The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka recently sat in judgment on an Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) case which was initially filed in the Commercial High Court by Microsoft's Corporate Attorney Jonathan Selvasegaram.
In keeping with the backdrop of this landmark case, and an increasingly aggressive footing by Sri Lanka's law enforcement on local corporates caught using pirated software, the Business Times interviewed Mr. Selvasegaram to find out more about software piracy and its domestic impact.
Commenting on how the above case was filed, Mr. Selvasegaram notes: "We file a lawsuit as a last resort when all negotiations fail. In most cases, our investigations start when we receive consumer complaints that the new computer they purchased encountered problems such as validation failures and virus infections, or when we receive complaints from other computer dealers against certain outlets unfairly undercutting their price by selling new computers with pirated software. Our lawyers will issue legal letters to seek a settlement meeting. In most cases, dealers are remorseful and agree to settle the matter amicably, which would be our preference".
He also went on to add: "In Sri Lanka, approximately 150 local hardware vendors are operative whose main business is the sale of PC's with operating systems. Their bottom line depends on revenue based on genuine, legal software sales and so they depend on the effective rule of law to protect their businesses from being impacted negatively by the trade in counterfeit/pirated or illegal software.
This level playing field is believed to be essential to enable the local PC outlets to continue running profitable businesses serving customers / consumers throughout Sri Lanka. Intellectual Property protection is therefore vital for the success of local companies such as these vendors". When asked about the scope of local software piracy, he suggests: "We do not have specific data on illegal versions of Windows and the grey market in Sri Lanka but we have come across many cases and receive many complaints from consumers over dealers selling computers installed with pirated software. Such consumers encounter problems with their computers later due to the pirated software. Based on a recent survey we conducted, about 80% of computer dealers sell computers installed with pirated software. We are determined to support the remaining 20% who are trying to do the right thing by only selling genuine. We hope to grow the 20% genuine dealers to 60% within the next two years".
And what is his advice to customers: "For consumers and corporates buying laptops, it is important to first insist they are getting only local sets or computers meant for the Sri Lankan market and not grey market goods. Grey market goods may be slightly cheaper but it is not worth the trouble as you may end up getting a smuggled or illegal product. Secondly, purchase computers pre-installed with genuine software such as Windows and Office. If the software is genuine, there will be a Certificate of Authenticity label affixed on the computer. Purchasers can then go online to www.howtotell.com to verify they have purchased genuine software. Genuine pre-installed software offers the best value for money".