10 - 16, 2009

What if one day Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) accompanied with Business Software Alliance (BSA) raids your home or office, confiscates your computers, seals your office, and arrests and books you for 6 months to 2 years imprisonment with a fine of Rs200,000? Puzzled! It may be an impending danger because you may be unaware that the vendor who sold you a computer did not inform you that the computer was preloaded with a pirated version of Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office tools or maybe you yourself purchased Rs.30 software on a compact disk from Hafeez Centre Lahore or Unicenter Karachi.

No doubt, a federal law against Software Piracy exists in Pakistan and a complaint would be enough to take over 50 million Pakistanis in offense of the Anti-Software Piracy Law.

Copyright (Amendment) Act, 1992 is now extended to cover computer software.

It is illegal to make or distribute copies of computer programs without authorization. No other copies may be made without specific authorization from the copyright owner. The Pakistan Government will protect the rights of copyright owners. Surprise raids will be conducted and penalties will be imposed. These raids against software pirates will continue to encourage the purchase of original software.

Pakistan's copyright law prohibits reproduction of software without permission from the owner of the copyrighted computer program. If caught with pirated software, you or your company may be prosecuted under the provisions of the Copyright Laws. The penalties under the law include a fine of up to Rs.0.2 million, confiscation of products used for illegal copying, and an imprisonment of up to three years.

Piracy is simply the unauthorized copying of software. Most retail programs are licensed for use on only one computer or by only one user at any time. By buying the software, you become a licensed user rather than an owner. You are allowed to make copies of the program for backup purposes, but it is unlawful to give copies to friends and colleagues.

According to a BSA study of global trends in software piracy the worldwide rate of personal computer software piracy stood at 35 percent, a one percentage point decrease on the last year's global rate. The rate of software piracy in each country was calculated by subtracting the units of legitimate packaged software paid for during the year from total units of packaged software put to use during that year. The resulting number was divided by total units of packaged software to produce a percentage rate during the last few years.

The highest rates of software piracy were recorded in Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Ukraine, and China. In these countries between 85 and 93 percent of the software put to use each year was thought to be pirated. Other countries with high rates of software piracy include Pakistan (86%), Kazakhstan (85%), Russia (83%), and Venezuela (82%). Countries with low piracy include the United States (21%), New Zealand (23%), the UK (27%), Japan (28%), Australia (31%), and Canada (33%). The estimated monetary losses (in $US) due to software piracy are estimated as $34,297 million per year.

It is a major drawback faced by IT industry because the software products almost have no market within the country. They are pirated as soon as are launched thus giving almost no return to company. A well-known example is of "In Page" software. Although the product was good, of high quality and according to market needs but the results were disastrous for the company. They owner had to wind up the company and he got no return on his investment.

In addition, if you purchase software that is pirated or copied, you not only deny the software developer its rightful revenue, you harm the industry as a whole. All software developers, both big and small, Pakistani or foreign spend literally years developing software for public use. A portion of every rupee spent in purchasing original software is funneled back into research and development so that better and more advanced software may be produced. When you purchase counterfeit software, your money goes directly into the pockets of software pirates.

On the other hand, the cost of the licensed versions of Windows XP Professional and Office XP Professional collectively is higher than what an average Pakistani earns in a whole year, which means the software, so crucial for today's computing, is unaffordable to a typical Pakistani computer user. The obvious choice, hence, is to use pirated software available on a compact disk that can be bought anywhere for a 30 rupees.

Almost all the home users, and most of the commercial users too, indulge in this crime without giving a thought to the rights of Microsoft, the owner of the intellectual property known as Microsoft Windows, Office and other software. Microsoft though has just started to focus on the Pakistani market, and as such, it has jointly organized training session for FIA to increase the awareness of Copy Rights Infringement.

Although piracy is not ethical, but in some cases like Pakistan, it is good for students because they have not enough buying power to buy license CDs .If Pirated CDs would not be available many of them would be deprived of information technology education.

Piracy is our strength as well as weakness at present. The same becomes the strength of our IT professionals when they go abroad. They have hands-on experience on the latest versions of a number of software tools that are unaffordable for people as well as companies abroad. There are some other countries as well where they have exempted the education sector and students from piracy acts. All the copyright laws just apply to industrial sector.