Piracy a threat to Innovation and Economy
Artists, inventors, musicians, doctors, computer scientists. Behind every innovative, life-changing product or idea stands an imaginative, inspired person willing to do what it takes to see it through every stage—from concept to creation to delivery.
Unfortunately for many innovators, piracy deters this success and can discourage development. And in Africa, the effects are particularly damaging to emerging economies, to small businesses and to individuals.
As the World Intellectual Property Organization marked its 12th annual World Intellectual Property Day by focusing on “Visionary Innovators,”many people behind the intellectual property that has revolutionised the way we live our lives each day were recognised and celebrated.
Intellectual property protection is the backbone of innovation. When people invest time and considerable resources into nurturing an idea or product, only to have their ideas stolen, it breaks down the research and development cycle, resulting in less investment into new ideas. Simply put, piracy stifles innovation.
Without proper intellectual property law enforcement, we lack safety in revealing our brilliant ideas. Anyone can claim ownership of a potentially life-changing application, service or revolutionary product. We need to protect our ideas and innovations which essentially are our properties. Otherwise we kill the industry which has a lot of potential especially for the young generation who are churning out new, unique and exciting products and services every day.
In 2011, the Business Software Alliance the world’s foremost advocate for the software industry, issued a report detailing the contradictory attitudes of global PC users. According to their survey, 71 percent of computer users globally said they supported intellectual property rights, yet 47 percent obtain their software illegally most or all of the time. In Kenya, the numbers are much higher, with 79 percent of computer users acquiring their software by illegal means most or all of the time, despite a strong belief that inventors should be rewarded.
A person cannot say they support intellectual property rights, and then turn a blind eye to piracy. That’s like telling your kids to play soccer within the rules, and then using your hands. However, one of the biggest factors leading to piracy in Kenya is a lack of awareness about what exactly constitutes piracy.
Many people are essentially ‘accidental pirates’, unclear on the difference between legal and illegal means of obtaining software. Not only does this harm the local economy, but it also exposes those users to the risks of illegal software, which include spyware, malware and viruses that can lead to identity theft, loss of data, and system failures.
Protecting intellectual property fosters innovation, which leads to economic growth, job creation, and encourages development of knowledge-based industries. We therefore have an obligation as Kenyan citizens to respect intellectual property.
Eric Odipo is the Channel Lead, Microsoft East & Southern Africa.