Political protests should not be a holiday for software pirates

Tech April 04, 2014 00:00

By Somporn Maneeratanakul

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There are signs that piracy of software products is growing during these turbulent times in Thailand as we see that companies are not buying licenses to match their usage.

The country is clearly facing serious political issues, and we must be understanding of this. But at the same time, the political unrest should not become a holiday for pirates.
Over the last decade, Thailand has made tangible progress in helping software companies protect their intellectual property rights.  The piracy rate has fallen nearly 10 percentage points since 2006.
While it may not seem like much of a reduction, this is actually one of the best rates of reduction in Asia.  Only Hong Kong has had better success in reducing software piracy.
But the software industry still faces unique challenges.
Consider that for the average software company in Thailand, more than 72 percent of their products are pirated.  By comparison, Thailand’s major retailers face average shoplifting rates of less than two percent, according to the Center for Retail Research.
The good news is that enforcement of Thai copyright laws does continue, albeit more needs to be done.  Last week, a major manufacturing company was caught by authorities using unlicensed software made by five software companies, including ours.  This enforcement is helpful, and we appreciate the protection of our innovations, but there are thousands of other companies that pirate our products without giving it a second thought.
What needs to happen is for executives to take it upon themselves to ensure they are not using pirated software.  These executives need to make it their responsibility to ensure their IT management is compliant with the Thai laws.  Building a business on the back of pirated software is not only illegal and risky, but also unethical. Executives must understand that piracy is not confined to shady CD sellers at IT malls.  The most prevalent type of piracy is illegal copying made by businesses, sometimes from original copies, and distributed throughout its operations. Using more copies of software than the licensing agreement allows is software piracy too.”
Next, we need the authorities to continue putting pressure on pirates.  The ECDand Department of Intellectual Property have performed well in addressing piracy.  This momentum should continue as much as possible.  We need companies to know that software piracy is like another form of corruption.  It should not be tolerated.
And finally, we need multinational companies, Thai authoritiesand international embassies to insist that their suppliers and vendors abide by Thai laws.  No supplier should be able to pirate products in violation of the Thai copyright while also being part of an ethical supply chain. 
One day, Thailand will find its way through the current political unrest.   Thailand must also find its way to rid the economy of counterfeiting and piracy.  No matter the challenges we face, there is never an acceptable time for piracy.  Now is not the time to give pirates a holiday.
(Somporn Maneeratanakul is the founder and CEO of Thai Software Enterpriseand President of the Association of Thai Software Industry.)