News Column

Nigerian Economy Loses N82 Billion Yearly to Software Piracy - Survey

May 16, 2014

Emmanuel Okwuke

Recent findings by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), a global body responsible for the advancement of the goals of the software industry rank Nigeria among countries in the world with the highest cases of software piracy, intellectual property theft and other sharp practices in the Information and Technology (IT) industry.

As if that was not enough bad news already, according to a new joint study conducted by the International Data Corporation (IDC) and the National University of Singapore (NUS), global consumers may spend up to $25 billion, wasting 1.2 billion hours this year, because of security threats and costly computer fixes stemming from malware on pirated software.

The BSA said the effects of software piracy and other vices were not limited to the sector but lamented that software piracy cost the Nigerian economy over N82 billion yearly, which puts a strain on technology companies' ability to create more jobs and new technologies.

Government is not alone in the quest to tackle the menace, with many organisations clamouring for a safer business space, and frequently organising awareness workshops and enlightenment campaigns designed to drive global awareness across businesses, government organisations, and consumers of the increased risk of cyber security issues as a direct result of pirated software.

BSA added that the trend harms local resellers and service firms; lowers government revenues, and increases the risk of cybercrime and security problems.

BSA said reducing software piracy by 10 percentage over four years could deliver billions of naira in economic growth and thousands of new jobs.

Similarly, the International Chambers of Commerce has warned that without proper clampdown on the nefarious activities of the counterfeit market by various countries, the global piracy and counterfeiting market would surge to $1.7 trillion by 2015.

Software experts in Nigeria, who corroborated these assertions, said the security risks to individuals, businesses and governments posed by counterfeit and pirated software were beyond estimation.

Enforcement

The former President, Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), Dr. Chris Uwaje, has stated at different platforms that the growing global threat of software piracy was one problem that neither government nor the IT industry could tackle alone.

Uwaje said the government and industry cooperation on a range of enforcement and policy issues were crucial to ensuring that officials had the needed tools to effectively address piracy.

He appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to place priority on indigenous software development and pursue a well-organised clampdown on criminal syndicates.

He noted that the software industry in Nigeria has been given limited attention by policy makers and other stakeholders, thus the country is heavily dependent on foreign software which accounts for over 90 per cent of all software used in Nigeria.

"Nigeria needs to develop a software strategy, policy and legislation and this must be accorded highest priority in all sectors, as it will create over three million jobs and fire the national economy.

"There is need for ICT industry to undergo a massive transformation because our national content, from e-Government to national database, to digital education, digital litigation process, digital transportation, digital urban planning and residency data or what you call national identity information system are in crises which can only be resolved by software.

He opined that Nigerians can do much more than India and China and even exceed our diaspora remittance of $20 billion annually. Nigeria can generate around $100 billion from foreign software outsourcing if it taps its rich wealth of human capital, Uwaje stressed.

At a recent event in Lagos, former Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, called for stringent measures against intellectual property theft in the country.

Ndukwe said software is very important in the global ICT industry, describing it as the unseen hand that drives activities in telecommunications industry.

EFCC cracks down on counterfeit software dealers

Barely three months after the invasion of a suspected high quality counterfeit (HQC) software reseller in the Ikeja area of Lagos, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) recently arrested another suspect, promoters of Arewa Systems Limited, who also specialise in the production of the software.

The raid which followed a consumer tip-off and petition to the law enforcement authorities is aimed at curbing the unwholesome practice in the country. Also, it is aimed at addressing the harmful impact to the Nigerian economy.

The message that this intervention sends is that computer software, an intellectual property qualifies better as a literary work that must be protected from the exploitation of merchants of counterfeiting and crass opportunism.

Additionally, the theft of such creative expressions fixed in a tangible medium of expression constitutes a serious economic crime in Nigeria under Sections 18 & 46 of the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission Act, Cap E1 LFN 2010 and Section 419 Criminal Code Act Cap C28 LFN 2010.

To all the dealers in fake products, big or small, it is no longer business as usual," noted Francis Chuka Agbu, Partner in the Law firm of Le Xavier Partners, and Microsoft's Anti-Piracy Attorney in Nigeria.

Stamping out piracy

According to Anti-Piracy Manager, Microsoft Nigeria, Temofe Ugbona: "Quite a number of resellers abound in the country that are in possession of high quality counterfeit software that is packaged like genuine software - a trend resulting in many consumers, who believe they are purchasing software from a reliable source, unknowingly becoming victims to software piracy. "These consumers turn out to be 'accidental pirates' - people who unintentionally purchase counterfeit software from resellers and only later find out they have been duped. In doing so, they expose themselves to a plethora of risks, which on the long-run can prove extremely costly for individuals, and often disastrous for businesses. "Honest resellers, who sell only genuine software, are put at an unfair disadvantage, and ultimately the whole economy feels the effects". Microsoft, he said, urges consumers to ask questions, investigate the packaging, watch out for "too good to be true" prices and demand genuine software. This way, they ensure what they pay are genuine products and protect their businesses from the threat of malware associated with pirated or counterfeit software.

NCC's roll

Officials of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) over the years have had a field day trying to curb the activities of these pirates. However, these unscrupulous elements seem to always be one step ahead of the game.

Whenever NCC carries out its raid different Microsoft software which were suspected to be counterfeits are always recovered. They included Microsoft Operating Systems Windows XP and Vista, Microsoft Office 2007, Microsoft Office 2010 among many others.

Most of these dealers in counterfeit software products are always unable to provide the client access license for its Microsoft Windows products.

"Counterfeit software is a cankerworm that is eating through the fabric of societies all over the world. Their prevalence has a lot to do with the sophisticated and organised syndicate of pirates but also can be traced to the demand for them," said Deputy Director of Enforcement NCC, Augustine Amodu.

"Consumers of pirated software must realise that they will be punished for contravening the law and putting people's livelihoods as well as the economy of the country at risk. To win this fight against copyright infringements, it must be a joint effort of regulators as well as consumers," Amodu concluded.


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Source: AllAfrica