When most tech consumers think of software piracy, they tend to think of a gaunt gamer in a darkened basement, drooling over an unlicensed copy of the latest title. But the reality of global software piracy is far more serious: in a ten year period ending in 2012, the US lost nearly 43,000 manufacturing jobs due to illegal software, which amounted to almost $40 billion lost in the manufacturing sector and almost $7 billion lost in federal tax revenue.
Those numbers are horrifying enough in a world economy that many perceive as stable, but what happens when that kind of cause-and-effect is happening in an unstable or emerging market? Kenya has certainly found out, to their own detriment.
For a wide variety of reasons–including ignorance of the issue, lack of enforcement of existing copyright laws, and the perception that pirated software is the only affordable way to keep up in any kind of tech sector–Kenya’s illegal software problem is reaching crisis proportions. With the help of initiatives from companies like Microsoft, though, their government is at least claiming to work to put an end to it.
Microsoft will be offering amnesty to users who’ve been working with pirated copies of their titles, an epidemic which Kecobo, the Kenyan Copyright Board, says has reached as much as 78% of software use. The tech giant will overlook the use of stolen software and give users the opportunity to purchase legitimately licensed versions without fear of prosecution. It’s not just a sound economic move on both sides; the unfortunate reality of the illegal software according to Kecobo’s estimates is that the chances of falling victim to cybercrime due to pirated software are as high as a 74% chance, a factor that pirates are all too happy to exploit.
After the month-long amnesty period ends, Kecobo at least claims that it will begin cracking down on software piracy by arresting and prosecuting offenders.