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Microsoft warns over pirated software

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 10 – Computer users with unauthorised Microsoft software have been given a 30 day grace period to replace them with licensed programs or risk a jail term.

Kenya Copyright Board Executive Director Marisella Ouma announced during a media briefing that the one month amnesty will enable those with pirated software to purchase authorised copies and at discounted prices.

“After the 30 days, we will go to the outright enforcement of the law where anyone caught violating the copyright law will be arrested and taken the court,” Ouma said.

The initiative is part of a bigger campaign whose objective is to have as many people as possible using genuine software and eventually reduce the piracy rate for personal computer software in the country.

However, Ouma decried the slack penalty, which pronounces a maximum fine of Sh800,000 to offenders saying it is not punitive enough.

For this reason, she said the board is drafting amendments to the Copyright Act so that the fine is pegged on the unit value.

“If for example you are found with 10 copies of pirated works, then the fine will be computed based on a number of components,” she said adding that the penalty would be substantial and hopefully act as a deterrent.

Microsoft East and Southern Africa Channel Lead Eric Odipo disclosed that they will soon launch a press campaign through which they will educate computer users on what to look out for when purchasing the authorised programs and from which licensed outlets to buy them from.

Software piracy in Kenya is estimated at 80 percent with the increased penetration of ICT and Internet access being the cited as the major contributing factors.

According to a study by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), in 2009, more than four out of 10 software programs installed on personal computers around the world were stolen. The unlicensed programs had a commercial value of more than $51 billion.

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Besides the negative impact on businesses, software piracy has a negative impact on the economy with losses reported in government taxes and revenues as well as in employment creation.

While Microsoft acknowledges that fighting piracy is a tall order, Odipo said at least a 20 percent reduction would nonetheless make a big impact.

“We have only 20 percent of (computer users) in Kenya using genuine software but if we get another 10 percent coming on board to use this software, even just the revenue impact is huge,” he said.

This conviction is informed by findings in the BSA study that shows that an annual 2.5 percent reduction in piracy rate for PC software for example, ‘would create $142 billion in new economic activity while adding nearly 500,000 new high-tech jobs and generating roughly $32 billion in new tax revenues by 2013’ for an economy.

For this reason, the two organisations hope to partner and sustain the anti-piracy campaign going forward and create awareness on the need to use licensed software programs.

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