Overall global software piracy rate still 35%, but declining

India, China and Russia have all seen a dip in piracy rates, says a joint IDC-BSA study. Todd R Weiss reports

While the overall software piracy rate worldwide remained at a high 35% last year — the same as in 2004 — the piracy rate in 51 of the 97 countries surveyed declined, according to a new joint-study from the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and market research company IDC.

The third annual piracy study, by the Washington-based BSA and Massachusetts-based IDC shows the rate of piracy rose in 19 of the nations surveyed. The study pegged the value of losses to software makers at US$34 billion (NZ$54.4 billion) — US$1.6 billion more than the losses in 2004.

“We did see in the majority of countries that piracy went down, especially in some of the emerging countries,” says Robert Holleyman, president and Chief exectutive of BSA, an industry group that represents commercial software and hardware makers around the world against piracy and copyright infringement.

“We want to take the results where we’re seeing progress and translate that to the countries where we’re not seeing progress.”

The 21-page study found encouraging examples of a dip in piracy rates, particularly in countries such as India, China and Russia. China saw a four-point drop, from 90% to 86%; Russia saw a four-point drop as well, from 87% to 83%. And in India, piracy rates slipped from 74% to 72%.

The global rate remained unchanged between 2004 and 2005 because developed markets, such as the US, Western Europe, Japan and a handful of Asian countries, dominate the software market and their combined piracy rate hardly moved, according to the study.

“I think it’s less of a problem in the US because there has been a very active enforcement and education programme in the US for many years now, and the penalties for using pirated software in an organisation are very steep,” Holleyman says.

“Most businesses [in the US] realise it’s just too risky to use pirated software.”

In many countries where piracy rates are high those risks aren’t as high because of a lack of enforcement, he says.

An earlier IDC/BSA study indicated that a drop in the piracy rate of ten points, to 25%, would create as many as 2.4 million jobs, add US$400 billion to worldwide economic growth and generate US$67 billion in tax revenues.

“We’re going to fight for the goal of eliminating piracy, but we also recognise the need to see year-over-year progress,” Holleyman says.

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