Growth of Vietnam's IT sector depends on its ability to combat piracy, Rebecca Ho, IP program strategist with Microsoft, tells Thanh Nien Weekly.
Thanh Nien Weekly: Where does Vietnam stand now, in terms of IT development and copyright protection?
Rebecca Ho: The IT sector and software industry are growing rapidly in Vietnam, while the piracy rate has steadily gone down since 2005. Inevitably, as we have seen in many countries around the world, there are those who will seek to exploit this thirst for technology by producing and selling inferior counterfeit products to consumers and businesses across the region.
In 2009, despite the financial crisis and consequently the general expectation that piracy will worsen, Vietnam was able to contain its piracy rate to 85 percent (according to the Seventh Annual BSA and IDC Global Software Piracy Study, 2010). This is higher than the regional average piracy rate, and it will need to be further reduced in order not to impede the growth of the IT sector.
No country is immune to the impact of software piracy it is a global issue that needs to be addressed in every market and Microsoft is working in partnership with local ecosystems, including local governments, educational and industry bodies to ensure we are focusing our efforts in a way that will make the most positive impact and increase growth opportunities for local economies.
Which products of yours are most vulnerable to piracy?
In part, today's high rates of piracy reflect the surge in demand for software in emerging markets as the benefits of technology are realized. Usually the more popular the products, the more widely they are pirated, such as Windows, Office and Windows Server.
These high rates of piracy represent a need for continued education on the value of genuine software to individuals, business and the economy, and the risks inherent in using counterfeit software.
We are committed to supporting governments as they boost their economies by educating their communities on the value of intellectual property and the opportunity it represents.
In Vietnam, the Business Software Alliance (BSA), of which Microsoft is a member, formed a partnership with VINASA, and the Copyright Office and Inspectorate of the Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism, to protect intellectual property rights.
How does copyright infringement in Vietnam affect your company?
Counterfeit software has an enormous impact on the software industry. Microsoft invests a tremendous amount of human and monetary effort in its software development and distribution, which is impacted greatly by the effects of piracy.
Microsoft is determined to protect its customer, reseller, and partner ecosystem from the threats and losses associated with piracy, and to prevent counterfeiters from taking advantage of innocent victims and gaining an unfair advantage over our honest partners.
More importantly, copyright infringement impedes the growth of local IT industry. The government of Vietnam has a clear goal to turn Vietnam into an IT power by 2020, aspiring to export software and digital content services to the world.
To realize that goal, we believe that innovation needs to be fostered. Innovators, however, will not have sufficient incentive to innovate if their intellectual property will not be protected. Emerging economies which have strong intellectual property laws can also benefit from technology and knowledge transfer and strategic alliances with multinational companies such as Microsoft which in turn will help enhance the competitiveness and innovative capacity of the local IT industry.
Has your company sued any individuals or organizations in the country for piracy?
No, we have not. At Microsoft, we believe in first educating (the public) about the benefits of using genuine software, and working with law enforcement agencies as well as our industry association, Business Software Alliance. We believe in taking legal action as a last resort to show that there are serious consequences to the crime.
What measures do you take to minimize piracy?
We focus our activities and investments on combating software counterfeiting and other forms of piracy into a single coordinated effort, the Genuine Software Initiative (GSI). The initiative focuses on increasing investments across three strategic areas: education, engineering and enforcement.
Vietnam finds it difficult to balance the reduction of software use and respect for copyright, while prices of legitimate software are too high compared with people's income. Does your company have any pricing strategies for the Vietnamese market?
Pricing is only one component of why people choose to pirate software, and not purchase it. Microsoft has many options for delivering value and cost savings for customers. The best pricing usually comes through either the pre-installation from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) or from our home and student packages for Office, for example.
Just lowering pricing does not result in less piracy; there is more to it than that. As an example, Lac Viet, another BSA member, whose Dictionary software is priced at US$2.5, probably the same cost of a KFC meal in Vietnam, is also widely pirated. This is clear proof that pricing is not a main factor for piracy.
Many firms find it hard to implement the intellectual property law due to limited financial capacity or awareness. What would you say to them?
Intellectual property protection is an essential part of maintaining a healthy cycle of innovation in the IT industry and it is important that intellectual property rights are respected across borders.
Intellectual property rights protect legitimate businesses by making it possible for companies to focus on the areas which differentiate themselves and their products from the competition, improve product features, and speed up delivery to the market. This spurs growth and job creation that benefits consumers, industry and the economy.