Saudi anti-piracy efforts, take two

The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) put out a press release this week, praising Saudi efforts to fight IP piracy in the Kingdom

Tags: CrimeEnterprise softwareInternational Intellectual Property Alliance
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By  Mark Sutton Published  September 27, 2008

The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) put out a press release this week, praising Saudi efforts to fight IP piracy in the Kingdom.

The release highlighted the setting up of a new website by the Ministry of Information and Culture, which will provide information on anti-piracy cases, to help copyright holders and raise awareness among the public, and the reformation of the Violations Review Committee, including regular co-ordination with rights holders – described by the IIPA as a “historic step forward”.

The IIPA used somewhat less flattering language in a February 2008 report on piracy in Saudi Arabia, which was unequivocal in its criticism of the authorities, and called, once again, for Saudi to be put on the US special watch list for piracy.

The report slated the Saudi government, stating “despite its close economic ties with the US, the Saudi government continues to rebuff the copyright industries’ efforts to enforce their rights.”

The report then went on to highlight commitments made in 2006 by the government to make its enforcement system transparent; begin imposing deterrent penalties, including prison sentences, on pirates (including enforcement against corporate end users of unlicensed software); ensure the systematic involvement of the police; and legalize use of business software in government ministries, commitments which the report said “simply have not been fulfilled”.

Overall, Saudi showed a “woeful lack of progress at its highest point”.

The IIPA then said laid out the moves it wanted to see in Saudi to remedy the situation, which included the establishment of a special committee and a police task force; participation in enforcement by copyright holders; systematic enforcement of anti-piracy laws, including criminal, not just civil proceedings; harsher financial penalties and prison sentences, and transparency of legal processes so that the law would be seen to be working.

In addition, ministries and universities would have to use legitimate materials, with books and software highlighted as prime areas of concern, and the government should start on reform of copyright law, and ratification of WIPO internet treaties.

The current new dawn in Saudi’s anti-piracy efforts seems to fall well short of what the IIPA and other groups were asking for, but here’s hoping that the reforms are just the first step in the Saudi authorities taking piracy seriously, and not just doing the bare minimum to get the international authorities off their backs.

Although the website doesn’t seem to be working just yet…

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