Survey Finds PC Shops Sell Unlicensed Software in Cambodia

Research commissioned by U.S. software firm Microsoft found that more than 96 percent of retailers selling personal computers in Cambodia offer customers unlicensed products, according to a statement from the company.

In a statement Saturday, Micro­soft’s office in Phnom Penh said a survey of 54 computer shops in Phnom Penh in May found that only two offered genuine software with new computers.

Previous research by Microsoft suggests that fewer than 1 in 10 computer users in Cambodia use licensed software, despite the Law on Copyright and Related Rights in theory providing protection for owners of intellectual property, including the makers of music, films and computer software.

Pily Wong, director of Microsoft’s market development program in Cambodia, said the research was conducted by a foreign firm for Microsoft, although he declined to give the name of the company.

“We have hired an independent company to do some mystery shopping in around 50 shops selling computers. The mystery shoppers asked about buying a computer, and most of them were offered pirated software,” Mr. Wong said, adding that there were in total about 200 retailers selling PCs in Phnom Penh.

Mr. Wong argued that intellectual property rights should be enforced, not just to protect large overseas firms but to encourage local industries.

“A lot of local companies are affected by this,” he said.

“When local software companies try to sell their software solution, the customer would say ‘why would I buy your software when I can buy it at the market?’ They’ll just buy a counterfeit version.”

But some argue that it is unrealistic to expect poor countries like Cambodia to enforce rules.

In June, members of the World Trade Organization agreed to extend by eight years a deadline, previously slated for July, after which least developed countries—including Cambodia—would be obliged to enforce intellectual property rights.

Lim Vanna, an accountant at Chhay Hok Computer Trading, said that his company sold both licensed and unlicensed software, since most customers could not afford to pay for authentic products.

“Some countries prefer the licensed software and some say they don’t need it, because people in our country don’t think it is necessary,” Mr. Vanna said, pointing out that prices as high as $700 for software packages were beyond the reach of most people.

“The important thing for us is to follow the demands of the customers, meaning that we will install the licensed one if they want it.”