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 ASEAN ANALYSIS

                                                                                                                           Asean Affairs August 7, 2013  


Brunei's software piracy, an anachronistic phenomenon?

AN INTERESTING aspect of Brunei is that the nation has a comparably high software piracy rate within ASEAN and even globally when it is taken into account that other nations with a similar grade of monetary wealth and comprehensive intellectual property regulations such as Singapore are ranking far below Brunei.

Inside Investor recently compiled a ranking of software piracy rates in ASEAN nations. While, unsurprisingly, countries such as Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia are topping the list with piracy rates of above 90 per cent and Singapore remains ASEAN's model student with just 33 per cent, Brunei's rate stands at 67 per cent which comes close to the Philippines with 70 per cent and is far worse than Malaysia's 55 per cent (All data courtesy The Software Alliance and WTO estimates).

So what's wrong here?

While Brunei's government has been launching nationwide crackdowns together with an anti-piracy awareness campaigns, targeted at vendors and computer users with fines of up to $5,000 and 6 month jail time for vendors of illegal software, there seems to be still not much public knowledge about issues of copyright infringement. Some say there is still room to strengthen legislation and the enforcement drive.

However, while international anti-piracy organisations such as The Software Alliance certainly could support Brunei in its fight against the illegal software business, the country might not have priority due to the comparably low losses that occur through the black market business in the small Sultanate. Losses from software piracy in Brunei is estimated at $12 million per year while in the US, the country with the lowest software piracy rate worldwide at just 20 per cent, the annual damage stands still at around $16 billion.

But this is no excuse for Brunei. Reportedly, most of the pirated software originates from China and finds its way through Malaysia to Brunei where dozens of retail outlets more or less openly sell pirated movies, music and software.

For sure, the Brunei government gives active support to the country's anti-piracy drive and intellectual property rights enforcement as well as the promotion of genuine products for local consumers. Probably, the consumer groups of pirated software should just be targeted more specifically. Studies have found that one main group of users of illegally purchased software are students in Brunei. Thus, academic institutions and schools should possibly step up their software budgets so that students can find reasonably priced software legally available on the campus and will not have to look for pirated software.

There should also be a code of ethics and piracy issues included in IT courses.

Regarding the vendors, there need to be continued crackdowns that not only result in fines, but also in loss of their commercial license and other measures that would prevent them to open their next business around the corner after the old one has been closed. Furthermore, maybe suppliers of legal products should also increase their commissions to give vendors better incentives for selling genuine software. All in all, it's not only law enforcement, but also business psychology.

Do you know anyone who uses pirated software in Brunei? What would be the main reasons for that if it wasn't just for the cheaper price? Why would people who can easily afford genuine software get exposed to the risk of viruses and malware contained in pirated software? Let us know through Twitter: @insideinvestor using hashtag #bruneitimes.



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