Ethics in Software and Copyright Infringements in the Balkans
The first point one has to look at is the situation in these countries and their position in terms of development as also the size of the potential market. There are a total of eight countries and most of them have been in political turmoil till about ten years ago. These countries are all breakaway portions of other bigger countries, or the soviet empire. The software market is small but there are already participants in it from United States which means that there is a lot of future potential development. On the side of the governments there are definite efforts to legalize the situation of software, though full achievement will take quite sometime. At the same time, there are a lot of conflicts within the big names in the industry -- Microsoft and Linux -- and this is leading to advantages being made available for the developers of software in the region. Again, not all developers in the area are using pirated software -- there are quite a few software developers and users who even advertise their services. Piracy and counterfeiting also exists in Western Europe and probably in much larger numbers as the users of software there are probably much larger.
When we talk about Balkans, there are some images that come along with it. It is a poor region compared to the rest of Europe; it has been involved in battles and civil wars over the last decade or so; it has many reputations that are not good. When we talk about software sales in this region, one has to remember that people of this region are not able to incur expenditures that the rest of Europe can, and so it is natural that software costs will be low here.
Which countries are the Balkan countries?
The countries generally considered to be part of the Balkans include Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Romania and Yugoslavia. Starting with the first, there is a lot of unsettled state of mind as the country feels that it should have a greater Albania consisting of parts of Yugoslavia and Macedonia. The country has a very bad reputation for the hundreds of thousands on concrete bunkers that were built by the Communist dictator Enver Hoxha. It has no allies within the Balkan states. The country has a population of 3.3 million and most of the residents follow Islam with some Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics. The next country alphabetically is Bulgaria and the country recognizes Macedonia but the radicals in the country claim Macedonia to be a part of the country. It has a strong parliamentary system, but also a lot of corruption. It is one of the leading producers in Europe for pirated music and software. It does not have any special relations to other states, and has 17% of Muslims with Christian orthodox forming the largest part of the population which is a total of 8.2 million. (A country-by-country look at the Balkans)
The next in line is Bosnia Herzegovina where there were constant fights over the rule of the country by one segment or the other. In one town, Brcko, the Serbs had 'ethnically cleansed' the town of Muslims and Croats. The country is a mixture of Muslims with 43%, Serbs with 31% and Croat with 17%. The country has had the bloodiest fighting since Second World War. The population is 3.4 million and the Serbs are Orthodox Christians, Croats are Catholics and Bosniaks are Muslim. Croatia is the opposite half of this country divided from Yugoslavia and they have mainly Croats with only 12% of Serbs of a total population of 4.7 million. The fight between the two groups spill over here and the Croats want control of southern Bosnia where Croats live. The religion is again mainly Catholic for the Croats and Orthodox Christianity for Serbs. (A country-by-country look at the Balkans)
The next in line is Greece, one of the oldest civilizations in the world with a population of 10.7 million having mainly Orthodox Christians. The country has a constant conflict with Turkey regarding the islands in the Aegean Sea. The country follows a system of Parliamentary democracy and has now joined NATO as also the European Union. The country has an infamous November 17 terrorist group which keeps targeting multinational organizations. The country also has conflicts with Albania and Macedonia. The next is Macedonia which took one of its first steps in international diplomacy through recognition of Taiwan and thus irritating China. The Albanian population is supportive of the Kosovar Albanians. They form 25% of the population of 2 million and Slavic Macedonians are 68%. This is the country where modern terrorism was first developed to fight with the Turkish occupants at the end of the 19th century. They are enemies to most other countries in the region, except Bulgaria. The religion is mainly Orthodox Christianity and Islam.
The next country is Romania and they have mainly persons of Romanian origin, except 7% of Hungarians and 9% of Roma or Gypsy. The country is not satisfied with its boundaries and feels that Moldova should be a part of that country. It is a democracy and slowly increasing in maturity. In terms of religion this has Orthodox Christians, Protestants and Catholics. The last on the list is Yugoslavia and they have a population of 11.2 million with 62% Serbs, 16% of Albanians, 5% of Montenegrin, 3% of Hungarians and 3% of Muslims. The Serbs dream of more land under them to form a united Serbia, but this has not happened. The government is authoritarian. The religions practiced here are Orthodox Christianity, Muslim and Catholic. The country is also home to Chetniks who are bearded nationalist fighters and infamous for the massacres that they caused during World War II and Bosnia and Croatia. (A country-by-country look at the Balkans) Thus the entire region consists of a large number of countries which keep fighting with each other, and none are really developed.
The prices of software
Compared to the prices in United States these are certainly cheaper but there is participation in the market by even multinationals from United States. The prices for some items decided by e-bay are listed here. Many other items are also available, and whether the prices are low or high depends finally on the buyer. The items concerned are Greek Civil War Balkans UN History Book for $9.99, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Feb 1921 Balkans Europe Map for $2.79, (T1688) 1781 col. engraved map Hungary Dalmatian Balkans for $24.99, WWII Paper 40 Finland Balkans Hungary Balloons Marines for GBP 1.99, WWII Papers Balkans Italy Stalingrad Dieppe New Guinea for GBP 3.99 and WWII Papers 1944 Balkans Tito Liberation of France for GBP 2.50. (58 items found for Balkans) When one goes down the list, one will see that unauthorized duplication of software is probably a world wide practice.
Government and the software issue
Though a lot of software sales are illegal, the government is certainly trying to improve the situation. In 2003 September, the government of the Republic of Macedonia started on developing a strategic partnership with Microsoft, which is the leading organization for software in the world. The government announced the objectives of the deal to be legalization of the existing software now used in the government institutions, create the Macedonian versions of Microsoft products and the first to be developed was Windows. The government has not informed the public as to the cost of this deal, but they have said that a lot of the money will come back to the country. For the country this will mean free training for government staff, financing for government projects, the advantage of "e-government' and Microsoft will be compelled to donate products for educational institutions. (Government Chooses Microsoft, Irritating the Open Source Software Proponents)
There are also some 20 companies who will be helped in developing software solutions and also make legal all the software in business subjects in the country. Not everybody was happy with the deal as there are quite a few who support Linux. The biggest noises came from Free Software Macedonia, which is a civic organization of some 50 users. They have been trying to convince citizens that the solution was not the best for Macedonia. The information available with Microsoft Corporation says that only 15% of the software in Macedonia is legal. Considering that there are some 100,000 PCs in the country, this means that 85% of the PCs use illegal software. (Government Chooses Microsoft, Irritating the Open Source Software Proponents)
Competition has also been trying to promote their software as the best and in the first three days of the month, there was a conference of 25 Central and East Europeans in Belgrade, Serbia for discussions regarding free software in Balkans. The conference was organized by the Belgrade Linux Center so that networking among Europeans could improve and discus future projects. The financial backing came from Open society…