(MENAFN - Arab News) An IT company executive recently praised Saudi efforts to combat software piracy. However, such efforts seem insufficient to completely eradicate piracy.
The sale of fake DVDs remain rampant in the key cities of the Kingdom. Fake DVDs are being sold openly despite its prohibition.
In Jeddah and Dammam, for instance, fake DVDs are being sold in electronic shops in commercial areas. While the shop owners are Saudi nationals, the staff come from South Asian countries. The same is true in Riyadh. Customers include Saudi nationals, Asians and Europeans, among others.
The staff show customers a list from which to select new and old films and once they have made a selection, someone would go out and come back after a few minutes to give the order. The fake DVDs are wrapped in plastic and hidden under the shirt of the staff. They give the order once they are back inside the shop.
They sell three DVDs for SR 25, a marginal cost compared to the cost of
new original DVDs.
They also copy sports events on television. This is mostly done by Filipino expatriates who have been cashing in on the fights of the eight-division champion Manny Pacquaio. They copy the fight on blank DVDs, after which
these are made available to customers who are mainly Filipinos.
The sale of fake DVDs of Manny Pacquiao is widespread in the commercial district of Batha.
"There's a certain place there where the sellers and customers meet. The exchange of the fake DVD and money is swift whereby the seller immediately leaves the place after placing the order and receiving payment," Rey Almarinez, who works for a construction firm, told Arab News.
Because a blank DVD doesn't cost much, pirates and sellers make a lot of money in selling a fake DVD for SR 10.
Saudi Arabia sentenced a piracy trader in a landmark judgment early this year, according to the country's Board of Grievances (BOG). A Saudi court jailed the offender after a retail outlet and warehouse had been raided a total of seven times since 2006, resulting in the seizure of over 100,000 counterfeit products and several reproduction equipment.
Each of the six offenses resulted in escalating fines. However, following the seventh raid in 2010, the Ministry of Culture and Information recommended to the highest judicial authority, the BOG, that the offender be imprisoned.
"This is a very important victory for anti-piracy advocates as it is the first-ever court judgment in Saudi Arabia resulting in imprisonment," Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance Chief Executive Officer Scott Butler said in a statement.
He said that pirating results in huge losses for the Saudi economy, with
studies indicating that a reduction of piracy rates could have potentially yielded up to 1 billion in GDP in the past two years.
"This clearly represents a huge incentive for the Saudi government to step up its efforts to break up pirate syndicates," Butler added.
The arrest of the Saudi trader was followed by government raids.
Rafeik Al-Okaily, director of copyrights at the Ministry of Culture and Information, said that a penalty was recommended to the Board of Grievances; that a fine be imposed on a Saudi businessman arrested for trading in pirated products in the capital's Shumaisy district.
"The Saudi trader could be detained for at least 10 days and fined SR 150,000 as per the recommendation of the Review Committee," he told Arab News.
He added that a team of inspectors was also planning to raid a Saudi trader in Batha after he was given two weeks to comply. The suspect, however, promised to dispose of the fake DVDs in his shop and cooperate with them.
Mohammad Al-Dhabaan, a spokesman for the Business Software Alliance, said: "The 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 that the ministry's copyright directorate dispatches inspectors to follow up reports and make arrests if necessary, adding that both the BSA and the ministry would "continue over the coming months to maximize the impact of awareness programs."
The Dubai-based Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance (AAA) also coordinated with the ministry in the arrest and conviction of the first Saudi trader of pirated products earlier this year.
AAA's Butler told Arab News in an earlier 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."