Blatant infringement on intellectual property rights
Hilton in Colombo, the Sri Lankan entity of the leading international hotel chain, has got caught with its pants down for software piracy!
This US based hotel management company which has to adhere to strict norms got caught on Thursday night for using pirated software during an event hosted by a leading IT solutions company, where one of our journalists was also present . Hilton Residence, in its banquet area is using electronic screens to display information about their functions, built on pirated Windows 7 software. This was being inadvertently displayed on their screens at the right-hand corner. This indication, according to IT experts, pops up ONLY when someone is using pirated software.
Most of the guests and IT specialists who were present at the software launch were shocked to see the blatant display of software piracy by Hilton Colombo Residence.
This comes against a backdrop where the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) of which Hilton Residence is a member, had facilitated the establishment of a special unit in the CID to address crimes pertaining to software piracy and counterfeiting. The AmCham also facilitated a special program for police officers to educate them on intellectual property rights. It is quite apparent, however, that even the members of the AmCham are not complying with anti-piracy laws.
“There is no problem whatsoever with regard to compliance of AmCham members as they all are high profile companies dealing with major international clients,” Vijaya Rathnayake, President of American Chamber of Commerce said confidently.
The AmCham members, he said, are automatically compliant with anti-piracy and they always adhere to stringent measures when it comes to using genuine software. It became obvious that the AmCham President was not even aware of the blatant violation of Software piracy laws by Hilton Colombo Residence, a member of the same chamber.
Shalini Ratwatte of Business Software Alliance ( BSA) told ‘The Nation’ that companies using pirated software should be prosecuted by law enforcing authorities, regardless of their scale or grandeur.
“Any company operating in Sri Lanka should adhere to Sri Lankan anti-piracy laws and there is no way that they can transgress,” she asserted.
Business Software Alliance, an organization operating in more than 100 countries, categorically states that copyright infringement is a criminal offense. Ratwatte said the Police had raided many companies in the recent past who did not comply with anti-piracy laws.
Speaking to ‘The Nation’, Manesh Fernando, General Manager of Hilton Colombo Residence said he was unaware of any such incident. “At the moment I can’t say anything as I am unaware of this. We have a highly professional IT team handling our IT operations and I am of the strong belief that they use genuine software. But, I can’t comment on the story without looking into the matter,” the General Manager stated.
The Nation is stunned that an entity of the stature of Hilton Colombo Residence (HCR) appears to be ignorant about software piracy, especially since it holds membership in the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham), an outfit that is expressly promoting anti-piracy mechanisms. The ACC believes HCR is compliant in this regard. We sincerely hope that HCR has an explanation for this state of affairs. The General Manager, when we spoke to him, did not deny wrongdoing. We also face a bigger and more serious issue: ‘What has the ACC been preaching to us all this time?’ Should not the physician heal him/herself? Is intellectual property a game about ‘getting the other guy while we stay above’? Technically, someone can claim, for example, that MAS is dealing with software pirates and therefore not complying with ‘rules’ that are sacred to US buyers. A bit like the USA lecturing Sri Lanka on human rights, even as that country perpetrates crimes against humanity in Afghanistan and Pakistan and facilitating the same in the Middle East; a good-for-you-not-for-us-though policy (that has worked!).