Authorities step up anti-piracy drive

The ministry of Culture and Information is set to take stringent measures against business entities as well as personal computer users who acquire softwere illegally.

As part of its anti- piracy drive, the ministry has now authorized Internet service providers, data centers and other regulatory bodies not to offer services to subscribers and PC users untill they review their program licenses and are satisfied with the authenticity of the programs.

Sedeeq Al- Tayeb, deputy governor of the Communication and Commission (CITC), has been entrusted with the task to send directives to all Internet service providers by the Saudi government.

“The move is to ensure that all computer users use authentic and licensed software,” said a press statement yesterday. The new measure comes within the framework of the ministry’s drive to comply with the copyright protection system and the importance of respecting intellectual property rights in Saudi Arabia.

In an effort to encourage society to respect intellectual property rights, a television campaign was launched recently with the slogan: “copying is Stealing… Don’t Do It.”

The act of copying any intellectual property, including software, games, or books, have greatly harmed intellectual property right holders ranging from authors, publishers, and producers across the world.

Referring to measures taken by regulatory agencies in the Kingdom, the statement said the CITC has asked users of services and programs to acquire licenses and advised provider not to cooperate with those who do not have original computer programs.

Of late, a number of complaints have been field by the owners of software programs that are being copied and sold in the open market.

“Hence, the Ministry of Culture and Information reached an agreement with the program owners and been given a two- month grace period to address the issues and to acquire the necessary permits,” said the statement. If necessary, guidelines are not complied, then the ministry is ready to prosecute offenders. Companies or individuals can also be asked to pay hefty fines.

Rafeeq Al- Okaily, general manager of the ministry’s General Directorate of Copyright, said there was a need to take these measures.

Al- Okaily emphasized all entities in the Kingdom must use authentic and licensed programs. He also stressed the fact that parent business companies and Internet providers will be responsible in case one of their clients uses fake computer programs.

He said the Kingdom was exerting all efforts to curb this illegal business practice. In a landmark decision, Saudi Arabia’s Board of Grievances (BOG) upheld early this month a recommendation of the ministry to impose a jail sentence on a Saudi businessman trading in pirated goods.

“The conviction is seen by the Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance (AAA) as a new precedent that serves as a deterrent to would-be violators,” said Scott Butler, AAA chief executive officer.

According to the Business Software Alliance (BSA), almost half the world’s PC user acquire software illegally today. The BSA conducted its research by surveying approximately 15,000 PC users in 32 countries. The level of piracy levels vary, with some people installing single-licensed software on multiple machines, while other would download programs from a P2P network.

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