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A screen shot of a video for a software piracy amnesty campaign in Germany.
An amnesty campaign gives German business 30 days to register their softwareImage: BSA

Software Piracy

May 14, 2010

Some 43 percent of computer programs used worldwide were illegal copies in 2009, says the Business Software Alliance. Losses top $50 billion, and in some countries more than 90 percent of software is illegally copied.


The amount of pirated software being used around the world edged toward 50 percent in 2009 as personal computer markets grew in Brazil, India and China.

An average 43 percent of software used in 2009 was illegal, up from 41 percent in 2008, according to the Business Software Alliance (BSA). While the rampant piracy cost companies some $51 billion (40 million euros) in 2009, losses were three percent less than in 2008.

BSA estimates 28 percent of software on German computers was illegal in 2009, and the value of that software was comparatively high at 1.59 billion euros ($2.02 billion).

Significant financial loss

Georg Herrnleben, BSA director for Central and Eastern Europe, said more significant financial loss probably occurs in the companies rather than in the private sphere. While private users are more likely to install pirated software on their computers, the financial implications of that trend have yet to be studied.

Georg Herrnleben.
Georg Herrnleben says pirated software is a security risk to companiesImage: Business Software Alliance

"Companies naturally always use multiple computers, but they also tend to use much more complex and expensive software," Herrnleben told Deutsche Welle.

"The most important result is certainly on the international level – the fact that piracy rates, or the percentage of illegal software on the market, increased during the past year," he said.

Rates differ by country

Software piracy rates decreased in 54 of the 111 surveyed economies. The rates stayed the same in 38 and increased in 19. In the Republics of Georgia, Moldova and Zimbabwe, they were more than 90 percent.

"We are certainly dealing with a situation in which piracy rates in the so-called Western European countries – in industrialized countries – are less than in Eastern Europe,” Herrnleben said. “However, we need to keep in mind that piracy rates in Western Europe have stayed the same or even increased a bit. In comparison, we're seeing an ongoing positive trend in Eastern Europe in which piracy rates are decreasing."

The United States engaged in the least amount of software piracy in 2009, with 80 percent of the software on its computers being legal. Japan and Luxembourg followed with 79 percent of their software being legally installed.

All businesses affected

According to BSA vice president Jeffrey Hardee, software piracy affects small and medium-sized companies as well as multinational corporations. If software piracy in the Asia-Pacific region were reduced by 10 percentage points, regional economies would gain $41 billion, with 435,000 jobs and $5.4 billion in taxes being created, he said at a press briefing.

SAP headquarters
Many companies use more expensive business software from producers like SAPImage: AP

BSA focuses its legal efforts on companies while using public relations measures to appeal to the ethics of individual users in an effort to convince them to pay for their software, according to Herrnleben.

Illegal software, he noted, may also make company databases vulnerable to hackers as unregistered programs often do not receive security updates.

"There is also a factor of lost effectiveness; software is an extremely important tool and is necessary to do good work,” Herrnleben said. “That's why we generally focus our criminal and civil law activities on companies."

At the beginning of May, BSA started a 30-day grace period in Germany during which companies can register the software they use and correct any illegalities without facing repercussions.

Author: Klaus Ulrich/gps/afp
Editor: John Blau

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