(MENAFN - Arab News) The Saudi government has stepped up its campaign against piracy by closely coordinating with anti-piracy groups the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and Dubai-based Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance (AAA).
Mohammad Al-Dhabaan, BSA spokesman and representative in the Kingdom, said: "BSA has been working closely with the government in the crackdown on piracy. "Since it does not have policing powers, it reports individuals or companies using or trading in pirated products to the Ministry of Culture and Information."
He added the ministry's copyright directorate dispatches inspectors to follow up reports and make arrests if necessary, adding both the BSA and the ministry would "continue over the coming months to maximize the impact of awareness programs."
The AAA, on the other hand, also coordinated with the ministry in the arrest and conviction of the first Saudi trader of pirated products sometime back.
Saudi Arabia's Board of Grievances (BOG) eventually upheld the ministry's recommendation to jail the convict for 10 days and impose a SR 150,000 fine.
Scott Butler, AAA chief executive officer, told Arab News in an interview: "The conviction is seen by the AAA as a precedent for merchants to strictly comply with Saudi piracy laws and serves as a deterrent to would-be violators.
"Adjudication of the case is a very important victory for anti-piracy advocates as it is the first-ever court judgment in Saudi Arabia that resulted in imprisonment.
"The judgment is a strong deterrent to prevent such criminal activities from proliferating in the country, knowing that the Saudi judiciary is prepared to apply the full extent of the law in trying cases related to piracy."
The convicted pirate's retail outlet and warehouse had been raided seven times since 2006, resulting in the seizure of over 100,000 counterfeit products and equipment to reproduce materials.
In delivering the judgment, the BOG had also quashed doubts about the enforcement of piracy laws in Saudi Arabia, which had recorded the highest piracy rate in the GCC at 60 percent.
The Piracy Law Fear factor (PLFF) survey commissioned by the AAA and participated in by intellectual property rights holders from BSA, the electronic games industry, premium television providers and movie industry revealed up to 89 percent of respondents believed owners of businesses engaged in piracy would not get imprisoned in Saudi Arabia.
Nonetheless, 67 percent of the respondents believed imprisonment would help solve the problem of piracy in the Kingdom.
Rafeik Al-Okaily, the ministry 's director of copyright, said the landmark decision was followed by the arrest of a local trader in the capital's Shumaisy area and jail and imprisonment were likewise recommended to the BOG.
After that, copyright directorate inspectors fanned out across the city and found another local trader of pirated products in the Batha commercial area.
He was warned to get rid of the pirated products in his shops.
Al-Okaily said: "We gave him two weeks to comply and after that, our inspectors returned.
"The trader had disposed of his pirated products. He also promised to cooperate with us in our campaign by providing tips on suspected traders of pirated products in the area."
To disseminate more information on product piracy and to step up the campaign against the practice, the 6th Annual Government Officials Conference on Copyright Protection was held recently at the King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh under the patronage of Minister of Culture and Information Abdulaziz Khoja.
The two-day conference was opened by Deputy Minister of Culture and Information Abdullah bin Saleh Al-Jasser and featured the participation of government officials, media representatives, businessmen and lawyers from nine Arab countries.
Participants shared their experiences and expertise in fighting piracy in the Arab world, while shedding light on the challenges government officials face in their efforts to establish a legal information society.
The ministry revealed new measures adopted to target companies and individuals who continue to be involved in the trade and use of pirated products.
Representatives from BSA, Microsoft, Adobe, Autodesk, Symantec and various government agencies and others discussed the issue of protecting intellectual property rights (IPR), which had emerged as one of the primary concerns around the world.
A study conducted by AAA said for many years piracy rates have been higher in Saudi Arabia than in any other country in the Gulf in the motion-picture industry.
It added piracy had resulted in huge losses for the Saudi economy, indicating that the reduction of piracy rates could have potentially yielded up to 1 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) in the past two years. This is a huge incentive for the Saudi government to step up efforts to tackle piracy, the study said.