growth, that rate remained unaltered in 2003 and 2004, meaning that it has at best managed to hold its own. “Software piracy levels have more or less remained stagnant in the Middle East and North Africa and most countries have only succeeded in reducing piracy levels marginally,” said Jawad Al Redha, co-chairman of industry body the Business Software Alliance (BSA), last year. There are clear benefits to countries in making the effort to reduce software piracy levels. For instance, according to the BSA’s own figures, if the UAE were to succeed in reducing its piracy rates by ten percentage points, it could generate well over 600 new jobs and add US$357million to its gross domestic product (GDP). This could also lead to the country’s IT sector growing in value to as much as US$2.3billion by 2009. In contrast, the recent figures from industry body the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) for the Kingdom of Saudi make sobering reading. The success the UAE has achieved so far in tackling its piracy levels is a direct result of the support the UAE government has given to this issue and its willingness to protect intellectual property rights (IPR) with enforcement measures if need be. Other governments in the region need to show the same determination, or we will always be known as the region with a disappearing act. ||**||

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