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Pirated Software Is A Huge (Financial And Legal) Risk For West African Businesses

By Thuli Lamani
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West African business builders are beginning to embrace the benefits of legally licensed business management software, understanding how these solutions power their operations to greater efficiency. Though many understand how pirated software could hurt their bottom line in the long run, the rate of software piracy in the region nonetheless remains high by world standards.

That’s according to Magnus Nmonwu , Regional Director for Sage in West Africa , who defines software piracy as the unauthorised duplication, distribution or use of business management software.

This is an illegal practice that is subject to civil and criminal penalties and it occurs in the following forms, amongst others:

  • End-user copying: When one person buys a legally licensed piece of software and then allows more friends, business colleagues and family to copy the application than he or she has licenses for.
  • Illegal downloading: When someone downloads an illegal copy of the software from the Internet or unapproved sources.
  • Volume software license copying: When businesses underreport the number of computers on which the software is installed so that they can pay for fewer copies than they are actually using.
  • Reseller copying: When resellers pass software onto their clients for free rather than selling a license.
  • Duplicating solution: When resellers purchase a single licence or disc and then deploy it to several customers without giving the customers then necessary license codes.
  • Counterfeiting: Criminals copy the software and collateral, such as manuals, and sell it as the original product.

Software piracy undermines economic development and also potentially costs companies more in legal penalties and reputational damages than they would need to pay for legally licenced solutions. Nigerian Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu, has been quoted saying that Nigeria loses about $287 million to software piracy each year, and this has to stop.

Software piracy is bad for business
According to Nmonwu, software piracy is far from the victimless crime many businesses imagine it to be. Piracy robs computer resellers and software vendors of their hard-earned revenues. This, in turn, undermines the ICT industry’s ability to create jobs, invest in product research and development, and pay taxes, says Nmonwu.

Local resellers suffer because they don't get the revenues they need to invest in their businesses. The only party that benefits from software piracy is the criminal profiting off someone else’s work and intellectual property. In some cases, pirates have ties to other organised crime activities, so software piracy can sponsor even worse crimes such as drug and human trafficking.

What’s more, says Nmonwu, there is a very good chance that the pirated software you buy from an unethical retailer or downloaded via the Internet will contain some spyware or malware. These unwanted extras are harmful to your computers and open you up to data breaches or data theft. Indeed, in some cases the motivation for giving or selling you pirated software is to plant a virus or key-logging software on your computer to steal your information.

Another drawback of pirated software is that you will not have access to the vendor’s technical support or the latest patches and updates, including those that cater for regulatory and legislative changes in in the countries where you operate. This will mean that you will not be able to use the full set of functionality in your product or keep it updated with the latest security features and fixes.

Using pirated software also denies the product owners access to feedback from end-users, which they use for research and development aimed at making the software better for everyone.

Responsible organisations must mitigate both financial and legal risk by ensuring that they have the correct license keys and codes for the business management solutions that power their operations. This can be done by contacting the software vendor to ascertain whether the software is genuine; if it’s not, the vendor will help you to become legit.

“In a time of seismic technological change and digital invention, our smart people use the smartest technology to reinvent and simplify business accounting. We enable our customers to focus on their business and help them to leapfrog to the future,” says Nmonwu. “It is only through the support of our customers that we are able to keep investing in innovation that helps entrepreneurs and business builders to stay focused on growing their businesses.”