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Russia takes aim to sink pirates

Eighty percent of software used in Russia is pirated. But legitimate distributors are fighting back, by investing more in their distribution networks.

Transforming Russia’s software market from one where pirate goods still roam free is a pressing challenge.

The bulk of software on sale is unlicensed, and consumers have become used to the availability and price associated with these items.

“The overall IT market in Russia is enormous – $US 18 billion this year, of which the software component is nearly $US 2 billion.  The IT market is growing at 25% a year, the software market is growing at 21% a year.  The gap between the two shows what the effect of piracy is,” explained Robert Holleyman, CEO, Business Software Alliance, Moscow

Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization is a key priority for business and a number of international players are helping to promote it.

The Russian government has passed legislation that is changing the kind of software available to shoppers.

The amount of legally-licensed software available in Russia is growing, and that's  due in part to distributors who are looking to cash in on the market.

Fighting piracy has become a multi-level undertaking, with governments, companies, manufacturers, and distributors working together to promote legal usage.

“Basically, it's a two-way procedure.  We have to promote our original products and fight piracy on all levels,” says Dmitry Burkovsky, Nintendo Russia Distribution, Moscow.

More software companies are arriving with their products in Russia, and they've found the key to selling licensed products in a tightly organized distribution system that shuts out their grey competition.

“I think the major challenge, really, is getting the boxes around Russia – it's such a massive country,” said Sarah Rogers, NCSOFT, Moscow.

The more software companies learn about the Russian market, the closer they are coming to sinking the pirates and charting a course to IT profits.