Software pirates sail on

Software piracy is a big regional problem, but businesses and retailers keep using illegal software and keep getting caught.

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By  Mark Sutton Published  March 18, 2008

Software piracy seems to be a problem that the Middle East just can't shake. This week comes the news that a Saudi company is facing a $1.3 million lawsuit, while an Omani reseller is facing six months in jail - all for using or selling pirated software.

The never ending succession of raids against retailers and companies just doesn't seem to get the message across to the market that software piracy is illegal. Piracy rates rose in the UAE last year. No matter whether some people believe that anti-software piracy efforts are all a conspiracy by Microsoft to preserve its margins, the fact that you can be fined and or jailed for software piracy doesn't seem to sink in.

Anti-piracy raids have been going in the region on for years now. The fact that raids take place all round the region at least show that the legal framework is in place now to make enforcement possible in more countries than before. Its also interesting that its not just the industry associations like the BSA and the AAA that are involved, but rather even organizations of the level of the Arab league are concerned about the problem. But still computer retailers and IT managers always seem to be willing to take the risk.

It is almost understandable that some businesses will risk using counterfeit software. Many applications are expensive, and licensing costs can be off-putting. With sloppy software asset management, it can be easy for a company to be running unlicensed software without even knowing it. It doesn't make piracy any less illegal, but it is easy to see how mistakes can be made or an IT manager might decide to cut corners.

The computer retail and reseller chain is a different matter though, especially given that software and software licences are their business, and they should know how to sell them properly. The familiar cry from the market is ‘all of our competitors are doing this, so we must too'; but if that were the case, surely the police could just raid every reseller in one go and have done with it.

It's hard to believe that more resellers don't simply provide PCs with open source software and then let the buyer install their own software on top of that. Customer demand might not be high for open source, but they certainly don't want to be unwittingly sold PCs with illegal software installed, and for those customers that want to save money and use pirated software, then let them take the risk for themselves.

PCs running pirated software are less secure, and the loss of revenues hits local retailers and local software development companies more than anyone else. It is past time that the market stopped this reliance on illegal software and worked out how affordable software can be put on the table for everyone.

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