By EMEKA AGINAM
There appears to be tough time ahead for software pirates in the Nigerian IT market as the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria, ISPON, in collaboration with Microsoft Nigeria are in fresh move for intellectual property protection.
Intellectual property (IP) rights are the legally recognized exclusive rights to creations of the mind. Under intellectual property law, owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as musical, literary and artistic works; discoveries and inventions; and words, phrases, symbols, and designs.
Meanwhile, it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between genuine and non-genuine software unless consumers know what to look out for.
Microsoft projections are that global intellectual property piracy, will hit a whopping $16.6 billion by 2016. If this happens, it will further hamper an already stagnated intellectual property industry.
However, Microsoft says it is not lying low in ensuring that the menace is curbed to the barest minimum. Recently, its efforts saw to the recent arrest, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), a suspect, Arewa Systems Limited, who allegedly specializes in the production of High Quality Counterfeit (HQC) software.
The raid, according to Microsoft, followed a consumer tip-off and petition to the local law enforcement authorities. It was aimed at curbing unsafe play in the country, and addressing the harmful impact of pirated software to individuals as well as the Nigerian economy.
Piracy kills innovation:
According to the two organizations, if the software piracy menace is not curbed, it will drive the intellectual property industry to the ground, killing innovation and development.
While reiterating the need to play safe, Microsoft urges consumers to ask questions, investigate the packaging, watch out for “too good to be true” prices and demand genuine software to ensure what they pay. These would help protect their families and businesses from the threat of malware associated with pirated or counterfeit software.
Harping on the need for intellectual property protection, the President of ISPON, Pius Okigbo told Vanguard Hi-Tech during the Innovation forum held in Tinapa recently, that those who engage in piracy will not go free as law enforcement agents were on the look-out for culprits.
“Start-ups should be careful of IP laws. Anybody copying somebody’s work must seek the permission of the owner. We must do this otherwise original owners of creative works will be losing money. The local economy will also be losing money. We cannot pretend that software piracy is not harmful to the local economy” he said.
According to Okigbo, there was need to join hands in the fight against software piracy, adding that ISPON will continue to promote and encourage protection of intellectual property in the software ecosystem.
Protect indigenous effort:
For Okigbo whose key mandate is intellectual property on assumption as ISPON President, indigenous talents must be encouraged otherwise the country will remain digital colony of developed economies of the world.
Speaking on the recent raid by the EFFC, Francis Chuka Agbu, Senior Advocate of Nigeria(SAN), Partner in the Law firm of Lexavier Partners and Microsoft’s Anti-Piracy Attorney in Nigeria, said that,
“The strident message that this intervention sends is that computer software albeit 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 491 Criminal Code Act Cap C28 LFN 2010.To all the dealers in imitation and fake products, big or small, it is no longer business as usual.”
Government is not alone in this quest to tackle the menace as many organizations in the country are clamoring for a safer business space, and frequently org anise awareness workshops and enlightenment campaigns one of which is the Microsoft Play it Safe Day designed to drive global awareness across businesses, government organizations, and consumers of the increased risk of cyber security issues as a direct result of pirated software.