Piracy costs regional industry Dh184bn




The UAE could earn an additional Dh881.4 million in revenues as well as gain more than 700 IT-related jobs if it could reduce software piracy rates by 10 per cent over the next four years, said an official at the Ministry of Economy.


Piracy and counterfeiting cost the Middle East region more than Dh184 billion ($50bn) annually. According to an international study, global IT investment will be in the range of Dh1.3 trillion ($350bn) from 2007 to 2010 and in order to obtain the maximum benefit from the wealth this will create, piracy needs to be stamped out.


Mohammed Ahmed Al Shihhi, Undersecretary of the Planning Sector at the ministry, said in order to reduce software piracy the government has introduced certain regulations and efforts are under way to make them more effective.


“The country currently has a piracy level of 35 per cent, and reducing this to 25 per cent would put the UAE on equal footing with North America and would also generate an additional Dh146.9m in tax revenue,” Al Shihhi told Emirates Business.
He added that in order to address the problem, the ministry was collaborating with software companies and local authorities to initiate legal action against individuals and organisations that sell pirated software.
“We are already recognised internationally for our commitment to protecting intellectual property rights (IPR). The UAE ranked 29th out of 128 countries in terms of IPR protection, topping the Middle Eastern rankings.


“On a global scale, we are particularly renowned for our success in controlling software piracy.


“The fourth IDC (International Data Corporation) Global Software Piracy Study conducted in 2007 included the UAE in its list of 20 countries with the lowest software piracy rates. Our strict national IPR laws have also been evaluated as meeting rigid international standards,” Al Shihhi explained.


When asked about special courts to deal with piracy cases, Al Shihhi said though there were no such courts, each emirate had its own strategies and levels of anti-piracy enforcement.


He said the ministry regularly reviews and updates existing laws to address the growing threats posed by evolving technologies.


“Rapid technological developments and ongoing internet penetration continue to create new ethical concerns over copyright,” he added. “Nevertheless, we are pleased with the strong foundation provided by our current IPR laws, and are confident that we can make the necessary adjustments to challenge the global threat of software piracy.”


Al Shihhi said with current IP protection laws the ministry is intensifying its anti-piracy and counterfeiting information campaign, and supporting some ad and media campaigns against software piracy at the national level.


When asked about obstacles, the official said the biggest problem was the uneducated consumer who often prioritised financial considerations before quality and safety.


“There are a lot of buyers purchasing low-quality or fake products to save a few dirhams. We have to inform buyers of the negative consequences of buying compromised products, which include loss of money, closure of legitimate businesses, loss of data, and reduced employment opportunities,” Al Shihhi said. He warned that the government will target profiteers who have no concern for the welfare and safety of the buyers they entice.