Romania's president delivered an encomium to software piracy during Bill Gates' world tour promoting Windows Vista.
President Traian Basescu reportedly told Gates that software piracy helped build a vibrant technology industry in Romania.
Appearing with Gates at the opening of a Microsoft global technology center in Bucharest, he said. "Piracy helped the young generation discover computers. It set off the development of the IT industry in Romania," he said. Cue sound of Microsoft PR jaws dropping.
"[Piracy] helped Romanians improve their creative capacity in the IT industry, which has become famous around the world... ten years ago, it was an investment in Romania's friendship with Microsoft and with Bill Gates."
Gates is not reported to have responded, but his company campaigns against piracy and works vigorously with prosecutors to bring criminals to justice.
The Romanian IT service sector is expected to grow 16.8 per cent during the next few years to hit $356m in 2009, according to IDC. However, 72 per cent of software in Romania, one of the EC's newest member states, is pirated according to the Business Software Alliance (BSA). That costs companies like Microsoft $111m in lost revenue each year.
Experts have called for stronger action from Romanian officials on software piracy, with prosecutors encouraged to stop dismissing potential cases. The International Intellectual Property Alliance in 2006 said dismissals are acting as a disincentive on police to clamp down on criminals, who are mostly end-users and distributors. ®