SaaS no silver bullet for piracy

Limited uptake of software-as-a-service has blunted its efficacy as a weapon against piracy, says expert.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) has been seen as a potential solution for piracy, but an expert says it is no silver bullet.

Victor DeMarines, product vice president at V.i. Labs which sells anti-piracy tools to software vendors, said SaaS' reach against piracy only goes as far as the delivery mechanism's ability to replace on-premise software.

SaaS may be suitable for some packaged applications, but more computing and graphics-intensive applications such as design software or product lifecycle management (PLM) applications still need to reside within office premises, said DeMarines via e-mail.

Furthermore, SaaS is not immune from identity management and password-sharing occurrences, he added.

He pointed to a recent report quoting Microsoft's associate general counsel for anti-piracy, David Finn, as saying that cloud computing is making the software giant raise its game against piracy, rather than aid in suppressing it.

DeMarines said the cloud provides a delivery method for providers to distribute illegal software across many users. Companies hosting illegal software via SaaS are also more likely to escape traceability and vendors' knowledge, he said.

Some mobile app makers look to in-app purchases to make revenue, in order to thwart illegal copies of their software. ReQall, for example, makes an iPhone productivity app and has said it looks to users buying additional functions within the app, rather than making money off each download from Apple's App Store.

DeMarines said smaller software houses would reap the benefit of a SaaS model more quickly than large companies, because the former has a smaller scale of deployment, allowing IT projects to be rolled out faster.

Bigger vendors are more likely to derive results from the use of digital rights management (DRM) technologies and government enforcement, he said.

"Government actions and punishment can be effective to create an environment which educates end users that software intellectual property (IP) will be protected and laws enforced," he said.

According to a BSA report released this month, the global average piracy rate stood at 43 percent last year.

IDC analyst Victor Lim commented on the report, saying that SaaS has had a "muted" impact on piracy rates in the region. He attributed this to weak SaaS adoption rates in enterprises in the region.

DRM, government intervention more effective
Two Southeast Asian software houses are calling for additional steps to be taken by the governments in their countries.

Nguyen Minh Duc, director of Vietnam security software provider BKIS Security, said in an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia that the lack of user education on respecting IP has resulted in the company investing in DRM. "This is a drain on our resources, which could otherwise have been redirected to R&D efforts.

"Additional investment in DRM means our customers, in turn, end up paying more for our products," he pointed out.

Nguyen said the government should move to protect the software ecosystem, noting that the state would benefit from additional revenues brought in by the country's independent software vendors (ISVs).

"At the moment, users do not recognize the significance of supporting the development of local software in Vietnam," Nguyen lamented.

Muhamad Ismail, director of Indonesian accounting software company PT Zahir Internasional, said via e-mail that the government has made steps toward educating the public and taken legal action against companies caught using illegal software.

The government's job is far from done, however, said Ismail.

More needs to be done, he said, adding that the company recently joined the Business Software Alliance in hopes of participating in IP education efforts conducted by the trade association.

"It's not an easy job...more has to be done. The intervention of the government is very essential," said Ismail.

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