By Emeka Aginam, Asst. Online Editor
The Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) in conjuction withÂ and Nigerian Police have once again made great strides in the fight against software piracy in Nigeria as Computer Plus Ltd and its managing director, Felix Agbor, have been found guilty on two counts of software piracy.This, according to the software giant,Â is a case thatÂ has taken over five years to come to a conclusion.
It would be recalled that inÂ 2003,Â NCC was tipped off about a number of companies known to be dealing in software piracy, including Computer Plus Ltd. A test purchase, according to Microsoft,Â was carried out and it was found that the company was pre-loading computers with unlicenced copies of Microsoft software.
With this proof in hand, Microsoft informed that a warrant was issued after which theÂ resellerâ€™s property was raided by the police and the managing director was charged.
After a lengthy court process, the defendants, Computer Plus and Felix Agbor, Microsoft said,Â pleaded guilty on 15th May 2009 but laterÂ convicted and then sentenced to a six month prison term with the option of paying a fine.
Although Mr Agbor has opted to pay the fine, the software giant said thatÂ Â theÂ criminal conviction will remain on Computer Plus and Mr. Agborâ€™s criminal record.
â€œThe kind of software piracy that Computer Plus carried out is not uncommon. In an effort to make their sales offerings seem more attractive and compelling, resellers sometimes illegally pre-load software onto a computer when it is being sold â€“ either including it as â€œpart of the packageâ€ or â€œat no extra costâ€.
â€œWhile pre-loading software onto a computer for a customer is not an illegal act, every item of software loaded should always be legally licensed. In this case, the proof of licence documents, like a genuine Certificate of Authenticity and hologram CD, were not provided during the test purchase and evidence gathered during the raid confirmed that Computer Plus was in fact dealing in pirated software.â€Â Mr. Adebambo Anthony Adewopo, Director General of the NCC said.
Similarly, theÂ Licensing and Compliance Manager for Microsoft NigeriaÂ Serge Ntamack believed thatÂ piracy is not a victimless crime.On theÂ the contrary,â€ he said, â€œmany people and businesses suffer at the hands of these criminals.Â Honest resellers lose out on sales, businesses lose out on productivity, software companies lose out on revenue and governments lose out on tax revenue, which could be re-invested into the country.
â€œWe canâ€™t stress enough the importance of respecting copyrights and the laws that protect intellectual property.Â Piracy is a crime, just like theft, tax evasion and fraud.Â And criminals will be brought to book when they are caught,â€ Ntamack explained.
He added that people and businesses in Nigeria who utilize unlicenced software are putting themselves in a precarious position when it comes to their own security.
â€œunlicenced software users cannot get the latest security updates and patches, leaving their systems vulnerable to viruses and potential computer hackers. If anything goes wrong with their systems, they are left without any technical assistance to resolve the problem. The risks far outweigh the cost benefits of using pirated unlicenced software. Itâ€™s just not worth it.â€ he pointed out.
â€œWe commend the Police and the NCC for pursuing this case to conclusion, and we will continue to support them wherever necessary as they strive to significantly reduce piracy in Nigeria,â€ Ntamack added..
One of the mandates of the NCC is to be responsible for all matters affecting copyright in Nigeria. The organisation intends to intensify its anti-piracy efforts even more in Nigeria, particularly as the current piracy rate in the country is amongst the highest in the world â€” an estimated 83%.