Software Piracy

September 13, 2007 12:53pm CST
In a study on global software piracy conducted by the highly reputable market research firm IDC on July, 2004 it was estimated that over $30 billion worth of software was illegally installed worldwide during the year 2003 (see the BSA and IDC Global Software Piracy Study by the Business Software Alliance and IDC [BSA1]). This means that 36 percent of the total software products installed during that period were obtained illegally. In another study, IDC estimated that “lowering piracy by 10 percentage points over four years would add more than 1 million new jobs and $400 billion in economic growth worldwide.” Keep in mind that this information comes from studies commissioned by the Business Software Alliance (BSA)—a nonprofit organization whose aim is to combat software piracy. BSA is funded partially by the U.S. government, but primarily by the world’s software giants including Adobe, Apple, IBM,Microsoft, and many others. These organizations have undoubtedly been suffering great losses due to software piracy, but these studies still seem a bit tainted in the sense that they appear to ignore certain parameters that don’t properly align with funding members’ interests. For example, in order to estimate the magnitude of worldwide software piracy the study compares the total number of PCs sold with the total number of software products installed. This sounds like a good approach, but the study apparently ignores the factor of free open-source software, which implies that any PC that runs free software such as Linux or OpenOffice was considered “illegal” for the purpose of the study. Still, piracy remains a huge issue in the industry. Several years ago the only way to illegally duplicate software was by making a physical copy using a floppy diskette or some other physical medium. This situation has changed radically with the advent of the Internet. The Internet allows for simple and anonymous transfer of information in a way that makes piracy a living nightmare for copyright owners. It is no longer necessary to find a friendly neighbor who has a copy of your favorite software, or even to know such a person. All you need nowadays is to run a quick search for “warez” on the Internet, and you’ll find copies of most popular programs ready for downloading. What’s really incredible about this is that most of the products out there were originally released with some form of copy protection! There are just huge numbers of crackers out there that are working tirelessly on cracking any reasonably useful software as soon as it is released.
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