Groups urge Argentine Government to use legal software

Two Argentine trade organizations representing the IT industry last week began a media campaign against the use of pirated software by public institutions and private business. According to the Chamber of Software Companies and Computer Services (CESSI), the Argentine government is one of the main users of illegally acquired software.

The campaign announces a “truce” until Nov. 15 before initiating further legal actions, and publicly threatens, with jail terms of up to six years, business executives that do not obtain legal software licenses.

CESSI two weeks ago said that in spite of having held negotiations for two years with the Argentine Government, the public sector still uses software illegally.

A survey commissioned by CESSI detected about 200 government institutions that use pirated software, in violation of copyright law, said Jorge A. Cassino, chairman of the organization, at a press conference.

“During the last two years we have succeeded in having the Government admit that they use illegal software and we have tried to have them regularize the situation,” said Cassino. Among the official institutions that use pirated software there are: the AFIP (Internal Revenue Service), the Ministry of Justice and the state police. According to Cassino, the pirated software comprises products from Microsoft Corp., Novell Inc. and Symantec Corp.

The total cost of the pirated software is only US$5.3 million, taking into account the 40,000 software units used by government organizations at the low prices offered to the public sector, said Cassino. This figure does not include the provincial states, the town councils and the school sector.

Cassino added that the continuous replacement of official negotiators makes a definitive solution difficult, in spite that the payment conditions for software licenses are advantageous for the government.

“This situation (means that) since the public organizations do not regularize their situation, we cannot press the private sector for their compliance with the law, when the people that should enforce the law do not abide by it,” Cassino said.

The irregularities in the use of software have lowered the trust of U.S. and European companies that the CESSI has been contacting for business since the beginning of this year, Cassino said.

During an interview with the IDG News Service Cassino said, “if we sue the Government, I think that this will empower the software companies to sue those people that steal their products.”

The lack of compliance by the public sector makes advances on certain software production outsourcing deals more difficult. There are several cooperation agreements pending with foreign software makers, Cassino said.

In 1998 Argentina updated a 1933 law that included legal protection for software.

CESSI chairman said that right after the updated law was passed, many companies came into compliance with software licenses. However, the effort to have legal products faded with time.

Other trade organizations have joined CESSI in the effort to stop piracy. “Considering that the ‘piracy index’ in the public sector is very high, Software Legal has decided to extend up to Nov. 15 a ‘truce on judicial actions’ against the state” and against private organizations, said Mart