Wednesday, June 14, 2006

TRENDS | 'Piracy bust’ in Amman

Every once in a while, when local authorities are alerted to software piracy activities and pressured by the intellectual property owner or the BSA -or both- you hear that there’s been a ‘piracy bust’.

That what happened last week, to one of Amman’s PC distributors who was installing unlicensed copies of software onto machines sold at no extra cost.

While we all agree that piracy is theft, and that the hard work and investment of programmers and software publishers must be rewarded, the simple fact that software costs too much for the average citizen in a developing country like Jordan means that piracy will continue.

In fact, even in the world’s most advanced economies like Japan and the United States, piracy is rampant.

The BSA is active in those countries, but just can’t fight off every illegal practice. So, it has to pick its battles, and the best way to do so is to aim for businesses or big companies that are breaking the law, make a bust, get wide news coverage, and therefore get the message across to everyone else.

But is everyone else listening? Or, rather, can they afford to listen?

Back to the local piracy raid story, the National Library Department, whose task is to safeguard intellectual property, was involved and a spokesperson for the department said that the aim is to ‘stamp out this parasitic activity in Jordan, which hurts the national economy and contributes to the brain-drain.’

Well, those are strong and, may I add, not easily understood statements.

For starters, what would the impact be on the national economy if every registered company in Jordan had to suddenly pay for every piece of unlicensed software it’s using?

Surely, the result would be a massive loss to the country’s balance of payments!

And can someone explain to me the ‘brain-drain’ comment?

Maybe he means that international software companies are not setting up business operations in Jordan, and therefore are not hiring our local programmers; so they find themselves forced to leave the country to ‘copyright havens’ like Dubai, where everything is fine and dandy for software companies?

I’m not too sure about that.

Anyway, 14 years after the law was passed in Jordan, the same questions remain: Why can’t software publishers just produce cut-down, low-priced versions of their software to encourage everyone to actually but it.

Maybe because selling 10 units at full price, with wide-spread piracy, is more profitable than selling 50 units at cut-price, still with piracy.


It’s worked for the music industry with special edition tapes and DVDs for the Middle East and digital distribution has lowered illegal music sales, thanks to a song selling for just 99 cents on iTunes.

It’s even been a successful practice in the book publishing business for decades; with cut-down, paper-back version of a book, printed regionally under license.

When will we see similar ideas in software?

Published in The Star weekly newspaper


At 7:47 PM , Anonymous TH14 said...

i imagine the brain-drain comment means that jordanian programmers feel their work is not properly rewarded or protected here so they leave so that they can become underpaid, overworked, highly taxed workers in another country :-)


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