Infrastructure // PC & Servers
10:07 AM

Software Piracy Dips, Despite Recession

In 2009, the United States recorded the lowest level of software piracy worldwide.

A new report finds that software piracy rates may be in decline. But for every $100 of software legitimately sold globally, another $43 worth of pirated software still makes its way into the market.

Those results come from the seventh-annual “Global PC Software Piracy Study,” conducted by market researcher IDC and sponsored by the Business Software Alliance, a software industry trade group that counts among its customers, Adobe, Apple, IBM and Symantec.

With experts predicting that the recession would drive more people to embrace pirated software, in fact, the opposite appears to have occurred, with piracy declining in many countries. From 2008 to 2009, the global software piracy rate, however, increased from 41% to 43%, largely due to increased PC sales in emerging economies.

But the global value of unlicensed software decreased by 3%, to $54.1 billion, staying about the same in actual dollar amounts, due to exchange-rate fluctuations.

“Given the economy, 2009 piracy rates are better than we expected,” said BSA president and CEO Robert Holleyman in a statement.

Worldwide, PC shipments to businesses, governments and schools dropped by 15% from 2008 to 2009, but increased by 17% to consumers. That’s good news for piracy prevention, said IDC, because “piracy is generally higher in software installed on older computers than on new PCs.”

In 2009, the United States recorded the lowest level of software piracy worldwide, at 20 percent, unchanged from last year. But that still equals about $8.4 billion worth of pirated software. On the other end of the piracy spectrum, Georgia recorded the highest rate, at 95%.

BSA’s Holleyman called on governments to further crack down on software piracy. “Few, if any, industries could withstand the theft of $51 billion worth of their products. To foster innovation and maximize the economic impact of the IT industry, governments must act -- particularly those in fast-growing, high-piracy countries.”

Global theft statistics in hand, what’s the next step for individual software vendors that want to recoup lost revenue?

Many businesses will focus on the $16 billion that IDC estimates was lost to pirated software in the Asia-Pacific region, said Michael Goff, marketing director for V.i. Labs, which provides piracy business intelligence and protection for software vendors. “But more interestingly, when you combine the North American and European markets, they had a combined $21 billion in unlicensed software,” he said. “There’s a significant opportunity for revenue recovery from unlicensed software in these markets where intellectual property protection is really good.”

Furthermore, businesses -- not consumers -- already using a vendor's products have, in effect, chosen that product over the competition, and this creates an opportunity, he said. “If you can identify business infringers who are pirating your software, you’ve basically won the battle. They’re a customer of yours, they just haven’t paid you yet.”

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