Agencies vow to step up pursuit of software pirates in RP

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By Alexander Villafania

SAN JUAN, METRO MANILA – The ballooning losses in software piracy have compelled more efforts from the multi-agency Philippine Anti-Piracy Team (PAPT) to go after businesses that are using illegally copied software.

Software piracy rate in the Philippines remains at 69 percent in the last three years, which is equivalent to $217 million (P9.7 billion) in 2009. This percentage has been the same for the last three years beginning in 2007. This also actually grew from $202 million (P9 billion) in 2008.

This amount in financial losses to software piracy is roughly equivalent to the 2010 budget of eight state colleges and universities, including the University of the Philippines, in Metro Manila.

This only covers business software that are used by various industries in the Philippines and does not yet cover the use of pirated software – from operating systems to desktop productivity applications – in private homes.

Just this year, the PAPT, a combined effort of the Optical Media Board (OMB), Philippine National Police (PNP), and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), has netted at least P60 million based on the accummulated amount from their reported raids this year.

Not surprisingly, much of this amount came from their raids in Metro Manila establishments and does not yet include those from the provinces.

Despite these efforts, the Philippines this year was placed on the Watch List of the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) in its Special 301 Report. This particular report is used by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to gain information on countries where the US does business.

A lower rank in the IIPA results in lower opportunities for trade with the US.

Prior to his departure early this year former Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHIL) Director General Adrian Cristobal, Jr. said that businesses are among the biggest users of business software and must be responsible in using original applications.

He also stressed that businesses should respect intellectual property, as it drives the original creators to continue innovating and improving their products.

“Not only does buying original software keep a business safe from legal problems, it also ensures that they will be provided with additional support from the developers,” Cristobal said.

Cristobal’s replacement and the new IPOPHIL Director General Ricardo Blancaflor also stressed the importance of getting businesses to use original and licensed software in order to generate more opportunities for the developers.

He also acknowledged that using original software also tends to have a domino effect among affiliated business of software manufacturers, such as the distributors and licensing agencies, which also profit from the sale of original applications.

“The intellectual properties of software developers drive innovation in the country, which can help spur economic growth by creating new jobs in the local IT eco‐system and generating tax revenues for the government,” Blancaflor noted.

Blancaflor, along with Filipino actor and OMB Chairman Ronnie Ricketts recently led a ceremonial destruction of thousands of fake products, from bags, books, and medicines.

Software burned into CDs and DVDs were among the biggest hauls for the IPOPHIL.

A military armored personnel carrier was used to destroy the face goods, which Blancaflor said, is an activity aimed to deter those who are trying to profit out of selling fake products, including software.

The Business Software Alliance (BSA), an organization of the top global software manufacturers, has been conducting activities aimed at deterring business from using pirated software. One such activity is having people report to them of companies that are allegedly using pirated software. Between 2008 and 2009, about P1 million has been issued as reward to people.

In a previous interview, BSA Philippines Consultant Bienvenido Marquez III said software piracy is largely a deterrent especially among businesses to observe intellectual property laws and getting them to appreciate the business of the developers.

Marquez also stressed the need for amending the intellectual property laws of the Philippines, which should give stiffer penalties against violators. Incidentally, the Philippines only has the Intellectual Property Code that guides the use of IP and copyright, as well as prosecution against violators.

(This article also appears on Yahoo Fit To Post)

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