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Cyber Plundering

There is a clear line between a pioneering spirit and outright piracy and theft

Software piracy is a crime that is impacting negatively on industries across the globe.
Software piracy is a crime that is impacting negatively on industries across the globe.

As recently as September 2014, S&P reclassified Qatar to Emerging Market status from Frontier Status. That means that less than a year ago, Qatar was essentially considered equivalent to being akin to the Wild West of olde, where pioneers ventured into unknown territory, pushing back the wilderness in an effort to create a habitable haven.

Over time the development of that haven has created every mod-con known to man. Roads have been thrown down in the dust, bridges and multi-lane expressways uncurled across the endless sand, pilings driven into the dirt underfoot, supporting skyscrapers climbing into the clouds overhead. Now electricity lights the night sky, outshining the firmament above and technology has become the calling card across every sector, as the country clambers onto the world stage.

Oh yes, Qatar has arrived, it has emerged. But with its arrival it has unfortunately dragged some of that frontier/survival dust and mentality of the desert into the air conditioned offices of some of the biggest companies in the Middle East – namely, cyber piracy.

Paul Wallett, area business director from Tekla explains how the piracy scourge has served to undermine the software industry within the Middle East: “Software piracy is not specific to Qatar; there are significant piracy issues throughout the GCC and we see some major projects that are being built where piracy is endemic throughout those projects – and it’s not just our software, every major software vendor seems to experience the same issue.”

Qatar is torn between tradition and ritual on one side while the other side thirsts for knowledge, technological advancement and a desire to outshine and out manoeuvre the rest of the region.

“Piracy is prevalent in the Middle East because the development and construction within the region has always been well protected from the world economy. Now the input from all the projects and the companies involved, needs these tools – and the demand for BIM could be one of the drivers,” he comments and adds: “I think the one thing about software is that it seems intangible, it doesn’t seem like a physical asset. People don’t perceive it in the same way; you wouldn’t steal a truck, as it’s a tangible asset, but you would steal software.”

He explains that the cost is not only to the software developers, but also to the industry generally. When pirated software is obtained – without the associated significant investment – the companies that have invested in legal software are at a financial disadvantage when it comes to recouping that investment, as their rates are higher than the illegal companies’ rates: “It drives down the prices in the industry, giving them an unfair and illegal advantage.”

The piracy menace is denting the rapid advances made by the small country in the development of its ICT sector. According to a report called ‘Shadow Market: 2011 BSA Global Software Piracy Study’, which was released by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) in May 2012, the commercial value of the shadow market of pirated software climbed from $58.8bn in 2010 to $63bn in 2011, while the global piracy rate hovered at 42% in 2011.

This is a new record, driven by PC shipments to emerging economies where piracy rates are highest, outpacing more mature markets, according to the study.While recent figures are not readily available, Wallett cites that in the 2010/2011 BSA study, the Middle East and North Africa held a 58% piracy rate, which has continued to remain relatively stable as has Asia/Pacific at 60%; Central and Eastern Europe dropped from 64% to 62% over the period as did Latin America, from 64% to 61%.

Midst the piracy surge, the Qatari government has not turned a blind eye to the issue. The country is a signatory to most international treaties and conventions, including the convention establishing the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the
Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

So too, Wallett explains: “The governments in the GCC have policies against intellectual property right (IPR) infringements, a lot of which relate to physical infringement – when a pirated CD or something tangible/physical is copied – with significant fines attached, as well as jail time. However, while governments have provisions in place to address the issue, I do not see huge enforcement from the authorities,” he adds. “With the amount of piracy, you’d expect to hear that more companies are being raided with more government interaction.”

He notes that while social media has become the focus of more “soft-hitting” infringements within the GCC region, “more direct company actions and police raids would certainly shake up the industry as a whole.” Nonetheless, he cites instances where companies have been caught pirating within the region, pointing out that the impact to businesses can be severe, as reputations are damaged in the disclosure process.

He points out how the Far East takes a very strict approach to cyber piracy where a public ‘name and shame’ approach has companies shut down entirely. While that is one way to deal with it, Wallett however is not out for revenge: “I think in most cases, software vendors would like to see a ‘soft’ resolution rather than putting a company out of business,” he concludes.

- 58% Piracy rate Middle East and North Africa in 2010/2011
- 42% Global piracy rate in 2011
- $58.8bn to $63bn Pirated software commercial value increase in 2010/2011

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