An Indian firm will pay a fairly hefty restitution to the state of California for using pirated software. This unauthorized use, according to the state’s Attorney General, Kamala Harris, gave the company unfair advantage and also constituted theft of intellectual property. Pratibha Syntex Ltd, an apparel manufacturer, will pay $1 lakh in restitution, clean up its act, put into place proper policies to stop such practice in the future, and conduct regular audits to ensure that this is done.
The US has again demonstrated the long reach of its law, and the figure of $22 billion is being cited as estimated loss in revenue to California manufacturers due to global companies using pirated American software. The use of pirated software is practically ubiquitous and different studies come up with varying figures, but it is generally agreed that the US is the largest paying consumer of software with a low piracy rate of 17 per cent. Emerging economies like Venezuela, Indonesia, China and India indulge in the rampant use of pirated software.
While propriety software will always be necessary, and should always be paid for, there are now many options that allow open-source software or ‘shareware’ to be used. Some such software is of very high quality and is given free, Google’s Android systems being one example. Individuals and companies can thus, with some effort, find free or reasonable substitutes for almost all kinds of software in common use, and thereby benefit from it without infringing the law. There is also evidence of a change in attitude.
The emerging idea of software as a service available on shared ‘cloud’ servers, rather than as a product, makes it available at a less daunting price. But that requires robust Internet services, which may not be readily accessible in many parts of the world. It is in the interest of software vendors to price their products fairly and to make them approachable in emerging markets, just as it is in the interest of users to eschew pirated software, as the latest case has demonstrated.