Vipul Sant, Director, Original Software Initiative, Microsoft India, in an interview with Soma Tah, discusses the company’s anti-piracy efforts, and their responses. Excerpts…

How severe is the software piracy issue in India and how’s it affecting the Microsoft business?

Software piracy is a far-reaching and serious problem for economies around the world. According to the BSA-IDC Fifth Global Software Piracy study, globally piracy rates were as high as 38 percent, and this amounted to losses of US$ 48 billion for the industry. India itself lost US$ 2,025 million in 2007 to software piracy, which is a substantial increase from US$ 367 million in 2003.

Over the last few years, software piracy in India has been declining, and this is a result of consolidated efforts put in by the govt, industry and vendors. We have also seen a stable growth in users buying original software. A yardstick for the success of these initiatives is evident in the fact that in 2004 the piracy rate was 74 percent and by 2007 it was 69 percent. 

How will you address the issue and what are the challenges?

There’s substantial scope in reducing piracy in India in the coming years. For this, industry, govt and vendors have to work toward increasing awareness and appreciation for Intellectual Property Rights, providing options to access original software and increasing benefits from deploying original. In India, the govt has put in place stringent laws to limit this problem and at the same time, vendors are focusing on limiting the problem to increase awareness amongst customers. India has some of the strongest copyright laws in the world; however, the gap today lies in the enforcement of these policies and laws. Microsoft has launched a worldwide anti-piracy campaign in October last year.

Is there any specific agenda for India? What are your measures to advocate genuine software sales?

Microsoft works to raise awareness on the piracy threat and IP rights awareness across the world. In India, Microsoft has a focused approach on education and enforcement to help consumers and channel partners understand the economic and moral benefits of original software. The endeavor is to work with customers, businesses and partners to drive awareness for piracy, and to educate them toward minimizing this menace. The access to original software is one of the most critical elements to reducing piracy in India, and we have undertaken this initiative to provide original software online and telephonically.

Besides providing regular updates on products and monthly newsletters, we have undertaken various initiatives for SMBs and channels to bring about a change in perception. These include:

Authenticity of original software: It aims at helping customers distinguish between original and pirated software, and to make them aware on the features like the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) and the edge-to-edge hologram CD. 

Software Asset Management (SAM): SAM optimizes customers’ IT investments, and offers a holistic approach to managing software. Our aim is to inculcate the value of proper licensing practices among organizations, as well as Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) awareness.

Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) programme: Windows Genuine Advantage for Windows Vista is an anti-piracy technology that is built into Windows Vista designed to help customers determine whether or not their copy of Windows Vista is genuine.

Microsoft Get Genuine Solution (GGS): GGS is a practical solution for businesses that want to legalize Windows Vista and XP licenses via our reseller partners.

We have also launched India’s first e-Commerce platform, www.buyoriginalms.com, for original MS products including Windows, Office, Server, Xbox, games and gaming accessories. Increased awareness and appreciation for Intellectual Property Rights, greater options to access original software and increasing benefits from deploying original will be some of the factors that will drive this trend.

You have made an effort to involve regional bodies in your anti-piracy efforts earlier.  How optimistic are you on such initiatives?

We are extremely happy with the encouraging response we have received from some associations, and look forward to continue working with them in the near future. We have been collaborating with associations including CONFED-ITA, SITA and TAIT, against the piracy. Under these partnerships, we aim at driving education and awareness on the perils of piracy and the value of original software. In fact, these associations are today insisting that their members stop indulging in software piracy and encourage them to use and only sell original software products.

David Finn in his recent India visit has met few associations in Delhi and Mumbai respectively. Will you prefer such interactions in future with other trade bodies and regional associations as well?

As mentioned earlier, Microsoft is continually engaging with the channel community to create awareness on the value of original software.