Philippines Aims to Lower Piracy Rate in 2006

The Business Software Alliance, a nonprofit trade association promoting the use of licensed software, has expressed hopes of having a significantly lower piracy rate in 2006. Tarun Sawney, BSA director of Anti-Piracy for Asia, recently commended the Pilipinas Anti-Piracy Team (PAPT) for its progress in the local campaign against software piracy. With a current piracy rate of 71 percent in the Philippines -- relatively higher than the 53 percent average in Asia -- Sawney acknowledged that there is definitely still a lot of work to be done. Sawney, however, expressed optimism over the continuing progress the PAPT has achieved in curbing software piracy in the country.

The PAPT, composed of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Optical Media Board (OMB), and the Philippine National Police (PNP), began its crackdown of businesses using, selling, and distributing unlicensed software in September, 30 days after a warning period was announced. Other than its primary focus on companies using pirated or unlicensed software, the crackdown also included raids against stores selling pirated software.

Sawney said that since the PAPT began its campaign, public response has been overwhelming; calls to the BSA Anti-Piracy hotline have increased significantly. Since August, the BSA has received over 600 calls, most of which are reports on companies using unlicensed software, while some are queries and requests for information on the use of legal software. "The campaign has had a very dramatic effect on creating awareness about the legal use of software," said Sawney.

One other significant effect of the PAPT campaign is the evident increase in awareness of the business sector of the importance of using legitimate software. "We have also received a great number of calls from companies willing to comply and some voluntarily asking advice in auditing their software programs," said Sawney.

The PAPT is a very good start, said Sawney, but he stressed that the rate of piracy also has a lot to do with the effectiveness of Intellectual Property laws in a country and the execution of these laws. "Awareness, education, and respect for such laws, on the part of businesses, also play a part," he added. Right now, there are eight cases in the legal system filed in various courts in the country, some dating back to 1997 that are still waiting for results, said Sawney. "What we want is the establishment of IP courts specialized in IP protection."

The BSA is, however, hopeful that, with the help of the government, IP law enforcement in the country would improve. According to Sawney, the IPO is supportive of the campaign and is currently exploring the establishment of IP courts in the country. One of the bills that are being considered in the house, said the BSA director, is also punishing landlords or mall owners that allow the open selling of pirated material or let a space in their property be used for illegal activity.

"There is always a percentage of companies that ignore the law," said Sawney. He said that an intensive anti-piracy campaign would make these companies know that the government is serious in curbing piracy. "IP creates value and generates employment for the economy," said Fermin Taruc, president of the Philippine Software Industry Association and managing director at Gurango Software. Stressing the obvious need to further grow and promote the interests of local software developers who are in the product development business, Taruc said that stricter local IP law enforcement and increased public consciousness about IP are a means to an end.

"More than the multinationals present in multiple markets, these (IP laws) protect the economic interests of local developers and encourages them to increase their investment on the promise of better returns," Taruc said. Further stressing the need for stricter IP enforcement in the country, Taruc said that this would actually ultimately benefit the entire software industry. "For example, for the local companies engaged in providing software services, assurance of our respect for IP rights sends a very strong positive signal to the offshore market about the viability of the Philippines as an outsourcing destination relative to other countries," he said.

"BSA congratulates the PAPT on this ongoing crackdown and we anticipate that this will continue to go deep into 2006," said Sawney. As enforcement is not exactly the organization’s prime goal but rather to educate the public, the BSA, in mid-November, has also issued reminder letters to 6,000 companies nationwide, advising them to examine their software and ensure license compliance.

To further support the campaign for the use of licensed software, BSA has also agreed to offer a P1 million reward for information on companies using unlicensed software, which would of course still be subject to investigation and validation. Since the start of the campaign, the BSA has had several calls about companies using unlicensed software, with reports coming from people working in the company, former employees, or people involved in the IT maintenance of that company.

"The bottom line would really be substantive reduction in the piracy rate year-on-year," said Sawney. Although the Philippines does not have the highest piracy rate in Asia, with Thailand (highest at around 88 percent), Vietnam, China, and Indonesia having higher rates, Sawney said that the Philippines, with 71 percent, still has a relatively high piracy rate. "If they (PAPT) can bring it down to 10 percent in 2006, that would be a very successful result," said an optimistic Sawney.

By Jenalyn M. Rubi - Computerworld Philippines

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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