Understanding licensing in relation to software piracy

Information technology is positioned to be a major industry in Kenya with projections that it will compete closely with industries such as agriculture and tourism. Government led projects such as the Malili Technopolis, privately funded technology hubs, and tech centric developer competitions are testament to the growing impact of information technology regionally.

This growth comes with its own challenges with matters I.P – intellectual property and licensing topping my list. These two issues are little understood, yet they already have a massive impact on how we consume technology based products day to day.  Awareness needs to be created around these two items as we seek to grow our export market and innovate localized solutions.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) defines intellectual property as “creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce”. Copyrights are a subset of intellectual property law that protects creators and inventors and this covers technology based products as well.

The rights that I want to highlight are those of use, reproduction and distribution. These are the most abused rights of copyright owners and the usually blatant disregard of them, whether from a culture perspective or ignorance is a cause of concern. These rights are passed onto users by way of licenses. Here is where the misconception lies for most users of software. That you purchase a license for your favorite word processor or antivirus doesn’t not mean that you now own it. It simply means that the owner has granted you use of their product as per the terms and condition of the license you purchased. For most retail software, the license is that of single use on a machine with no provisions for copying or redistribution.

In the East African region, software giants such as Microsoft have suffered the brunt of this, with many users currently using “illegal” installations of software that has quite honestly become part and parcel of day to day life and business operations. They are moving swiftly to engage and educate the public more on the use of legitimate software and have gone ahead to offer tools – www.buygenuine.co.ke to help users confirm that their software is indeed genuine. An amnesty period has also been given where users who find themselves having infringed on copyrights can redeem themselves. As legal action will be taken going forward, I suggest that businesses and individuals alike capitalize on the amnesty period which ends December 15 2011.

We need to pay attention to the issue licensing and IP as we seek to create and market our own innovations. The revenue implications will hit home sooner or later if we don’t, and the benefits of going truly global with our innovations will be lost.


Microsoft is running an amnesty campaign where you can get to confirm if you are using genuine software. The ammesty period ends December 15th 2011. More information on this can be found at www.buygenuine.co.ke

An Africa based entrepreneur in the pursuit of opportunities without regard to resources currently controlled striving to build services that have real-world value for my beloved continent and beyond while having fun along the way.

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