Inside India's rampant pirate software trade

Anyone who has ever had the dubious pleasure of attending a car boot sale in the UK will be well aware that pirated software is freely available, despite the efforts of the police and Trading Standards officials.

We have recently seen full copies of Adobe's Master Collection design software, complete with software cracks and serial numbers, being openly sold in DVD cases with copied inserts for £20, a far cry from the product's list price which is well in excess of £2,000.

The seller in question had two or three copies of the package hidden away amongst hundreds of legitimate second-hand movies, and probably didn't have too much of a demand for the high-end design package from the assembled crowd of tracksuit-clad bargain hunters.

But the markets of Delhi and other Indian cities are another matter altogether.

A report today in India's The Economic Times points to a booming trade in bootlegged software bolstered by rapidly-growing PC ownership and perpetuated by low earnings.

Dozens of tiny shops and stalls will offer just about any software title you care to mention, and if they don't have exactly what you require they will arrange to have it in a couple of hours in most cases.

But in order to avoid attracting the attention of the police, rather than selling applications burned to DVDs and sold in facsimiles of the original packaging, the new trend is for punters to bring in their own USB thumb drives onto which the vendor will copy pretty much anything they want.

Full packages of software from the likes of Adobe, Microsoft and Apple, some of them costing thousands of rupees, are sold for a few hundred.

Nothing is on display but, if you don't look like a cop, you'll be given a menu of what's on offer and could be walking away within minutes clutching a USB stick packed with as much software as you can afford.

Apparently, the police say they are aware of the problem but insist that there's nothing they can do, unless someone makes an official complaint.

Even if someone were to complain, vendors pay weekly bribes called 'haftas' to the local cops, so no action is ever taken.

One particular market, Nehru Place, has recently come under fire from the office of the US Trade Representative which described it as a 'notorious' hub of piracy. But the president of Delhi's market trader association Mahinder Aggarwal denied that any of the 1,300 registered memebers on his books were involved in any legal activities, instead pointing the finger at rogue traders.

He also said, "The United States is the biggest supporter of piracy. There are hundreds of US sites that offer cracked versions of various expensive softwares in a bid to make them popular here. But it is only India that is blamed."