Robert Holleyman, president and chief executive of Business Software Alliance, which represents the global software industry, spoke in an interview on how strong laws on intellectual property and software piracy can strengthen India’s software industry, create more jobs and increase tax revenues. Edited excerpts:
Is the lack of a strong regime on software piracy and intellectual property (IP) hurting the Indian information technology (IT) industry in terms of attracting business?
The challenge India faces is on its domestic infrastructure in terms of broadband capability, availability of PCs (personal computers), etc. Those are areas that the Indian government is looking at how it can build more investments. Much can be done to promote an ecosystem of strong intellectual property protection and development domestically. That will strengthen the software companies here.Secondly, how do Indian companies expand internationally? There are some policies that the Indian government is at certain stages of discussion. They all relate to the cloud and ability to access markets outside of India.
Are the policies being framed strong enough to tackle these issues?
The levels of protection for IP are key factors for investment and competitiveness. According to IDC, 64% of software which is used in India is pirated. But in this case, governments can make a real difference. There are states like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka which are reaching out to businesses to encourage use of legal software. We are encouraged by that. But sometimes, a point that there is a direct link between software piracy and lost tax revenue and employment opportunities is overlooked. It’s estimated that the Indian government loses $900 million every year in taxes. And even bigger than that, the problem of software piracy is directly and adversely affecting people who work in the software industry in India.
What policy measures are the need of the hour?
There needs to be a strong IP strategy that looks at how do you build on the best practices of the three states that I mentioned, and make clear that protecting IP is in India’s interest. Secondly, the government has to implement it in a way that there is deterrence, and the 64% piracy rate can come down. That kind of practice could grow jobs and definitely tax revenue.
Are companies that outsource to India concerned about weak IP laws?
The biggest concern companies have relates to security vulnerability that exists within organisations that use pirated software. For companies in India that are holding themselves out as leading companies to hold data and be part of a global supply chain, (they) need to be particularly vigorous and make sure they don't use pirated software as they really can’t afford the risk of intrusions of viruses. It’s not worth risking their reputation for.