Philippine pirates still trouble Autodesk

Maker of AutoCAD software says 70 percent of its products are illegally copied and sold in the Philippines, but adds its revenues are boosted by country's real estate boom.

PHILIPPINES--Software piracy continues to hound legitimate businesses operating in the country's software market, according to Autodesk.

In a briefing Thursday, the company said a majority of its software products are illegally copied and sold in numerous shops around the metropolis.

"It is a reality that we are facing," said Teddy Tiu, Philippines country manager of Autodesk, known primarily for its AutoCAD product. "About 70 percent of our products are still sold illegally."

Autodesk, a member of the Business Software Alliance (BSA), continues to put in measures to minimize or lower the piracy rate of its products, said Tiu.

According to a BSA study released last month, the average software piracy rate in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan and Australasia, clocked at 59 percent last year, a 4 percent increase from 2006. The Philippines registered a 69 percent piracy rate in 2007, resulting in estimated revenue losses of US$147 million, the BSA study stated.

Tiu said Autodesk continues to "coordinate" with Philippine schools on providing subsidized schemes for students keen to purchase the company's products. He added that most buyers of its software are students wanting to learn CAD programming, but are choosing to acquire pirated copies sold at a fraction of the original cost.

He said, under certain arrangement, Autodesk has given away its AutoCAD product for "free". Tiu said: "Students need to look up our Web site and see how they can get the software for free."

While piracy is affecting its business in the country, he said that brisk sales from two market segments--namely real estate and business process outsourcing--have allowed the company to post growth.

Real estate boost
Tiu added that a boom in the residential real estate industry, and continuing expansion of both foreign and local business outsourcing firms, also boosted revenues, although he declined to give exact figures.

He said more real estate developers are finding a lucrative client base in the form of overseas Filipino worker, who remit an estimated US$1 billion a month into the country's economy.

"There is a lot of money going around," he noted, adding that the number of real estate developers have mushroomed from "a handful a few years back to more than 100 today".

Tiu said the rise in demand for residential buildings is driving demand for sophisticated software, designed primarily to "virtually" create these buildings before laying the groundwork.

He added that companies are now finding it easier to "sell" residential condominiums using 3D and computer-generated models of actual units.

According to Tiu, the local real estate industry will continue to grow at an estimated 5 percent per annum. This translates to more business for Autodesk, he said.

The bulk of Autodesk's revenues are currently boosted by the automotive, industrial, and entertainment industries.

Joel D. Pinaroc is a freelance IT writer based in the Philippines.