Verticals/The Boardroom

A quarter of UK PC users are software pirates

The Boardroom Allan Swann

04:19, May 15 2012

New research shows that 27% of computer users in the UK have pirated software on their computers, costing the industry £1.2bn.

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) today released its 2011 Global Piracy Study, which shows that the problem has gotten worse - last year the UK figure was 26%.

The survey also proves that the lack of deterrent is not the problem - 77% of those surveyed said that they do not think the risk of getting caught is an effective deterrent to software piracy. Those that professed to be pirates are also young (28% are under 34) and 79% are male.

The Cameron Government has attempted to style itself as a 'tech-friendly' administration, and has become more active in battling pirates. The courts recently blocked access to The PirateBay - one of the world's most popular torrent tracking sites. Virgin Media, the first company to adhere to the directive has been the subject of hacker attacks. Other ISPs, such as BT, have attempted to delay implementation of the court's orders.

The BSA believes that, while the recession has been a factor, European business decision makers do confess to pirating software more frequently than most other users. They are more than twice as likely as others to buy software for one computer and then install it on additional machines in their offices.

"As the UK enters a double-dip recession, it has never been more important to protect the creative industry's intellectual property (IP) and its vital contribution to the economy," says Julian Swan, Director, Compliance Marketing, BSA EMEA.

"However, to do so we need to fundamentally change the way we view and acquire software. It is not another utility. It powers everything we do to secure business success. Software should be the very thing businesses invest in, not scrimp and steal. Anyone who uses software they haven't paid for should face hefty consequences."

The BSA would like to see a stronger damages law, including double damages, to clamp down on illegal software use. This would provide a greater deterrent than the existing law, under which damages equivalent to the cost of the software license are permissible.

Worldwide the figure is far worse, 57% of global PC users obtain software illegally. This is disproportionately weighed to developing nations, where the figure is 68%. Developed nations as a whole average 24%. The rate of growth in PC ownership in developing nations has been a factor - accounting for around 56% of the world's new PC shipments in 2011. These markets now hold more than half of all PCs in use.

This helps explain the market dynamics behind the global software piracy rate, which hovered at 42 percent in 2011 while a steadily expanding marketplace in the developing world drove the commercial value of software theft to a new record of £39.6 billion from £36.6 billion in 2010.

No surprise that China has the largest piracy problem. Its illegal software market was worth nearly £5.5bn in 2011, versus a legal market of less than £1.7bn. Its piracy rate is an astonishing 77%.

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