A Malaysian trade minister has risked the ire of the software industry by suggesting the country would turn a blind eye to the use of pirated software in schools.
While stressing that the authorities in Malaysia take a firm line against piracy in the commercial sector, Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin told the Sunday Star newspaper that it would be far more lenient with schools and charities.
He even suggested use of pirated software may promote computer literacy.
"We are concerned over the rampant sale and use of pirated computer software in the country and will continue to conduct raids to curb it," the Minister for Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs told the paper.
"But for educational purposes and to encourage computer usage, we may consider allowing schools and social organisations to use pirated software," he added.
Digging himself a bigger hole, Yassin went on to say that a raid by Malaysian authorities and the BSA two years ago reduced use of pirated software in the country from 70 per cent to 60 per cent. This, he reckons, puts Malaysia ahead of the US in its fight against software piracy.
We suspect many countries hold similar views, but Yassin was bloody stupid spelling it out in public. The US never needs much prompting to threaten trade sanctions when it feels the rights of US copyright holders are threatened.
Worst still, Minister Yassin may receive an invite to a re-education session from the piracy watchdog aimed at showing him the error of his ways. Let's hope open source activists get to him first.
If he pops up on TV in a couple of weeks talking about the links between software piracy and drug trafficking/terrorism groups then you know what's happened.
MUAR: The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry may consider allowing schools and social organisations to use pirated computer software for educational purposes.
Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the exemption for such institutions and organisations was to encourage usage among Malaysians and speed up computer literacy among students.
However, he stressed that other sectors, especially the commercial sector like companies and factories, would be booked if they were found to be using pirated software.
“We are concerned over the rampant sale and use of pirated computer software in the country and will continue to conduct raids to curb it.
“But for educational purposes and to encourage computer usage, we may consider allowing schools and social organisations to use pirated software,” he said after opening a state-level National Day poetry-reading contest in Pagoh yesterday.
Muhyiddin said the ministry would launch another joint raid with the Business Software Alliance to check the illegal use of pirated computer software soon.
The first such operation carried out two years ago had managed to book many parties, including companies and shops, which used such software, he said.
He added that it had reduced the number of pirated software users from 70% to 60% and the ministry hoped future operations would see a further decrease.
Although the 10% decrease in two years seemed small, Muhyiddin said that compared with Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan, the number of pirated software users and its value in Malaysia were small.
He said it was not easy to curb such piracy and the computer software industry had noted that the problem was worse in the United States.