Intellectual Property Rights and the Internet in Central Asia

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The paper introduced in this website considers the challenge that copyrights, one of the main forms of intellectual property rights, faces in the software industry of the Central Asia and an option that might help to overcome it. This challenge is the high level of the unlicensed proprietary software usage in the region, particularly in Tajikistan that is considered as a pilot country for this research. And as a potential remedy to overcome this problem the paper considers the free and open source software (FOSS) wide utilization in this country in particular and the whole region in general. It might sounds paradoxical, since FOSS mainly is accepted as an alternative to the proprietary software. But FOSS has those advantages that allow these societies expanding access to benefits of the information communication technologies without copyrights infringements as well as adapting those technologies for the local needs.

The paper describes the current proprietary-oriented software industry of the region, tries to explain the reasons behind the high level of unlicensed software distribution in Tajikistan, current and potential challenges that so-called "allowed level of piracy" causes and might cause, explains advantages of FOSS for overcoming these challenges and provides recommendations for budgetary organizations, academic community and civil society as well as software vendors to make use of those advantages. Focus on FOSS allows growth of local developers communities and their opportunity to compete with the international developers. In other words FOSS utilization has a potential to help the countries of the region to grow from consumers of ICTs into their developers, at least for addressing local needs at the current stage of development. This is one of the principles of benefiting of information society.

The paper considers the information society as a the second opportunity for the region and its member states to be more than a consumer and to contribute in the development of the global economy after the great silk road, part of which used to be all the countries of the region, ceased existence.

There are initiatives coming from the local enthusiastic groups mainly representing civil society and academic community institutions in every country of the region that either supported by the international funders or themselves have been working to localize FOSS distributives and other frequently used applications for the state languages. These initiatives are worth to be supported by other key players of the local and regional ICT market that are public sector organizations and private companies. Because they are for the benefit of the whole society.

The paper does not consider FOSS as an ideal tool. Similar to other ICTs FOSS is not a panacea! But this is a very flexible legal tool to use, study, adapt, develop and further share for the benefit of any community. It is a technology that allows local skills to develop and further utilize it for addressing local needs. It is natural way of approaching local needs, which can be more effectively solved by local expertise.

The reason of considering Tajikistan as a pilot country might also seem paradoxical to many people from other countries of the region simply because this pilot country is behind others in the ICT penetration. But accepting that the main software toolset in the region is unlicensed proprietary software than Tajikistan with the least number of those users is less dependent on this technology, hence the level of copyrights infringements is lower than the same of other countries. In addition one of the distribution of FOSS has been localized in Tajikistan that along with the fact that the State e-Strategy considers FOSS as a tool to reduce the growing digital divide in the country strengthens possibility that advantages of FOSS will be effectively used in the country.

The paper devised recommendations for relevant authorities, parliaments, civil society representatives, academic communities institutions and private companies of the Central Asian countries.

updated Thu Jun 14 16:05:07 TJT 2007   located at
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