- Software piracy grew in the Asia-Pacific region last year but levelled off in most regions of the world, according to a new survey by an industry trade group.
The Global Software Piracy Study, released yesterday by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), found that after declining for six years, piracy rates worldwide remained level, at around 37%, indicating that about one in three pieces of business software was pirated.
Piracy jumped to 51% from 47% last year in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the study. Vietnam had the highest level of pirated software, at 97%.
Losses resulting from software theft worldwide dropped 3.5%, from $US12.2 billion in 1999 to $US11.8 billion last year. The drop was mainly due to a decline in the US, the largest software market in the world, where piracy rates fell to 24% last year, down 1% from the previous year. In Western Europe, one in every three software programs was illegally copied or purchased, according to the BSA.
Charles Kolodgy, research manager at International Data Corporation in Framingham, Massachusetts, says the vendors hurt most by the thefts aren't the big players, such as Microsoft, but smaller competitors whose products are often less expensive.
For example, Kolodgy says, corporations are more likely to illegally copy Microsoft Office rather than to buy a new copy of Sun Microsystems' StarOffice or Corel's Office. "It's just as easy to rip off what everyone else is using rather than using some cheaper version," he says.
The survey, conducted by the West Chester, Pennsylvania-based International Planning & Research, showed piracy rates in Canada dropped 3% to 38%. According to the BSA, education and law enforcement have made the biggest dents in the areas where piracy fell.
In the US, for example, companies can be fined up to $US150,000 for each piece of pirated software. "Clearly this not a traffic ticket," says Bob Kruger, BSA's vice president of enforcement.
"They mistakingly think that if they're caught, all they have to do is go out and do what they should have in the first place . . . buy legal copies," Kruger continues. "It can cost them two, three or four times as much as what would have cost to make sure software is fully licensed."
North America held its position as the region with the lowest piracy at 25%, which represents a 7% decline during the past six years, but the area also had the third-highest monetary loss, at $US2.9 billion. It was topped by the Asia-Pacific region, which lost $US4.1 billion, and Western Europe, which lost more than $US3.1 billion, according to the report.
Eastern Europe continued to have the highest piracy rate at 63%, leading to a loss of nearly $US404 million. By country, Russia and Ukraine continued to have the highest piracy rates, with 88% and 89%, respectively. Poland, the third largest country in the region, reduced its piracy rate between 1999 and 2000 by 6%, to 54%.
Japan's piracy rate increased to 37%, Korea increased to 56% and China increased to 94%. The countries with the highest piracy rates were Vietnam (97%), China (94%) and Indonesia (89%). The countries with the highest dollar losses were Japan ($US1.6 billion), China ($US1.1 billion) and Korea ($US302 million).
Kruger attributes the increases, in part, to a slowing economy, saying, "businesses under pressure financially might not be as rigorous in assuring they have licences on all software installed on their computers."
BSA is a trade industry group whose members include Microsoft, IBM, Intel, Intuit, Novell, Apple Computer, Symantec, Compaq Computer and Adobe Systems.