Microsoft has again joined forces with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to highlight the benefits of using genuine software and stronger protection on IP innovation. Their most recent event, held on 26 April, spoke out about the importance of IP rights.
“Strong IP protections are central to instilling a culture of innovation, which can spur economic growth, create jobs and increase revenue for the broader industry and government organisations,” according to Microsoft.
“In addition to strengthening the economy, sound IP policies can help reduce software piracy and counterfeiting, which we know sap government resources, threaten legitimate businesses and expose consumers to the risks that come from using non-genuine software,” said Charl Everton, anti-piracy lead, Microsoft South Africa. “Software piracy and counterfeiting tend to thrive in places with weak IP protection, and this has an enormous and negative impact on the global economy.”
At the recent Convention on Reducing Software Piracy organised by the Free Market Foundation (FMF) and the Information Technology Association (ITA), and hosted by Microsoft South Africa, Everton revealed her “5 step roadmap to reducing software piracy” and placed collaboration at the heart of what is needed to decrease piracy locally. “What we need to do in South Africa is lead by example when using original products and while policies are in place, we need to play a strong role in supporting enforcement bodies to bring the culprits to justice. Cross-border cooperation and the promotion of public and private partnerships will increase capacity and awareness about counterfeit goods and IP rights”.
Microsoft’s commitment to collaboration is evident in Operation ThengaEyakho, a pilot campaign jointly led by Microsoft and the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC). Operation ThengaEyakho is focused on IPR and software specific anti-piracy messaging. The campaign is aimed at driving awareness and education amongst universities, high-schools, small businesses, the public and includes law enforcement capacity building. Mkhuseli Vimba, Director of Education and Awareness at the CIPC said, “Operation ThengaEyakho wants to encourage people to buy original, be original. This partnership with Microsoft is a step in the right direction in fighting piracy and helping these groups to better understand their intellectual property rights and those of others.”
The event, which brought together several players in the software industry including the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Computer Society South Africa, the Business Software Alliance (BSA), Microsoft and others, also stressed a strong correlation between economic growth and the prevalence of piracy.
DTI provided an overview of the Counterfeit Goods Act and the Copyright Act put in place to protect intellectual property, and pinpointed the challenges in enforcing these regulations due to capacity and the need for training. It was revealed that the total value of counterfeit goods seized in the last financial year amounted to over R696 million.
Microsoft South Africa can reveal that a civil case will shortly be brought against a local computer shop owner in Port Elizabeth, who has been raided on two occasions in connection with selling unlicensed and counterfeit software to unsuspecting customers. A criminal trial is also pending against the same suspect. The suspect was not only selling counterfeit software, but changing the CK numbers of company invoices. The counterfeit goods were packaged to look like genuine products and included counterfeit CDs with simulated holograms and counterfeit certificates of authenticity. “Any action that is taken against these criminals often prevents the funding of more serious crime, and while consumers don’t often realise they have illegal software – they are instrumental in bringing these criminal operations to justice” says Everton.”
According to a study commissioned by the International Chamber of Commerce in 2011, the global economic and social impacts of counterfeiting and piracy will reach US$1.7 trillion by 2015 and put 2.5 million legitimate jobs at risk each year. Conversely, the economic rewards for countries that strengthen IP protection and reduce piracy are substantial. According to an economic study by the Business Software Alliance, a reduction in the worldwide piracy rate by 10 percentage points in four years would create $142 billion in new economic activity and add nearly 500,000 new high-tech jobs around the world.