Software piracy is the unauthorized copying of computer programs for the purpose of selling the illegal copies or for unauthorized commercial or even private use.
Software piracy can be divided into three broad categories. Each category requires a different level of protection. The first category is protection against user duplication. The second category is protection against copying for resale. The third category is the protection of the algorithm, which must be kept secret
According to the BSA, risks to users include:
• Failure to receive upgrades, technical support, manuals, or appropriate documentation.
• Receipt of an incomplete, modified or trial version of the software.
• Giving criminals access to sensitive personal and financial information.
• Infecting the consumer’s computer with viruses or remote cybercrime tools.
Software piracy can destroy the revenue stream of small software companies. Strong copyright protection is important for the software industry in less developed countries. In developing countries, the rate of piracy is higher than in developed countries. For example, the software piracy rate is 26% in the UK and 83% in Pakistan. In fact, income level affects consumers’ ability to purchase software.
The use of pirated software by organizations in developing countries is a constant threat to network security. Software is important to every business, government, school and consumer. However, it is important for software users to remember that in order to get the most out of their software, they must be careful to only purchase a legitimate product and take good care of it. Still, many organizations and consumers see software as something else. They don’t tend to manage it like they would any other valuable asset. Poor software management can cost a company or an individual, not only in terms of legal and financial risks, but also in terms of lost efficiency and productivity. Remember that software piracy is not just a crime under copyright law. It can also destroy computers and data.
Pakistan is a developing country where the IT industry is growing. The Government of Pakistan established the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) as a key body for economic growth and promoting IT adoption in the public and private sectors. In Pakistan, the Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) aims to create a public policy situation that includes taxes, tariffs, trade and intellectual property to enable the growth of the information technology industry. Laws in Pakistan provide intellectual property rights (IPR) protection. Since 2002, the federal government has banned the use of pirated software by its ministries and departments.
Some private organizations also work with the Pakistan Software House Association (PSHB) to control piracy and improve the country’s software export potential. The American Business Council of Pakistan (ABC) has also suggested that the Pakistani government must establish an IPR task force to eradicate piracy (PSEB, 2008).
According to a report prepared by IDC and sponsored by BSA, the piracy rate in Pakistan is 86%. A 10-point reduction in PC software piracy would bring Pakistan an additional 11,700 new jobs, US$23 million in tax revenue and US$160 million in economic growth (IDC, 2006). The government should launch a campaign against piracy. It should try to arouse people’s sentimental desire to buy licensed software. There are regulations to protect intellectual property rights, but the government does not enforce these regulations. Government controls on piracy must be tightened. The use of open source software can also be increased by the state. One problem with using open source software is the high maintenance costs; moreover, highly qualified people are needed. The government could set up an open source support agency. The government can help small and medium-sized organizations by offering free open source software training to network administrators. A feasibility study on the use of open source software should be drawn up.
The monetary cost of software should also be compatible with the resources of organizations in Pakistan, a developing country. The software companies can lower the piracy rate and increase legitimate sales by offering affordable prices for developing countries. The government should talk to software companies to bring down the price of software that is affordable for small and medium-sized businesses.