While software piracy appears to be gradually declining in the Kingdom, Microsoft Jordan’s Intellectual Property Lead Sana Jaser says it remains a serious problem.
By Jane Hosking
A survey recently released by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) revealed that software piracy around the world rose from 42 percent in 2011 to 43 percent in 2013, and cost the industry over $60 billion in lost annual sales.
But while the survey found that efforts to tackle unlicensed software use globally have faltered, they seem to be having some modicum of success in Jordan. The survey said unlicensed software installation rates in the Kingdom declined from 58 percent to 57 percent between 2011 and 2013.
A great deal of the software that’s being pirated was originally created by Microsoft. Sana Jaser, the tech giant’s intellectual property lead in Jordan, is pleased with the progress made so far to combat piracy, but believes more still needs to be done.
According to the BSA survey, there has been a slight decrease in software piracy in Jordan over recent years. What role has Microsoft played in bringing about this fall?
We work very closely with different industries and we work closely with law enforcement entities, like the National Library, Jordan Customs Department, and the Criminal Investigation Department. We have done a lot of workshops and a lot of press releases to raise awareness about the advantages of using genuine software and the disadvantages of using non-genuine software. We have done workshops with universities as well, to tell the coming generation why they should use genuine software and that it’s a crime to use pirated software. But Jordan is an emerging country and is still immature when it comes to copyrights. So there is still a long way to go when it comes to awareness.
Why is unlicensed software such a concern for Microsoft? And what are the potential consequences for companies and individuals in using unlicensed software?
It’s a serious problem. Piracy is a global issue and no country is immune to the impact of piracy. It’s not only illegal to use pirated copies, but the consumer can lose their data, be vulnerable to malware viruses, and the whole PC can become corrupted. When you use unlicensed software you will definitely face problems. But when you invest in having genuine software, you secure your laptop, you secure the data, you have the antivirus, you have the updates, and you have the technical support 24/7. It’s an investment.
We know piracy costs your industry billions of dollars each year. But what is the potential impact on companies that use unlicensed software?
We are focusing our efforts on raising the awareness of individuals and enterprises, because companies are losing millions. They are also losing their reputation, their business efficiency, and their ability to perform. Imagine if a bank loses the information of their customers. There used to be a real lack of awareness on piracy but we have worked so hard in the past few years to raise awareness about software with the customers.
In the BSA report, there’s clearly a very big difference between emerging economies and developed economies when it comes to software piracy. What are the factors that are causing emerging economies to have higher instances of unlicensed software?
Immaturity. The IT sector has been growing rapidly in the last few years; in emerging countries the PC shipments are higher than developed countries. In the developed countries the rate of piracy is about 23 percent, whereas in emerging countries it’s around 65 percent. We are still not coping with the rapid growth of IT, and people have used the immaturity of the sector to make money, and for criminal activity.
Also, a significant number of Jordanian citizens are not fully aware of the dangers of purchasing pirated software, and do not realize that using and selling such programs is considered a crime that is punished by law. It’s a cultural perception that it’s legal to use and buy pirated products and there’s a lack of awareness of the risks of using illegal software.
How are people obtaining pirated software today?
It used to come through the border from Syria and China and we were working with Jordan Customs Department to track the source. But now 45 percent of pirated software, if not more, is downloaded online.
What can managers do to ensure that pirated software isn’t being used at any level in their companies?
An organization must manage their assets properly. This means they should have an internal inventory to keep track of their IT software. Often companies don’t see their software as an asset. So they have to optimize it and consider their software as an asset and create internal policies and procedures to measure and manage it. They should also have workshops, bringing together the IT manager, the decision makers, and employees, to discuss what software and IT infrastructure they have, and how they can improve efficiency and productivity. It starts with the main core of the company. Using legal software that is reliable and secure will maximize their productivity and efficiency and enhance their ability to serve their customers.
How can we ensure we don’t inadvertently buy pirated software?
You need to ask questions and really do your research as a consumer and as a corporation when you go to buy a laptop or a desktop. We encourage users to be very careful when purchasing programs from unknown sources, instead of looking only for a good deal. Sometimes it’s too good to be true. Often they end up paying for what turns out to be malware or infected software that results in the loss of data. You have to have it preinstalled on your computer or you can tell from the package and the price. There’s also a site for Microsoft called www.howtotell.com where you can go if you have any issues, if you want to know the difference, or to report a case of piracy.