Taiwan fights hard against software piracy, still trails

Billy Chamberlin, The China Post

Taiwan has made great improvements in its fight against software piracy but still lags behind many Asia-Pacific countries, according to the regional head of Autodesk, Inc. Though ranking around “average” in comparison to other markets worldwide, the island still trails Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, South Korea and even Malaysia in terms of the government’s efforts to combat piracy, said Martin Harris, Autodesk’s Greater China Regional director. Autodesk is the creator of the famous AutoCAD digital design software that helped bring the digital age to engineering.

Harris said that Autodesk officially licenses only about 44 percent of its products in Taiwan, to companies such as the Tatung Corp. and the Formosa Plastics Group, meaning that the remaining 56 percent of copies in use are pirated. Autodesk, in particular, is a strong piracy target due to the high price of its products.

Taiwan has received criticism from the United States in recent years, despite improvements, for the proliferation of piracy throughout the island and the government’s seeming inability to stop it. Hong Kong, on the other hand, has recently criminalized piracy, allowing the government to pursue companies using pirated software. Previously, companies, such as Autodesk or Microsoft, would have to bring the case to civil court themselves or through a representative. Yet, software piracy remains rampant throughout the world. Even countries with strict regulations, such as Germany, still see about 30 percent of business software being pirated. Harris warned that countries with rampant piracy will see a lack of software companies willing to invest, a major hindrance in today’s digital economy. “Why would we want to invest if someone can just steal our product?” he said. Mainland China is a case in point. Harris noted that despite the vast potential of the market, piracy runs about 95 percent, muting any major investment there. He explained that in the long run, mainland China will be the real loser, as the necessary infrastructure for assisting companies using business software will be absent, hindering companies competitiveness. “This doesn’t even touch all the taxes being avoided or the people not being employed,” said Harris.

But he said Autodesk is even hoping for a 5 percent reduction in piracy in mainland China, as this would translate into a doubling of revenue from such a vast market. One nation that recognizes the negative implications piracy has on an economy is Malaysia. As the nation is driving to promote a knowledge-based economy reliant on software industry investment, the government has turned up the heat on software piracy. k