The UAE is cracking down on piracy by introducing Dh500,000 fine for companies caught using counterfeit software.
Drive to sink software pirates
Government and industry leaders launched a campaign yesterday to curb the use of unlicensed computer software in businesses across the Emirates.
Abdullah al Hussain, director of the censorship department at the UAE Ministry of Economy, renewed his call for the protection of intellectual property rights.
The call was part of an effort to stop businesses installing pirated software programs, which globally have an estimated commercial value of more than US$51 billion (Dh187.31bn).
"We want to send out a clear and urgent message about the negative impact of piracy on the social and economic development of our country, by highlighting the effects of piracy on the business landscape, on job security and also the moral implications of this criminal activity," said Mr al Hussain.
The campaign, scheduled to run through next month, will include media advertisements focused on the UAE's zero-tolerance policy on software piracy.
"We intend to convey that using unlicensed software can lead to severe consequences, including the possibility of the closure of a business for a limited period of time," warned Jawad al Redha, who chairs the Gulf region for the Business Software Alliance, a group that represents the IT sector.
Mr al Redha said fines against businesses that violate the rules could reach Dh500,000, up from Dh50,000 before an intellectual property law was passed in 2007.
"Additionally, using pirated or counterfeit software can compromise the integrity of the IT network, may result in long-term damage to reputation and additional financial costs to the business," he said.
Globally, more than four out of 10 software programs installed on PCs in 2009 were not properly licensed, up 43 per cent from 2008, according to a report produced last year by the Business Software Alliance and the research company International Data.
Most of this unauthorised software use occurs in legitimate businesses that, for example, buy a licence to install a program on one computer but install it on several.
"Piracy has serious implications for the UAE as it inhibits business growth and diminishes the competitiveness of the national economy," said Naser Samaenah, the regional licence compliance manager for the Mena region at the software maker Adobe Systems.
In 2009, 36 per cent of the software programs that were installed on computers in the UAE were pirated. While that was one of the lowest rates among countries in the Middle East or Africa, it still represents a loss in commercial value of $155m for local businesses, according to last year's report.
Raising public awareness about this issue is one way to stem the problem, experts say. This campaign, which is part of a continuing effort, is "running in the UAE just to make sure the rate of piracy is dropped and the total losses are dropped", said Mr al Redha.
The goal, he said, was to "create awareness and education of the importance of respecting IPR [intellectual property rights] in the country, across different segments of businesses.".
Experts say that as the IT industry helps to drive the overall economy, software fuels the broader IT industry by providing an area of sales growth and the need for services and support.
Projections by International Data and the Business Software Alliance show reducing computer software piracy in the UAE by 10 percentage points by 2013 would deliver more than 800 jobs in the IT sector and generate $17m in additional tax revenues, as well as $425m in new economic activity.