Half Of PC Users Are Pirates, Says Study

Piracy Landscape
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One in four UK computer users have installed unlicensed software, says BSA

Over half of PC users worldwide have admitted to using pirate software last year, according to a study by the trade group Business Software Alliance (BSA).

BSA’s ninth annual Global Software Piracy Study has shown a sharp increase in software piracy, especially among emerging economies. In the UK, more than one in four programs users installed in 2011 were unlicensed.

Flying the Jolly Roger

In a survey of around 15,000 computer users from a total of 33 countries around the world, 57 percent admitted to using pirated software, up from 42 percent the year before. The BSA estimates that the global annual cost of software piracy has reached $63.4 billion (£40b).

UK is firmly below the global average, with just 27 percent of computer users admitting they have acquired software illegally last year. This translates into an approximate £1.2 billion loss by the software industry.

According to the study, young men are much more likely to use unlicensed software than any other demographic. 28 percent of professed software pirates in the UK are under 34 years old, and 79 percent are male.

“As the UK enters a double-dip recession, it has never been more important to protect the creative industry’s intellectual property and its vital contribution to the economy. However, to do so we need to fundamentally change the way we view and acquire software,” says Julian Swan, director of compliance marketing at BSA EMEA.

The study discovered that more than three quarters (77 percent) of UK PC users surveyed do not think the risk of getting caught is an effective deterrent to software piracy.

According to the UK law, the maximum amount of damages the software developers can claim is equivalent to the cost of the software license. The BSA is calling for a stronger damages law, including double damages, to stop the increase in illegal software use.

The study has also found that computer users in emerging markets are more likely to use pirated software than in mature ones – 68 percent against 24 percent respectively.

By its sheer scale, China has the most troubling piracy problem. Its illegal software market was worth nearly £5.5 billion in 2011 versus a legal market of less than £1.7 billion.

Walking the plank

According to BSA, on average only 20 percent of software pirates consider current enforcement measures a sufficient deterrent to their activities.

“It is clear that the fight against software piracy is far from over. Although emerging markets are of the greatest concern, the problem is still persisting in mature markets, in which one in four admit to using pirated software. One of the more troubling issues is that business decision makers purchase some legitimate copies but then turn a blind eye to further (illegal) installations for new users, locations and devices,” said Robin Fry, commercial services partner at DAC Beachcroft.

“Although, the legal framework currently in place in the UK generally serves the software industry well, readily accessible enforcement could be improved. As an organisation we endeavour to assist our members in protecting their products and take to task those who illicitly seek to exploit them. However, the existing legislative process can be unduly wieldy – so much so that many businesses, and enforcement agencies, are put off,” commented Julian Heathcote Hobbins, general counsel at Federation Against Software Theft.

“It is all very well having the IP rights in place, but unless we can improve the practical enforcement measures, the effectiveness of the laws will be blunted,” he added.

We should note that the previous BSA reports have been criticised by some members of the industry as “propaganda”.

BSA has recently exercised its power by working out a settlement worth £10,000 with the Blackpool-based company George Morrison over its illegal use of Microsoft and Autodesk products.

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Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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  1. Oh look, they say China has the most piracy.
    You know what else China has?

    The most restrictions to prevent it.

  2. Over half of PC users worldwide have admitted to using pirate software last year
    That’s an odd statement.
    If it said “Over half of PC users worldwide have used pirate software last year” one would guess they’d arrived at that by conducting some kind of survey among a a group of PC users and then scaling up the results for the number of PC users worldwide.
    But “have admitted” implies to me that they actually have confessions from half the world’s PC users.

  3. They should have asked “Would you buy a legitimate copy of the software if a pirated copy was not an option ?” The answer would be “No” for over 75 % of those who has admitted they use pirated software.

  4. In the developing world close to 80% of the user base of Windows, Office and other popular software packages are pirated. In China, India and Russia it is as easy as a walk down to the local market to get a burned CD for less than a $10.00 that has any operating system or software desired and I will add without any virus’s or any malware included.

    The software business is willfully blind to this and instead focuses all criminal enforcement and legal actions on users in the developing world, the very people who for the most part actually pay for the software or obtain it via OEM. This in turn pushes more “paid” users to use Open Source software in the developed world and this is partly why the Open Source movement has gained so many followers.

    The sad thing is that the software business – that involves selling a license – is obselete because it is impossible to sell it this way in the developing world. The only future software companies will either Open Source their business products and become enterprise service providers, start selling apps for the mobile platforms or go out of business.

  5. I seriously doubt that this would be business software. I can understand kids pirating games – and as a parent, I’ll often “adjust” a game that I bought for my kids to work on both their computers because dammit, I already bought it and the licence should be for the family not the individual.

    However, there’s no excuse for pirating business software – not when the open source alternatives are just as good, if not better.

    If the BSA want to do some good against piracy, then maybe they should start recommending open source software as an alternative to pirated software.

  6. Frankly Unless you eliminate the cause of Piracy, you can not stop it by any means. The reason is very simple to understand. The British Pound, Euro and Dollars have different purchasing power in different parts of the world. Since I am from India, I will confine myself to India. but it equally applies to China and emerging economies. Ten Dollars will be affordable sum in these developed counteries but in India it is a big amopunt. Now if Software price is 40 dollars and pirated one is 50 cents you tell me which one you will buy. To end Piracy soft ware price should have differential Price for different emerging counteries. this is the ultimate solution to stop Piaracy.

  7. I do not condone piracy, but the “billions” in losses assumes that every person who pirates would buy the software if they couldn’t get it illegally. The vast majority of pirates could not afford the software in the first place so stopping piracy would result in people using the computer less, not purchasing more.