By Harry Keaney
Software pirates beware, the Celtic Tiger is on the prowl.
With Ireland a world leader in software development, it’s only to be expected that it should also be blazing the Euro trail in the effort to curb its piracy rate, one of the highest in Europe.
Among those keeping a close eye on Ireland’s superhighway robbery is the Washington-based Business Software Alliance, an organization of international software developers. Recently, in a ceremony in Dublin attended by top executives of leading international software companies, the alliance’s president and CEO, Robert Holleyman, presented the Cyber Champion Award to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in recognition of Ireland’s recent adoption of the Irish Copyright Act and the E-Commerce Act, the "most modern copyright and electronic signature laws in Europe," according to the BSA.
"The adoption of the Irish Copyright Act shows the Irish government’s recognition and commitment to deal decisively with this problem," BSA spokesman Patrick Mellody told the Echo. "I think the fact that the government has recognized this problem, and by drafting these acts and passing them, that shows it is dealing with this problem."
According to the BSA, the new acts:
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€ Permit surprise searches and enacts stiff penalties against software theft.
€ Grants legal recognition to e-signatures, e-writings and e-contracts.
€ Are expected to spur similar initiatives in other member states of the European Union.
According to the BSA, Ireland has one of the highest piracy rates in Europe, with 51 percent of all software pirated compared to an average of 34 percent for Western Europe. It’s a problem that in 1999 represented $117.9 million in lost revenue and business for the software industry.
Previous enforcement efforts had already reduced the piracy rate from 74 percent in 1994. However, the new measures "will considerably strengthen the ability of copyright holders to deter piracy, notably by introducing deterrent penalties for copyright infringements and authorizing rightholders to obtain court-ordered civil search warrants to investigate allegations of software piracy," the BSA said.
"By imposing deterrent penalties against software theft and making it easier for courts to track down infringers, Ireland is sending a strong signal to the rest of Europe about the importance of strong copyright protection to the development of a robust technology economy," Holleyman said.
The Cyber Champion Award is presented annually to political leaders in recognition of their efforts to support the growth of the software industry. This is the first year that the award has been presented to a European leader. Last year, U.S. Secretary of Commerce William Daley received the award, which has also been presented to leaders in Japan and Malaysia.