With a general shift towards more dependence on market mechanisms, the liberalization of the economy, opening the path for positive competition and withdrawal of the role of the state from all production activities in all its forms, comes the supervisory role of the ad hoc governmental institutions.

At present a lot of emphasis is being placed on removing all obstacles to attracting information technology firms to Egypt and developing the local software development industry.

Effective supervision for the protection of software investments is an important step to encourage creativity among the intellectual workers in the field. Software development is built upon the creativity of humans; therefore, there is no limit to the extent of research and development activity. The more users increase, the more demand there will be.

The developed countries stipulated intellectual property protection as a main criteria for participating in world trade, as is evident in the TRIPs Agreement which clearly provides protection for computer software and databases. Egypt must take measures in compliance with its international commitments as a member to the TRIPs Agreement. Egypt is trying to issue a unified Intellectual Property Law that is still being drafted at the Ministry of Justice and to activate the supervisory role of the state authorities in implementing the current intellectual property law.

New Role

Dr. Madkor Thabet, Head of the Central Department for Artistic Works of the Ministry of Culture, said that there is a new supervisory role for the protection of intellectual property rights in general, and computer software in particular, because the latter represents the apex of the creativity and development of the human mind. This calls for developing the means to protect the intellectual property of this new field under the motto "Towards Developing Creativity".

The aim is to protect the rights and their holders, not just to supervise creativity.

Dr. Thabet added that Egypt's commitments under the TRIPs Agreement started in January 2000 and that Egypt's general trend is to encourage investments in the software industry in Egypt. This requires sufficient protection in the Egyptian market and making the market based on supply-and-demand mechanisms to ensure financial returns that keep the firms operating in Egypt. This in turn provides jobs and human resources development of the Egyptian workforce.

Compliance is a serious issue because Egypt can be sued before the Dispute Settlement Body of the WTO for not providing protection. Once again this can result in countervailing duties by complaining countries on imports from Egypt.

Dr. Thabet pointed out that one of the most important supervision mechanisms in the protection of intellectual property is to spread awareness through an informatory campaign in the mass media as well as direct contact through telephone and telefax. He went on to say that lists and databases of all software-using firms are being compiled so that they may contact them and so that warnings will be issued to contravening firms.

No Exceptions

Dr. Thabet explained that there will be no exceptions for any firm or government authority; all must implement the law. He added that the upcoming phase will witness more cooperation and coordination between the state department because their hope is to provide a suitable climate for developing creativity in the software industry, reducing software piracy and affirming the state's credibility in combating piracy. Dr. Thabet said that supervision campaigns and raids were still going at the same level and that they will soon be increased especially after the awareness spreading campaigns. Such raids and campaigns will include foreign firms since there are no exceptions. He added that foreign firms should set a good example to other firms in the field of protecting intellectual property; they should not resort to cost cutting in investments relating to the use of software.

Heedful Supervision

In answer to a question on the supervision technique, Dr. Thabet said that the raids and campaigns would retain their current heedful supervision technique. He explained that the raiding authority will only copy the programs on the PC disk used by a contravening firm and that no computers would be confiscated. He went on to say that all procedures for the raids and confiscations would be correct to the letter of the law.

In reply to another question on raising the income of those working in the field lest they should succumb to financial pressure, Dr. Thabet said that foremost among his priorities is to improve the income of the staff of the Supervision Department so as to protect them against financial temptations.

Regarding the effects of entering into cooperation agreements between the government and Microsoft, Inc. for providing software at reduced prices, Dr. Thabet said that such agreements will have a positive effect because they will reduce piracy in computer software. He explained that the said agreements allow all state authorities and departments to obtain licenses to use Microsoft's software at low prices and that university students will have the right to use such programs at a reduced cost.

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