Can Anyone Really Stop Software Piracy In Malaysia ?

It is reported in the local media that the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs has launched Sikap Tulen IT Mall campaign to curb software piracy in IT retail outlets in the Malaysia's shopping malls.The campaign is in collaboration with antipiracy watchdog, the Business Software Alliance (BSA), Low Yat Plaza, famous as an IT and consumer electronic and ­software giant in Kuala Lumpur, and Microsoft Malaysia.

The campaign is looking at Lot Yat Plaza as being the benchmark for other shopping malls to emulate.

I doubt it would be easy to curb software piracy in Malaysia as this issue is complicated due to cultural, economics and logistical reasons.

Firstly, from a cultural point of view, Malaysians do not think its wrong to purchase and use pirated software. For any law and its enforcement to succeed, the public must feel its wrong to do such an act - in this case, purchasing and using pirated software. When people don't think its wrong; there is no social coercion - there is no shame involved, thus, who cares ?. A good case in point would be the Prohibition era in the United States - the period from 1920 to 1933, during which the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol for consumption were banned in the US by law to discourage Americans from consuming alcoholic beverages. The US government found it very difficult to enforce this law as Americans in general didn't feel its wrong to drink alcohol -they didn't feel ashamed buying and drinking alcohol just because the law says its prohibited. American suppliers and consumers thus ignored the law. As demand for alcoholic drinks remained, a black market emerged to feed this demand. Even the enforcement agencies eg. the police, didn't think alcohol trading and consumption was wrong, so they "closed an eye" and took bribes from the black market alcohol manufacturers and traders, instead enforcing the law. Finally the US government gave up, amended the law and lifted the ban.

Secondly, from an economic point of view, there is a high demand for pirated software in Malaysia as the originals are considered expensive to the average Malaysian. When there is a demand, supply will always find its way to the market - this is basic economics.

Thirdly, from the logistics point of view, pirated software are easily available. Even if shopping malls were to prohibit its retailers from selling pirated software, the pirates will find alternatives - they will just move on to commercial shoplots near housing estates, just like what the movie DVD pirates do. Even now, some pirated movie DVD retailers in shoplots or at the pasar malam are already offering pirated software in addition to pirated movies and music. Further, consumers are also downloading pirated software from the internet - with a little initiative, anyone can find 'free' software online, ready for download.

Recently (on August 27), when Microsoft Malaysia decided to cause a "black out" on computers running the pirated version of Windows XP pro, a kid (apparently only 12 years old) posted a script in one of the Malaysian online forums "teaching" people how to overcome this predicament.

Thus far, the government, BSA, Microsoft etc have only been addressing this issue by attacking the logistical aspects of the trade - controlling the traders and retailers. This is not generally an effective and long lasting strategy. Even BSA Malaysia was reported saying that the Sikap Tulen campaign has only assisted in reducing the software ­piracy rate in the country by 1%, from 60% to 59% last year, but software piracy losses still amounted to US$311mil (RM1.02bil).

In light of this, a better and more effective strategy in combating software piracy in Malaysia would be to address the cultural and economic aspects as well - first, make Malaysians feel that software piracy is wrong and using pirated software is something to be embarrassed about, and second, make original software more affordable. While this will not completely eradicate the demand for pirated software, a significant decrease can be practically expected - definitely more than 1%.

What do you think, guys ? Please post your comments.


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