Piracy in Oman on the Rise?

Piracy in Oman

A crazy article was published earlier this week on the UAE’s The National stating that game and software piracy in Oman is ‘resurfacing’. The article interviews a random Omani game shopkeeper who claims according to his own statistics that young people in Oman spend a total of a million Omani rials on pirated software on monthly basis. According to his statistics, the local economy loses 30 to 40 million rials a year because of pirated software.

There is no doubt that these stats are completely rubbish. The small time shop keeper somehow assumes that ‘young people’ go and buy physical disks to pirate their games and movies, when in reality the majority of illegal downloading obviously occurs over the internet and does not require young people to spend a 1,000,000 Omani rials.

The justifications made by this person for the ‘resurfacing’ of piracy are not only illogical, but they are simply false because expats can still work in computer shops and do sell computer games and software.

Being an honest gamer who buys legitimate games is very difficult in Oman, original games take months to arrive and when they do they are usually sold at astronomical prices. The article itself claims that it does not make sense for young people to pay RO 40 when the pirated copy costs RO 1. The truth is that even honest gamers find it unreasonable to pay RO 40 (more than $100) when the same exact disc is sold in the states for a MAXIMUM of $60.  Many gamers, including myself, choose to buy grey area imports and have it shipped from the US for a cheaper price, than buying the grey area imports sold in these stores for double the price.

I am really not sure that piracy in Oman is ‘resurfacing’ – because it really never went down. In the age of digital piracy and bitTorrent, the only solution to the problem would be through educating people about the impact piracy has on our own culture and economy. It is no wonder that there are no game developers in Oman when it is impossible to make profit of any game in this market.


The OpenNet Initiative Report on Oman

(Photo credits: squacco)

The OpenNet Initiative, a partnership between the University of Toronto, Harvard University, the University of Cambridge, and Oxford University, has published last month an annual report on filtering and surveillance of the Internet in Oman.

The report summarizes the factors that contribute in censoring the internet including the legal framework and Omantel’s terms and conditions. The report concludes that censorship in Oman is primarily made on social basis as it focuses on pornographic, homosexual, and anti-hacking websites, but does not necessarily involve political censorship. The report claims that Omantel uses American-made censorship products such as SmartFilter.

The report also claims that the Omani government monitors “private communications, including mobile phones, e-mail, and Internet chat room exchanges, and interrogates chat room users who are critical of government officials or policies by tracking them through their ISP addresses”. The report cites as its authority on this fact the US State Department Human Rights Report that was published in March 2008.

The report is very interesting, but it has a number of inaccuracies (the majority of the websites mentioned are not actually blocked), cites irrelevant cases to support some points (the Omania case was a defamation case and had nothing to do with surveillance), and makes no mention Article 61(4) of the Telecom Law and the recent case of Ali Al Zuwaidi.

However, the report still paints a very general idea in the situation in Oman and how people are pushed to self-censor themselves even though the constitution guarantees the right of freedom of speech. You can read it via this link.


Omani Bloggers and Copyright

Copyright Infringment - OmanForum

A bizarre event occurred today in which expat blogger Angry in Oman was shocked to see a post she wrote on her blog posted in OmanForum under a username identical to her blog name. Angry in Oman was outraged because it seemed as she personally made those posts on the forum and the blog post did not tell the whole story of the incident mentioned making people make the wrong assumptions about what really happened.

It eventually turned out that this was a new forum feature introduced by OmanForum’s administrator for which he thought it would be ‘a good idea’ to copy other people blog posts in the forum because it makes ‘the forum more interesting’ and gives the author ‘extra exposure’. The administrator of OmanForum removed the thread after several members complained about the issue, however, he did not seem to be convinced that he did anything wrong.

For some reason, many people assume that crediting the source gives them the right to copy it, which is obviously not the case. If Neo, OmanForum’s administrator, has been for a long time copying articles from elsewhere and crediting them doesn’t mean that what has been doing is legally or morally right. The exceptions to the protection of copyright n Oman are very limited in scope, and copying for the purpose of “making the forum more interesting and giving the author extra exposure” is obviously not one of these exceptions.

Technically, Angry in Oman can sue for copyright infringement, but obviously she will not do that as it compromise her identity. If she ever were to take legal action, she should be able to force OmanForum to remove all infringing content, and she migh even be able to ask for monetary compensation because OmanForum is a business venture that sells advertising and commercially benefits from the copyright infringement it undertakes as material copied from elsewhere is used to attract more readers and more advertisement impressions.