By Azmat Haroon
Doha: Fifty percent of the users of personal computers in Qatar use unlicensed software, suggests a study.
The commercial value of the pirated software being used in the country is $62 million (QR226.3m), according to the latest findings of the BSA Global Software Piracy Study.
The act of downloading, producing and distributing pirated software in Qatar can lead to imprisonment of one to two years, with fines ranging from QR30,000 to QR35,000.
Although the state keeps lists of companies that use pirated software, taking people to court is the last resort, says Abdulla Ahmed Qayed, Director, Intellectual Property, Ministry of Justice.
“It is not our policy to push people to courts,” said Qayed.
Speaking at a conference held by Microsoft on the issue of software piracy in Qatar and the Gulf region, Qayed said that last month alone, his department held raids on three end-users of PC software.
“The government has taken a firm stand against software piracy and violation of intellectual property rights (IPR). The Ministry of Justice, in particular, has been strongly committed to tackling the issue by underlining the legal implications of IPR violations while also creating greater awareness about the detrimental effects of using pirated software,” said Qayed.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region as a whole had a piracy rate of 58 percent, but countries like Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe had rates of pirated software well above 80 percent, which means out of 100 software units installed in 2011, more than 80 were illegally produced, distributed, and sold.
“The results of the collective IP protection measures in Qatar and the efforts to eliminate piracy are quite remarkable. Yet there remain substantial goals to be achieved,” Naim Yazbeck, Country Manager, Microsoft Qatar, said during the press conference.
“Specific measures need to be in place and these include establishing a clear and consistent legal framework, enforcement of legislation, increasing public education and awareness efforts, and increasing collaborative efforts at local and international levels,” Yazbeck said.
“Among the various illegal practices that weaken the information technology sector worldwide, the unauthorised copying, reproduction, transfer, and usage of copyrighted software represents the most significant threat to the IT industry — the software industry in particular — in the MEA region,” said Savas Yucedag, head of Anti-Piracy and Licence Compliance at Microsoft Gulf.
Qayed also announced that in the next two months, a high-level conference will be held to tackle issues related to intellectual property rights in the Arab world.
The BSA Global Software Piracy Study quantifies the volume and value of unlicensed software installed on personal computers in a given year.
To compile the report, BSA works closely with two of the world’s leading independent research firms — IDC and Ipsos Public affairs — to measure, understand, and evaluate global software piracy.