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Setback for Lebanese clampdown on piracy

Head of government unit established to reduce software piracy claims efforts have been hit by a recent outbreak

Lebanon’s efforts to curb software piracy have suffered a major setback following an upsurge in the crime since the end of the recent conflict.

According to Elie Bitar, head of the Lebanon High Tech and Intellectual Alliance (IIPA) — which was established to combat domestic technology crime — the war created an environment where software piracy could flourish.

He said: “Our bureau started taking action before the recent war between July and August and the right holders informed us that there was a positive impact, which was revealed in their monthly income reports.

But during this war many perpetrators took advantage of it and restarted their illegal business.”

Research from industry groups suggest that piracy of business software alone in Lebanon is as high as 75% and costs vendors almost US$18m in losses.

Bitar added: “For the time being we are launching many campaigns and raids; before the war we seized about 100,000 CDs and DVDs of all kinds and they were destroyed.

Now, after the war has ended, we’ve seized about 50,000 CDs and DVDs.

However we still have a lot of work to accomplish.”

Seven years ago, Lebanon’s revised intellectual property law was enacted, containing a provision for piracy of software and tougher penalties for perpetrators.

However, while a number of successful prosecutions have been made, critics argue that the penalties handed out have not been severe enough.

The IIPA was formed in March 2006 and has carried out over 200 raids and seized 150,000 pirated items — of which 20,000 carried pirated software.

It acts on complaints made by rights holders such as members of the Business Software Alliance and other software vendors.

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