Thai Software Enterprises was founded during the financial crisis of 1997 when Mr. Somporn Maneeratanakul, a software developer and entrepreneur, saw an opportunity in the crisis to develop and sell software to Thai businesses. His company employs 30 professionals and is the copyright owner of Thailand’s most popular Thai-English language dictionary, a software product used in offices and homes throughout the country. This software-based dictionary product is among the most pirated software products in the country. At nearly every software piracy raid conducted by Thai police, officers discover unlicensed versions of Mr. Somporn’s software products.
Thai Software Enterprises is a private company and does not disclose financial information. But piracy cuts sharply into revenues.
Khun Somporn Maneeratanakul is a Thai software entrepreneur with the most popular dictionary software product in Thailand "It's a myth that software piracy only impacts large software companies. Software piracy is a serious problem for our business." he said.
How has your company been affected by software piracy?
“One of the big myths is that if software licenses were less costly, then the rate of piracy would fall. This is absolutely untrue. Thai Enterprise software products sell for as little as 200 baht for a single licensed product. Yet the majority of people using the product use pirated versions.”
“The other big misconception is that piracy only impacts large, international software developers. This is untrue. Big international software companies have markets with low rates of piracy where they can off-set their losses to piracy. But for Thai software developers, our main market is Thailand, and as a result, our opportunities are limited by piracy. Normal business competition is a challenge, but add piracy as another competitive factor, and you can imagine how damaging this is for the software industry in Thailand.”
“The good news is that Thailand is making progress, reducing the piracy rate from 73% to 61% over the last three years. But we need to keep this momentum going if Thailand is to have a strong domestic software industry.”
“Software piracy also impacts the psyche of the people in the Thai software industry. It’s frustrating to realize how much stronger our business would be if it were not for rampant piracy. I have great hopes for the potential of Thailand’s software industry. But we have to seriously tackle the piracy problem before we can hope to have a thriving base of software developers here in Thailand.”
Has the government done enough to help fight piracy?
“The Thai government recognizes that intellectual property is a highly valuable commodity. They have developed policies to promote the creation of intellectual property. Last year they unveiled a major initiative called “Creative Economy” with intellectual property development as a major platform. But we need to get more serious about bringing the piracy rates down even further through even greater focus on education and enforcement of copyrights. The software piracy rate fell from 76% in 2008 to 73% in 2011. I’m glad to see the reduction, but we need to see more protection.”
What is the company doing to fight piracy?
“We joined the Business Software Alliance for support on this issue. We also help to communicate to the government and public on issues related to software piracy. The main thing that we try to help people understand is that this is not just about the software industry. It’s about our future as a country. It’s a fact that strong protection for intellectual property rights would bring economic benefits to the entire country in a domino effect that would create good quality jobs and growth for the entire IT industry. Even more, lower rates of software piracy would encourage young people to innovate and create great software products.”
What challenges do these small software firms face to prevent piracy?
"It’s a huge challenge. But most software developers have a passion for their work and belief that new software innovations are capable of delivering amazing benefits to the people that use them. At the moment, our best strategy is to help people understand that our products need to be licensed. As I said, for some of our most popular products we are only talking about an investment of a few hundred baht. And then, government enforcement of the law is obviously critical. We file complaints about the piracy of our products, and then it is up to the government to enforce the Thai law.”