A Corporate, Legal and Moral Responsibility

By Irfan Shahzad
Jan 06 - 12, 2003

Just imagine how many times have you gifted or shared your favorite software programs with your friends? You may be obliged and get compliments for this but are you aware of the fact that by doing so you are committing a serious crime?

Just imagine how many times have you borrowed the office software from your employer to continue work at home neglected to delete it after use? You may not be caring for it but it is yet another one of corporate crimes and you are offending your country's laws by doing so.

You may be feeling at ease by downloading various programs from a bulletin board system or commercial on-line service with out holding a valid license for the purpose but it may get you in trouble. You may end up paying fine for this illegal downloading if caught and taken to task by the legitimate producer of that program.

Each and every one of us knows that all the above mentioned practices are quite rampant in Pakistan, unfortunately so, like almost every other country of the world. With computer usage increasing at such a great pace, software has become essential to run every thing, from PCs to office networks, Internet and every thing in between. As the computer software are so easy to copy, one rarely bothers to get it legally, i.e. for a price. "Software Piracy" exists at widespread levels, in almost every business concern, educational institution, home and even government office.

According to the experts of the sector, software piracy is the main impediment to the growth of IT industry in Pakistan and its spread must be checked immediately. A report of the Business Software Alliance (BSA), an umbrella organization of the major global software producers estimates that 83 per cent of software used in Pakistan is illegal and unlicensed. This is not only proving to be a big blow to our IT industry but also resulting in huge revenue loss to national exchequer. The phenomenon is not restricted to Pakistan only. It is causing an annual estimated loss of $ 12 billion to global software industry. Even the countries like USA and Japan are not spared.


Copyright laws of various countries bind, both individuals as well as corporations that usually a certain software should be installed on one computer and a back-up copy to be made for archival purposes only. Many individuals and corporations, however, disregard the importance of software as valuable intellectual property; inadvertently, or purposely, they copy, share, or otherwise illegally use programs throughout an organization. There are even businesses that profit from the sale of pirated software.

Thus any attempt of unauthorized copying, distribution, or use of personal computer software comes under the term "software piracy". Unlike products from other industries, each copy of software a computer user makes is identical to the original and functions exactly the same. Regardless of the country, industry, or platform, more computer software is used than is bought.


Any individual user shares his favorite program with friends

* Any business user buys a new program and installs it on several computers in the office

* Any computer seller, consultant or systems integrator installs its software on a client's computer

* Any business disregards the license agreements for networked software

* Any professional software thief duplicates the diskettes, packaging, and manuals from a software package and then sells the illegal copies

Many of the computer users keep themselves engaged in the acts of piracy without realizing the fact that it is as an offence as the theft of any other good. It may be of serious consequences for individuals and organizations in a number of ways.

It may result in the loss of any company's reputation as a law-abiding organization and image. Your money and time is always in danger, not only in case of being caught and taken to task but also in the case when any fault develops in the software your are using or any harmful virus coming through it. And last but not the least, many countries' laws sentence such offenders to different periods of time.

In Pakistan, which is fifth largest market of pirated software, computer software is covered under 1992 Copyright Ordinance (amended Copyright Act of 1962). Under this law, it is crime to make copies of the computer software without authorization of original copyright owner. Any person or organization using or selling pirated software may be caught and panelized up to Rs. 2,00,000, such goods are liable to seizure and the offenders can be sentenced up to three years in imprisonment.

It may be noted here that in the past couple of years, there has been an aggressive campaign in the country to check the spread of software piracy. The campaign is being led by Business Software Alliance that represents major software producers in a number of countries. It is aimed at enhancing the legal software usage in Pakistan. This enforcement has been instrumental in bringing down the level of software piracy in Pakistan and has encourage legality as a number of individuals and organizations have been taken to task and fines up to millions of rupees imposed on them. Yet this has not been highly successful, as piracy remains rampant in the country and a lot more is needed to do away with it.


In this age of free market economy, only those countries can attain the fast pace of development whose citizens show respect for intellectual property rights. It is an unfortunate fact that here in Pakistan we find little care for intellectual property rights. This is severely hindering the growth of Information Technology in Pakistan. How can we expect any technological giant to invest in Pakistan when its business interests are not safeguarded?

In these times when computer software is need of every organization and house, the practice of piracy is playing havoc with our economy. How can we hope for a technological turn around when only one company, Microsoft, loses $ 20 million annually here? Apart from discouraging investment, it causes huge revenue losses to the country, which is direly in need of both. Hence it becomes our legal, moral and corporate responsibility to use and promote the usage of legalized software.


Though the pirated software costs nothing and licensed one sells for a certain price, there are a number of characteristics that prove the latter more advantageous for the users in the longer run. Some of the benefits attached with the use of legalized software, as the Business Software Alliance (BSA) itself states, are as follows:

* When you load illegal software, you risk introducing viruses which can spread through your network and cost countless hours in restoring lost data.

* Legal software provides you with back-up and support. No such certainty exists with illegal software.

* When you register as a licensed user of a legal software package, you can expect to be notified of any upgrades and offered discounts on their purchase. Upgrades on illegal software may be expensive, and there is no guarantee of its compatibility.

* With illegal software you cannot be sure that it will perform reliably. If there is a problem, you cannot go to the publisher for help because you are effectively using stolen software.

* When purchasing legal software you receive a range of documentation including loading instructions and user guidelines. Illegal software does not offer the same level of support.

* With legal software you can expect to receive back-up in the form of publisher product support lines and high quality training through the dealer network. With illegal software you have to stand alone.

It would be pertinent to note here that the producers are offering large discounts on the prices of software. In some cases, discounts for educational sector are as higher as 90 per cent. So the pricing is no more a genuine issue. The real issue is mindset. It is time to realize that every innovative mind has the legitimate right to profit from its innovation and we must pay for what we are using. It is time to keep the national interest in mind, not meager personal gains.