Saturday, September 28, 2002

Open Minds to battle piracy in the country

The best way to stamp out software piracy in the Philippines is to provide free or very cheap alternatives and allow people to share their software. This was the claim made by Open Minds Philippines, a coalition advocating the use of free and open source software in government and business.

Open source software differs from its proprietary counterparts in that the source code, or programming, used to create the software, is made available to the public and may even be freely modified and redistributed.
Most open source software is available at very low cost or even for free. In contrast, developers of proprietary software typically keep their source code as closely guarded secrets and often charge exorbitant licensing fees.

The group pointed out the fact that since the source code used to make such software is freely distributed, it practically cannot be pirated. "We want people to share and redistribute this software," said Emmanuel Amador, Open Minds spokesman.

"We are inviting the Business Software Alliance (BSA) to attack the roots of software piracy, which is overpricing, by informing consumers that they still have a choice," Amador continued. "We are Third World users being forced to pay First World prices. We therefore want to work with the BSA to provide a kinder side to their anti-piracy campaign that shows our long-suffering consumers and government officials that free/open source software is a viable, affordable, and legal alternative.

The group also noted that using strongarm tactics against users while not addressing the causes of piracy will not solve the problem. "It's like going after users of prohibited drugs while leaving drug pushers alone," Amador said. "Providing users with a legal and affordable alternative, however, will attack piracy at its core."

Open Minds stated that it is willing to cooperate with the BSA by presenting free and open source software as an alternative to piracy at BSA-sponsored seminars as well as in its public information campaign.

The group pointed out that other countries, such as Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia, South Africa, Peru, and even the European Union are already looking into or using open source software to improve performance and cut down on costs as well as on software piracy.

Open Minds Philippines was formally presented to the local Information Technology press last September 10, 2002.