Why Software Piracy is Prevalent in Nigeria

Last week I wrote about the Implications of Software Piracy in Nigeria. I also promised to write about the approaches we can all take to minimize software piracy. It is only fair, to propose strategies or solutions after pointing out a problem. But someone sent me an email asking “Why is it common to download and install illegal software in Nigeria?” I decided to answer the question.

I don’t judge Nigerians when it comes to illegal downloads and software piracy. (Not that I condone the act, but I understand why it happens). Selling pirated software, however, is a different case, it is not only unethical, or illegal, it is also immoral. It just doesn’t feel right profiting from someone else’s work without authorization.

I believe these are some of the reasons why it is considered the norm to illegally download, buy or use pirated software:

LACK OF AWARENESS

Most end-users are not aware of licensing agreements (and even if they do, no one cares to read it). Most end-users assume that buying a software is the same as owning it. While buying a software means you have the right to use the software (according to the license agreement). It doesn’t mean that you can redistribute it (unless stated). By the way, this issue is not only limited to developing nations.

If the average Nigerian knows that buying a pirated software is the same as buying a stolen property. A lot of end-users will stay away from the act. The stigmatization that comes with buying a stolen property alone, is a heavy burden upon the average Nigerian.

LACK OF ADEQUATE AUTHORIZED SOFTWARE RESELLERS

I believe there are few authorized resellers in the major cities in Nigeria. You can probably count them all on one hand (I haven’t!). But the majority of IT vendors in Nigeria sell pirated copies. They do the exact same thing everyone does. Torrent the software, burn it to a disc, print a label and that is it. This itself limits accessibility to end-users who can afford to pay for genuine software, also because branding (name, logo etc.) has less significance in Nigeria. It makes it hard for end-users to differentiate. Most pirated software usually comes in labels with the brand name and logo of the genuine software. Which is often misleading. Heck, even the vendor can have a ginormous Microsoft or Apple logo in front of their store, and no one will raise an eyebrow.

In other scenarios, some IT vendors tends to pay for one copy of a genuine software and then make multiple copies with instruction on how to activate using a single license. They believe they have full rights to a software, so long as they have paid for it. To help tackle this issue, we need authorized software resellers in Nigeria.

THE ECONOMY

If you’re Nigerian, you know what I am talking about. If you’re not, you can google it. Anyway; High price — We discussed a bit about this last week. The prices of software are ridiculously expensive. Because most software comes with a fixed prices. Countries with low/struggling economies tend to pay a higher price in comparison to other stable countries. Meaning software developed in rich countries are generally not affordable in poorer countries. With the Naira to Dollar exchange rate today, and $99 for OfficeSuite, that is almost 50,000 Naira (an average Nigerian response will be “50K for Office ke? Wawu”). Most time I wish software were like some selected textbooks, which each country have its version, thereby making it more affordable. But I am afraid it is not.

LEGAL PROTECTION

The Nigerian Copyright Act of 2004 (which I think needs to be revised) vaguely addresses digital related copyrights law. Also, the most recent Cyber Crime Act of 2015 loosely addresses Intellectual Property Rights. The major problem, however, is that the law is never enforced. If only it were possible to have something similar to the United State’s DMCA and DRM, that focus completely on Digital Copy Rights, things would have been a little bit better (not because the practice will stop, but because people will be aware that it is a crime).

The truth is, the legal problem is not only in Nigeria. Because the internet is a global network, it makes it a bit of a challenge to impose laws. Even in advanced countries, newer digital crimes are a bit challenging to deal with, because there are no laws regarding the crime considering it is new. We are still at a stage where it is very difficult to police the internet.

LACK OF RESOURCES

In Nigeria, on a smaller scale, the cost of the resources needed to fight software piracy outweighs the risk that it presents. However, on a bigger scale (national issue), it is worth ensuring that the national IT infrastructures are safe from all types of cyberthreats. In other to combat software piracy, it would be ideal for the law enforcement to carry out pirated software forensics (unless caught in the act of redistributing or installing). And to do that, they will need skilled cyber forensics experts and cyber forensics tools to be able to establish the crime, identify the crime (confirm that yes, the software was actually pirated), gather and collect evidence etc. Carrying out forensics on digital devices is not an easy task. There is a whole branch of Cyber (or technology) that deals with collecting, accessing and presenting evidence in digital devices known as Cyber Forensics.

One of the major problem is that we currently lack Cyber Security curriculum in Nigerian schools. We desperately need that, for us to be able to combat the digital problem we are facing and are bound to face. Nigeria is not immune to the world problems. If the major countries are facing cyber threats from one another, it is only a matter of time before it gets to us. The earlier we get ready, the better. Whether we like it or not, we eventually will have to deal with it.

I hope by the time Nigeria is facing cyber attacks as a national issue, we will be fully prepared for it. I believe we will eventually get there.

SOCIETY & CULTURE

Even though the correlation between culture and software is hard to find, it is worth mentioning that several studies have shown that software piracy tends to be higher in collectivist societies (like Nigeria and most African & Asian nations ), than in individualist societies (like the US, UK etc.)

In Nigeria, our sense of responsibility extends far beyond ourselves and our families. But to our community as a whole. (the bigger you get, the more you responsibilities you take). This makes sharing part of our culture. As a result, it makes it difficult for multiple users to buy multiple licenses. Even the pirated software we use today, for someone to buy the pirated copy. Then it means no one close to him has a copy.

LACK OF SUPPORT & ASSISTANCE

I think personally, this part is the most important. Even in the most advanced countries, not everyone buys all their software out of pocket. Either you get it through your employer or school. In Nigeria whether you are an employee, a student, government worker etc. The organizations, schools, and companies do not help by providing/allowing software to be installed on personal computers. (I am not sure about organizations that support the BYOD policy). The idea in Nigeria is for end-users (students, employees etc.) to work with what they have, not what they need.

In most developed nations, employers provide all the software and resources one needs to properly execute his/her job. Schools provide most software students need. As for the schools, they usually have some sort of agreement (either discount or free) with the software vendors. Actually, a lot of people continue to use software provided by their school even after graduation. And for those whom don’t have a job, and are not students. There are a lot of computer resource centers that help out when in need.

In most cases, a lot of these software vendors have some free or discounted services for educational purpose. Like the free ‘Google for Education’ available to all academic institutions globally.

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There are more reasons why software piracy is common in Nigeria. This is just the icing on the cake. This is meant to serve as an eye opener to average end-users. And the more I think about it, the more I keep asking myself, “so what can the average Nigerian do in such situation?” The truth is, nothing much other than to stop using pirated software. Most Nigerians can switch to FOSS — Free and Open Source Software. For Operating Systems one can switch to Linux. A lot of users think that using Linux OSs’ require special skills, but not anymore. And distros like Ubuntu are built with non-skilled users in mind, so they are easy to use, and comes with tons of free available software. Some Linux software are actually easier to use than Windows in some cases. Mostly because they are community oriented, so a lot of people help make the software better. And if you happen to have a Laptop with its original genuine Windows OS or macOS. There are also a lot of available free alternatives to licensed software meant for Windows and Apple OSs’.

Here are fewer alternatives to the major licensed software. If you need an alternative to a specific software, you can always google “Free alternative to X software.” And if you can’t find any, shot me an email or comment below. I’ll ask around for you.

Operating Systems:

  • Instead of Microsoft Windows 7, 8 or 10 try Ubuntu, Fedora, Linux Mint etc. Pick your poison. I’ll recommend Ubuntu for beginners. Remember to install the desktop version. (I use Fedora 25 with KDE Plasma for work. And on my personal Macbook Pro. I uninstalled macOS for CentOS with i3wm) — If MacBook Pro is supported. I believe most hardware should be fine.
  • KDE Plasma is a desktop environment. Look it up on YouTube. In my opinion, KDE Plasma is more beautiful than any desktop environment ever made. My coworker recently told me about KDE Plasma, apparently, I have been living under the rock for ages. I have always used the ordinary GNOME desktop. The good thing about Linux distros is you get to decide which desktop environment to use. — So try KDE Plasma.

Word Processing:

  • Instead of Microsoft Office Suite try LibreOffice Suite (Available for Windows and macOS) — And if you want something technie instead of MS Word try LateX. (It is better than MS Word in my opinion).
  • LibreOffice has everything you need (Word, Excel etc). It looks and works exactly like Microsoft Office. Oh! Did I mention you can also save as .doc .xls etc for compatibility with OfficeSuite. And it also has better support than MS Office. Plus it is lighter, so you don’t need to worry about your computer freezing because you don’t have enough RAM. Give it a shot.

Image Manipulation:

  • Instead of Adobe Photoshop try GIMP. (Available for Windows and MacOS)
  • I love this software. It is a bit harder to use, but it is definitely worth a shot. Plus it is lighter than Photoshop.
  • Instead of SketchUp try Kerkythea
  • I have never used it before, but I heard it is good. I believe it is worth a shot.