piracySoftware companies around the globe are losing billions in lost revenue due to piracy and counterfeit copies. But the lost buck does not stop at the software companies….

Before we go further, let us understand the difference between the two crimes here, one is piracy and the other is counterfeit.

Counterfeit is a very close replication of the original goods sold to others on the premise that it is the original product. Recent counterfeit products detected in SA were manufactured in China, where Microsoft and the Chinese government are working together in combating this practise.

Piracy is when somebody takes an original license of the software, makes a copy of the product and then uses the software. These perpetrators often tend to be corrupt computer dealers or IT staff of large corporations – not to mention the children getting a copy from the friend at school!

Just to allow us to establish the knock-on effect of this crime, let’s take a quick look at just who is on the losing side.

  • The obvious losers are the software companies, as I mentioned the loss is measured in billions of rand – but not only is it the loss of income, but salaries of staff and divisions who do nothing but fight the piracy must be added plus the legal fees that often are not recovered. Software piracy in South Africa is one of the top 3 inhibitors to the growth of the local IT industry.
  • The South African Department of Trade and Industry has realised the loss of income for them due to the loss of taxes and job creation by the software companies and now have a dedicated team to tackle the crimes. At the moment the department is doing road shows with musicians to help educate the public in understanding the ramifications of piracy.
  • Then the most important factor is the loss of life, goods and loved ones due to the crimes. When you buy or let’s rather say when somebody buys counterfeit copies, those same syndicates use that money to fund other crime, often more violent crimes. Security companies say that inevitably when they make a bust on big crime syndicates, 9 times out of 10 they discover counterfeit software.

To be honest, the original software does not cost a lot – take how much productivity you get over the number of months you use it and the monthly cost is really small. A Windows 7 32bit Professional DSP product with a new PC will cost you R1250, you will no doubt use the software for 3 years – 36 months at a cost of R34.72. This is less than R35 per month for a tool which will assist you or your staff to bring in revenue. That is the price of one hamburger per month. The tip here is buy your software when you get a new PC, otherwise for 5 licenses or more you can get favourable pricing and upgrades via the Volume Licensing programme.

Business Software Alliance (BSA) is a non-profit trade association created to advance the goals of the software industry and its hardware partners. It is the foremost organization dedicated to promoting a safe and legal digital world. (taken from the BSA site) According to the BSA there has been a big increase in the number of new software companies joining the BSA which assists both the BSA and the software industry as a whole. BSA have a rewards system which will pay 10% of the settlement figure with a ceiling of R100 000 to people reporting others who may be on the wrong side of licensing. The web address to complete the form is http://www.bsa.org/ or contact the Hotline on 0800 110 447.

Microsoft SA also has a Hotline for reporting people and you can contact them on 086 11 LEGIT(53448). 

Microsoft have a division called SAM (Software Asset Management) that assists reseller partners in working with the customers, primarily the corporate Volume License users on managing the licensing whether it be up or down during the period of the agreements.  Microsoft have a good rebate incentive for the partners to ensure the best possible licensing for the client, so the clients best interests are always top of mind for the channel partner. These SAM policies adhere to ISO and King III policies and procedures.

So if the original and the counterfeit are very close in appearance. How do we tell an illegal copy when we see it?
Well it is often extremely difficult to see the difference, but here are a few logical tips:

  • Don’t buy from people on the street or flea markets – find a store or dealer you know to buy your software.
  • If the price sounds too good to be true, it normally is!
  • Flip your laptop over and check the back of your PC for a COA (Certificate of Authentication) sticker licensing your Windows product.
  • Buy from “Authorised Resellers” or “Genuine Resellers”.


How can I check if I have a genuine version of Microsoft products?
There is a dedicated site for Windows authentication verification at http://www.microsoft.com/genuine/validate/ValidateNow.aspx?displaylang=en
Also if using an illegal version of Windows 7, you will get a black screen with a notice that the software is not the original and you will have a grace period to get a licensed copy. As the time in the grace period passes the Windows 7 removes features until it is completely useless.

Just to illustrate the new drive in the fight against piracy in South Africa by government and industry, the first convention dedicated to Software Piracy in South Africa will be held in Johannesburg on the 24th March 2011 and will be attended by top DTI representative and also heads of the various software corporations and software associations. One of the topics that I think will be interesting will be the topic on what the government is doing to fight piracy and counterfeit software.

We wish to thank Charl Everton, Microsoft Anti-Piracy Manager and also Chairperson of the BSA in South Africa for her time and input for this article, it is most appreciated.


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