India needs to bolster its intellectual property policies

Written by Sudhir Chowdhary | Updated: Dec 23 2013, 07:37am hrs
Do you know that 63% of the software installed on PCs in India is unlicensed At a commercial value of nearly $3 billion, this is the fourth-highest such figure in the world, so there is no question that more needs to be done to encourage legal software use. Government should establish modern intellectual property laws that effectively protect software everywhere its used, including on PCs, mobile devices, and in the cloud, says Victoria

Espinel, president & CEO, BSA/The Software Alliance, a Washington-based trade group that represents leading software makers and its principal activity is to stop unauthorised copying or distribution of copyrighted software. Until recently, Victoria served in the Obama Administration as the first US intellectual property enforcement coordinator, a post she held since being confirmed by the US Senate in December 2009. She previously served in the Bush Administration, first as

senior counsel in the Office of the US Trade Representative and then as the first assistant US trade representative for Intellectual Property and Innovation. In an interaction, she tells Sudhir Chowdhary that Indias cybercrime legislation requires updating to conform to international standards. Excerpts:

Tell us about your experience at The White House and the reasons for moving to BSA

It was a great honour to be nominated by President Obama and unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate to be the first US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator. It was a fascinating and gratifying experience to establish the office and to develop the processes and policies to make it serve the function that the President and Congress intended. In the time I served, we made a great deal of progress across numerous fronts: law enforcement activity and efficiency increased significantly, laws were changed to improve enforcement, we brought stakeholders together from across government and the private sector to take voluntary steps to improve intellectual property protection, and we gathered better data on the importance of intellectual property to the economy. I was pleased that my office was able to work with the Congress to pass seven pieces of legislation based on the recommendations in our first joint strategy.

I am excited now to have joined BSA, because software plays such a vital role in enabling the modern world. It makes every other sector of the global economy work better, and it improves every conceivable aspect of peoples livesfrom the way doctors are able to diagnose and treat diseases to the way engineers can design buildings to be safer and more energy efficient. BSA works with industry and governments around the world to ensure this kind of innovation continues to flourish for everyones benefit.

India is acknowledged as an IT power. But of late, government decision-making seems to be sluggish. Dont you feel that there is room for considerable improvement in areas such as IT infrastructure, the business and legal environment and government support for the industry

There are opportunities for Indian law to be modernised to keep pace with the rapidly evolving cloud computing market. Let me give you several examples. Indialike many countries around the worldis working to implement effective privacy legislation. Indias cybercrime legislation requires updating to conform to international standards. Some laws and standards in India are not technology-neutral (such as electronic signatures), and these can present barriers to market access and interoperability.

We are also concerned about policies under consideration that could limit procurement of foreign software products by government and even some private entities and impose overly burdensome testing requirements in order to enter the market. Finally, the tax laws in India continue to impose significant burdens on BSA members ability to compete in the market. Addressing these areas would bolster the development of the IT sector and the economy.

Dont you feel there is a need to establish specialised IP courts in India

Yes. More generally, governments should establish modern intellectual property laws that effectively protect software everywhere its used, including on PCs, mobile devices, and in the cloud. Government should also provide for effective enforcement with adequate resources. Specialised intellectual property courts can increase the level of

effectiveness of the judicial system, so from that standpoint they can be very useful. An effective enforcement system which delivers efficient, consistent and cost-effective decisions on disputed matters will ultimately benefit rights owners and users alike.

The widespread impression in India is this: buy the hardware, software is free! How does licensed software create value for governments and companies

A study from BSA and INSEAD shows that investments in properly licensed software pay huge dividends. Increasing legal software use by just 1% would add $73 billion to the global economy. In India, the figure would be $739 million. This is twice the economic benefit the country would get from an equivalent increase in unlicensed software use.

Software is a strategic business asset and should be treated as such. To realise maximum value, organisations need to manage them accordingly. Putting in place software asset management (SAM) processes can help companies to ensure not only that they are compliant with their software license agreements but that they are using their software assets as effectively as possible. However, a 2012 KPMG study reveals that 86% of Indian companies have not yet considered implementing a policy for managing their software assets.

To help Indian industry, we have launched an initiative called Verafirm with leading independent auditors. It offers the first enterprise-level certification to help organisations stay in compliance with their software licenses by testing against universally accepted benchmarks that validate SAM processes are operationally sound and sustainable.

What kind of losses has the industry suffered globally from piracy

According to the last BSA Global Software Piracy Study, the commercial value of pirated software climbed from $58.8 billion worldwide in 2010 to $63.4 billion in 2011. In India, 63% of the software being installed on PCs is unlicensedat a value of $3 billion. That is the fourth-highest such figure in the world, so there is no question that more needs to be done to encourage legal software use.

Dont you feel there is need for a National IP Policy in India to encourage patent creation

India has an opportunity to drive long-term growth and improve its competitive advantage globally in IT by bolstering its intellectual property policies. A National IP Policy would be a significant step in this direction, and we appreciate some of the progress the Indian government has taken toward that goal.

Government can be a critical enabler in driving the requisite changefor example, by promoting nationwide education and awareness building about the value of intellectual property in driving economic development and technology advancements.

In addition, patents for computer-implemented inventions can play a critical role in promoting innovation. BSA urges the Indian Patent Office to pursue patenting of software-related inventionsto support Indian software developers and to draw in international investment.

What is BSA doing to promote legal software use among public agencies and private enterprises in emerging markets like India

BSA is involved in increasing public awareness of copyright laws, encouraging use of legitimate software and explaining the consequences of software infringement. We seek to educate decision-makers in organisations about the legal and practical risks associated with illegal software use.

To this end, BSA provides resources and information to help users become legally compliant and stay safe online.

In addition, BSA has a free Guide to Software Management and a software audit tool that inventories installed software for comparison with license agreements. BSA has signed a MoU with the Ficci to collaborate on a campaign to raise awareness about intellectual property across the country.

BSA also has worked extensively and successfully with three associations of software distributorsthe Infotech Software Dealers Association, the Trade Association of Information Technology, and the Association of System Integrators and Retailers in Technologyto increase awareness among members of these channels on software asset management, Verafirm and software piracy generally. We will continue these efforts in 2014.

What are you doing to spread awareness about compliance for licensed software among the Indian SMB community

In the last few years, BSA has undertaken various initiatives aimed at spreading awareness among SMEs on software compliance with a specific focus on SAM. Most

notably, BSA developed the Verafirm suite of products which gives companies access to the tools and information they need in order to manage their software assets for maximum value. The Verafirm portal is the first and only registry of its kind.

BSA has also conducted outreach campaigns on SAM for SMEs across the country in partnership with the department of electronics & IT. We are witnessing tremendous involvement from the department of IT and the government is leading by example by managing its own software.

Such similar programmes in partnership with state governments, have been undertaken in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. BSA is committed to this

endeavour and welcomes industry and government partners to continue to increase focus on this momentum.