At least 52 per cent of Saudi businesses are thought to be using pirated software. (GETTY)
Saudi Arabia is making efforts to cut software piracy that cost an estimated $200 million in losses in the kingdom last year but the Interior Ministry needs to give its full backing, software producers said on Sunday.
Mohammed al-Dhabaan, Saudi representative of a body grouping global software firms, said more could be done.
"The involvement of the Ministry of the Interior would help definitely. We asked the Information Ministry many times to try to arrange something so that police accompany inspectors in their tours," Dhabaan told Reuters.
"Until now we didn't get approval. Such a move would be good for everybody. It will spread fear and people will comply with the law," he said, citing losses in 2006 valued by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) at $200 million (750 million riyals).
Dhabaan said the Information Ministry has set up an intellectual property rights' unit which is now promising to bring the full force of the law into play in coordination with a state prosecutor charged with handling copyright issues.
He said at least 52 per cent of Saudi businesses are still using pirated software, citing a general perception that the issue is not serious.
There are few Saudi software makers and many Saudis see no harm in copying U.S. and other foreign products, Dhabaan said.
"There is no culture that says this wrong," he told a news conference, adding that some government departments are using pirated materials and municipality officials often take bribes to supplement wages of only around 1,000 riyals ($267) a month.
Legislation specifies fines of up to 500,000 riyals and prison terms of up to six months.
"We'll start to demand implementing these sentences. Judges will see no reason for mercy or leniency in these cases," Dhabaan said.
Dhabaan said the government regarded piracy as a threat to attracting foreign direct investment, which the authorities have said is an economic policy priority.
"If Arabic speakers used copied material, do you think Microsoft would pay hundreds of millions to Arabise (software)? It's healthy for Saudis to implement the law because it's good for the country," he said.
The world's largest software maker loses billions of dollars to software piracy every year. (Reuters)