Saturday, October 27, 2007

Pirate Busters

A Bangkok Post story today "Fighting the pirates" says there was a US-led anti-piracy conference in Bangkok this week. The was 60 police, customs officials and prosecutors from 13 countries attending. I think the key words from this is "US-led", as the US are very keen to pressure countries such as Thailand to clamp down on counterfeit products.

In the article, A US Cyber spook said "counterfeit products not only hurt the economy, but are also a serious threat to the health and safety of everyone". For Thailand, I can see the safety aspect from what he is saying in relation to fake aircraft parts and pharmaceuticals. As far as the economy side goes I think a broad crackdown on every thing pirated would only be beneficial to the US. I do not think Thailand would be to keen to crack down on it's clothing industry as this would seriously harm the local economy and put many people out of work.

The current strategy against piracy using IP law enforcement, I feel is currently flawed. It is aimed at keeping retail prices high to possibly maximize profits. The discrepancy here is the difference in price between the real product and the pirated copy. The difference only encourages crime as the customers are looking for value for money. Parts of the software industry has been forced through Open Source to change to charging for services rather the software itself. Companies like Sun actually give their software away. At first this may sound like a dumb idea, how does Sun make money by making something free? There is a method to the madness. Charging $0 for Solaris encourages many more people to deploy it. This gives Sun a great opportunity to sell more hardware and services based around Solaris. Will this work for other industries? In short it depends on product. I feel that companies need to look for new approaches to getting profit from their product to make piracy less attractive. The law enforcement approach is not working. It just changes your customers into criminals.

Post Note: My favorite gem from the article - "the mass production and distribution of counterfeit goods such as optical discs". I think the counterfeit goods here is actually the content on the disc rather then the actual disc itself :)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pirate cleanup

The Bangkok Post had an interesting report about the anti-piracy group the Business Software Alliance increasing it's presence in Thailand. The first thing I did was to find out who are the BSA. It's members consist of the usual anti-open source (or ones who pay lip service) IT corporations like Adobe, Microsoft, IBM etc. Hardly surprising is that companies which are largely focused producing open source like Sun, Red Hat are not members.

Ok, I go to the bio's of the BSA management team and find that nobody seems to ever actually written any software! Is the focus of the BSA to promote software at all, or is it just a debt collection agency focused on software.

Digging through the article they start off with the obvious and say that software piracy is rampant in Thailand. No kid Ted! The Bangkok Post does it's usual bad journalism - "Various studies have shown a direct correlation between a low piracy rate and the health of a country's IT industry". Mr Post, please, please provide a reference of where the study comes from. Without it my bullshit meter goes ballistic.....

Here we go again - "Hardee said that if Thailand were to bring down the piracy rate by 10 percentage points over the next four years, this would translate to over 5,000 highly paid IT jobs, 1.9 billion US dollars in GDP growth and over 75 million dollars in extra tax for the government". Right, are we plucking the numbers out of the air, or is there some sort of logic behind it. My assumption here is the Mr Hardee thinks that people in Thailand can actually afford to pay for the software in the first place. It would be interesting to see how much money from the software sales stays in Thailand, and how much goes overseas.

Mr Post finally provided a reference - "According to a survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit on IT competitiveness, Thailand today languishes in 41st place out of 64 countries. Perhaps not too surprisingly, the study showed that we fared worst in terms of our legal environment, lack of R&D and an inadequate IT infrastructure. The current "lack of R&D" would suggest the likelihood of the "5000 highly paid IT jobs" coming from Thailand would be remote. My hunch is that they only increase in jobs in Thailand would be to translate existing or new products into Thai. Exciting stuff eh!

"The BSA thinks we have an important role to play in helping the government and industry develop a strong IT sector". I maybe a bit harsh here, but the BSA is really only interested in getting people to pay their members for the use of the software they produce. This statement is just sugar coating. Lets call a spade a spade....

Don't get me wrong here. I am all for people paying companies like Microsoft for the use of "their" software. If this is their business model then so be it. We just need to produce competitive or better Open Source software to put this old business model out of business. In my opinion the software industry and IT literacy in countries like Thailand depend on it.

"In the first nine months of this year, the BSA has had 250 leads for corporate piracy submitted to its hotline and five of the informants have been paid a portion of the reward money of 250,000 baht". Either the exchange rate is really fluctuating or Thai's are being short changed. The reward money on the US site is $1,000,000 or ~30,000,000 baht. I wonder how much money I would get for giving them address of Pantip Plaza over the hotline.

Hey something we can agree on - "However, it was the choice of a developer to engage in software development using Open Source tools and to give it away for free, he said. Open Source is based on the principle that developers have that choice to protect their intellectual property and keep that code free.".
My question is does the BSA actively promote the use of Open Source software. I doubt it....