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French Version

Give us lower software prices

The Business Software Alliance (BSA), the body responsible for fighting software piracy, called a truce with pirates in the UAE until mid-January. The event, called the "Great Opportunity", runs for 45 days.

The Business Software Alliance (BSA), the body responsible for fighting software piracy, called a truce with pirates in the UAE until mid-January. The event, called the "Great Opportunity", runs for 45 days. This generous Ramadan, Christmas and New Year spirit is likely due to the fact that the BSA staff prefer not to close stores down or apprehend people during this holy season. It might also be possible the BSA staff just needs some time off, getting frustrated from chasing illegal copiers all year, managing to catch only a few.
We all agree piracy is illegal. But it is really unfair to expect Arabs with low income to pay hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars to purchase software. Apart from citizens residing in the Arabian Gulf, the rest of us simply don't have the income Americans and Europeans do. Therefore we should receive reduced or more affordable prices.

This is the only solution to piracy in the region. Otherwise the BSA aided by police forces across the Arab world will only be able to halt the public trading of copied software. But it will never stop the underground exchange from going on behind closed doors.

The fact of the matter is BSA's war on piracy will only achieve limited results by legalizing the software of companies.

The large and medium-sized companies in our region can afford to pay the licensing fees for software; therefore they should. If the BSA wants to hunt tiny and home-based businesses as well they'll only cause more economic pressure on already under-paid, and barely surviving people whose families depend on these small enterprises to make a living.

Amidst all the idealistic talk of copyright protection, and the gravitational pull of Microsoft and other software publishers, we pretend there won't be a socio-economic impact on our people.

Regrettably, there could be a potentially drastic effect. Already the price of buying a computer has been hiked by the value of the operating system and office suite software. Young users are now forcing their parents into paying for entertainment software. Taking a look at the games software market is quite depressing. Selling the top sports simulation for JD40 is a guarantee that it won't be sold. If it's $40 in the USA, then it should be JD28 here. Besides $40 for the United States' citizen is a realistic price to pay, compared to the Jordanian citizen for whom JD28 is a considerable sum of money! What's quite interesting, and worth discussion, is Microsoft has allowed Arab users the right to unprotected Arabic software and unprotected operating systems for many years, before, only recently, starting to enforce copyright protection. They effectively got users hooked and dependant on that software.

Your only choice now is to pay the licensing fee. What's more, with one software publisher running the show you will no longer have a choice no matter what price is set for these Arabic applications. Today, every friend of yours emails you a Word or Excel attachment, which can't be viewed without having the applications.

We salute the intelligence of software companies and their marketing brilliance. But we've got to wonder where the line will be drawn and how high the prices will eventually go. A sign of good will would be to provide special pricing for the Middle East, maybe with reduced packaging. Customer confidence, loyalty and reduced piracy will all be served by such an initiative.

Zeid Nasser
The Star

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