Piracy stifling Asian software industry, say experts

Entrepreneur Binod Hariharan has big plans for his southern Indian firm, which develops astrology-based computer software to help users find a suitable spouse or plot their career paths.

Similarly ambitious is Somporn Maneeratanakul, managing director of Thai Software Enterprises, and Nguyen Minh Duc, director of BKIS Security, a Vietnamese company that makes anti-virus programmes.

But their dreams of making it big overseas are in danger of being hijacked in the dangerous waters of the global software industry by pirates who make and sell illegal copies of their products right in their home markets.

While global giants such as Microsoft and computer security firm McAfee are prominent targets of copyright thieves, what is less known is that start-up Asian software companies are notable victims, industry players said.

And unlike the cash-rich industry big boys, these fledgling Asian companies are finding it harder to cope with losses resulting from copyright violations.

Industry group Business Software Alliance (BSA) said in a report released in May that software piracy losses reached 51.4 billion dollars in 2009, of which 16.5 billion dollars was incurred in the Asia-Pacific region.

On average, 59 percent of the 900 million pieces of software installed in the Asia-Pacific region were unlicensed, said the study carried out with industry research firm IDC.

Bangladesh had the highest software piracy rate in Asia, followed by Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Vietnam, with China and India also among the top culprits.

Beyond the revenue losses, the bigger impact is that piracy prevents Asia from producing software giants such as Microsoft's Bill Gates, analysts said.

"Piracy certainly stifles innovation," said Tarun Sawney, Asia-Pacific senior director for anti-piracy operations at BSA.

"Why is it that we don't have any sort of global software company that originated from our part of the world?" he said during an interview with AFP at BSA's regional office in Singapore.

"Yet in the United States, where the laws are very strong and the piracy rate is very low, we have idea, after idea, after idea taking over the whole world - be it Yahoo, be it Facebook, be it a Microsoft operating system."

Hariharan, chairman and director of astrology software developer Astro-Vision Futuretech Ltd, knows this only too well.

"If we need to survive in the market we need to ensure that the piracy level of our software is kept down," he told AFP by telephone from his office in Cochin, a city in India's Kerala state.

Fighting piracy means diverting precious funds to build protection mechanisms into the firm's software, Hariharan said.

"We have found it very difficult to generate additional income to propel our growth, whether it is domestic or foreign," he said.

Installing security mechanisms also complicates the use of the software, requiring more technical support and ultimately making the product more expensive, Hariharan said.

In operation since 1984, Astro-Vision Futuretech's main product is software that generates an individual's horoscope report, running up to 50 pages, after the date, time and place of birth, and gender, are keyed in.

Indian parents often prepare horoscope reports for their children one year after birth. The document is kept for use in various stages of a person's life such as when seeking a compatible marriage partner, Hariharan said.

The software, which combines ancient wisdom with the latest technology, is also sold to Indian communities overseas as well as places where astrology has a large following.

Somporn, of Thai Software Enterprises in Bangkok, says one big misconception is that "piracy only impacts large, international software developers."

Large companies can cope with the revenue losses arising from illegal copying, but for firms that cater to domestic markets, opportunities are limited by piracy, he said in an email to AFP.

Another "big myth" is that the piracy rate would fall if software prices were low, said Somporn, whose company employs 30 professionals and claims an annual turnover of around one million US dollars.

He noted that a product made by his company that sells for as little as six dollars is among the most pirated in Thailand.

Nguyen Minh Duc, director of BKIS Security in Vietnam, tells a similar story.

Piracy has forced his company to invest additional resources to protect its products.

"This is a drain on our resources, which could otherwise have been used on research and development to develop better products for our customers," he said.

BSA said the greatest damage to the industry is inflicted by companies - from small and medium enterprises to multinational corporations - using bootleg computer software, rather than by individuals.

"Surprisingly, quite a few listed companies are caught using pirated software. They just have unsophisticated or no software management policies in place," said Jeffrey Hardee, BSA's vice president and regional director.

"It's quite shocking."

ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Bristol

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

    Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

    £30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power