A few days ago, I tried to buy an electronic book through Google Play Books. My request was rejected because I live in Saudi Arabia and Google does not permit its electronic books to be sold here. I tried to purchase from other ebookstores, but I soon discovered that my request would be turned down as soon as the store learned where I lived.
The main reason for this is the lack of respect for intellectual property rights in our country. Saudi Arabia is on the list of countries to be kept under close surveillance because of their violation of property rights. This was included in the 2012 report of the International Union of Property Owners (UIPI).
The report talked at length about open electronic piracy on the main streets of many major cities in the world. It also talked about the illegal downloading of matter from the Internet and other relevant issues.
Violations of intellectual property rights are keeping pace with technological progress. Today there are instructions on social media about how to download books free of charge without any need for the approval of the author or the publisher, which results in huge financial losses for our writers and publishing companies.
Our publishing industry is already in decline and the increased piracy of books will cause many writers and publishers to simply give up the business. They will stop writing and publishing books, and we will be the victims.
This will then increase the gap between our books and those published in other parts of the world many of which seem to always have genuine ideas and themes while ours do not.
Many international companies do not want to work in our region because they have no guarantees about their property rights.
Our society is really amazing. It insists on buying original equipment and genuine cars and it spends a lot of money on them. But when it comes to electronic books, programs and video games, Saudi society prefers to buy pirated material.
Because of our negligence and violation of intellectual property rights, we have been prevented from buying electronic books from the world’s major providers of such material.
Electronic books are easy to read. You can choose the letter size you want and ask for a summary of the book. We have been deprived of these privileges because we do not respect the intellectual property rights of others.
The financial losses resulting from violations of intellectual property rights run into billions of riyals while the fines imposed on violators never exceed SR3 million in a single year.
Some countries prevent the entry of people carrying pirated computer programs and applications. Others levy heavy fines on such people. The UK has special stores which sell genuine second-hand applications at reduced prices. We need to draft an urgent national strategy to stop the piracy of computer programs and to respect intellectual property rights; that is if we want to keep pace with the rapid development in the world.