Microsoft campaign against piracy
The target is the
By Syed M. Aslam
Oct 02 - 08, 2000
Corporate sector beware using the pirated software can be
hazardous. Or at least that's the message that the global software giant Microsoft, which
started operations in Pakistan two years ago, is trying to send by issuing legal notices
to some 200 companies in the country for the violations of copyrights.
According to Zulfiqar Khan, a lawyer specialising in Intellectual
Property Rights (IPRs) whose firm represents Microsoft in Pakistan, the company is only
targeting the big companies which can afford to buy licensed softwares but chose to use
the pirated software. 'Some 15,000 companies in Pakistan are using 20 or more PCs each and
while they can afford to buy licensed software the majority of them chose to use pirated
copies with least regard to the IPRs. Our campaign is directed only against the companies
having 15 or more PCs and not against the individual users such as students or small
businesses," he added.
The Microsoft campaign against software piracy is calculated indeed as
it primarily targets the corporate sector, the single top user of PCs in the country. By
targeting the corporate sector Microsoft seems to send a signal that it wants to develop a
legitimate market in a country where piracy has become an all-pervading environment.
Despite a nine per cent reduction in the piracy level since 1994 the use of unlicensed
software still stands at a high 86 per cent in Pakistan. The corporate sector being the
biggest single user of the PCs is also the top user of pirated software products and that
explains the Microsoft's reason to target this market exclusively.
The ongoing Microsoft campaign should also be viewed in the backdrop of
the tremendous growth of knowledge-intensive industries and globalisation of the economic
activities during the last decade that have resulted in the significant increase for the
demand for the protection of Individual Property Rights backed primarily by the developed
world. Developing countries today are facing increased pressure to improve standards of
IPRs protection. Pakistan is no exception.
So what has been the response of the legal initiatives undertaken by
the Microsoft? Sources at Khursheed Khan & Associates, the law firm specialising in
Intellectual Property Rights and responsible for issuing legal notices of which Zulfiqar
Khan is a part, told PAGE that of the 200 notices served to the companies
nationwide many have chose not to even acknowledge the notice while others have written
that they would buy licensed Microsoft products. 'We will keep sending reminders to the
companies who chose not acknowledge the notice and may take the relevant legal measures
after 5-6 months depending on the instructions received from our client,' they added. The
sources said that the Microsoft sends it the list of companies to be issued legal notices
after conducting its own investigation.
Zulfiqar said that despite offering a hefty 98 per cent discount by
Microsoft on all its products to educational institutions not a single institution has
shown interest to avail it in the country to help encourage the use of quality products
backed by guarantee and support.
The lack of implementation and enforcement of IPRs protection in
Pakistan could be attributed to the presence of a large informal sector, low per capita
income, shrinking purchasing power and also on the absence of specialised IPRs courts,
judges and lawyers. The low priority attached to the IPRs is also attributed by the
observers on the political-economic considerations. It is also perceived as an issue which
has more to do to protect the interests of the multinational companies and their deeper
penetration of the markets in the developing countries. There is also a perception that
the protection of IPRs is an issue of the developed world which enjoys a fearsome monopoly
in the latest technological advances and concerns expressed at such highest levels as the
UN that more open economies are more likely to benefit from stronger IPRs protection laws.
So could there be a compromise? In theory, yes. This could be possible
as the developing countries face increased pressure to improve the standards of IPRs
protection and also as the amount of technological knowledge in the public domain is far
more accessible to everybody anywhere in the world compared to just a decade ago.
According to sources the government is losing a revenue of Rs 1.25
billion each year alone from software piracy. It is not that the general public is not
aware of the piracy and the violations of IPRs but their inclination to buy pirated
products be it software, videos, books, or music, is purely based on reasons of economics.
As one observer puts it, 'while the poors cannot afford to buy licensed products the
affluent don't want to see the abolishment of piracy due to their own vested interests and
the fact that a load of black money is riding on the trade.
Living in an excessively piracy-prone environment which offers
minuscule chances of ever getting caught due to immense use worsened by a low per capita
income and an ever decreasing purchasing power makes piracy a lucrative business. Without
addressing the ground realities all the legislation in the world could not help improve
the IPRs protection.