BSA Study Finds Over Half of Computer Users Admit to Pirating Software

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By Terri Eyden

According to the Business Software Alliance's (BSA) ninth annual study - 2011 BSA Global Software Piracy Study – the value of software theft is at an astounding all-time high ‒ $63.4 billion in 2011, up from $58.8 billion in 2010. This increase was propelled by increased PC shipments to emerging economies where piracy rates are highest.

The survey revealed that 57 percent of the world's personal computer users admit they acquire pirated software: 

  •  5 percent said they "always" pirate.
  • 9 percent said they "mostly" pirate.
  • 17 percent said they "occasionally" pirate.
  • 26 percent said they "rarely" pirate.

Key Findings of the Study

  • Overall, the study found that piracy rates in emerging markets tower over those in mature markets – 68 percent to 24 percent.
  • 20 percent of frequent pirates in mature markets and 15 percent in emerging markets say the risk of getting caught is their reason not to do it.
  • The most frequent software pirates are disproportionately young and male.
  • The most frequent pirates are more than twice as likely to live in an emerging economy as they are to live in a mature one – 38 percent to 15 percent.
  • 55 percent of the most frequent pirates have more software on their computers than do non-pirates.
  • Business decision makers are more than twice as likely as others to say they buy software for one computer and then install it on additional machines in their offices.

How Can Your Firm Keep Tabs on Your Software and Prevent Piracy?

Martin Roth, CPA, CITP, Partner-in-Charge of Technology, Kemper CPA Group, LLP, offers his advice:

Pirating of software can be a serious issue within an organization; management may think the problem is addressed when they purchase a site license, or a number of software licenses, but this is only the beginning.  Users could install applications that management has not approved, or they could bring in personal applications for their own use.

  • Businesses can take precautions to limit their exposure of unlicensed, under-licensed, and unknown software installations. Microsoft networks have the ability to place limits on who is able to install applications on your network. You can implement security settings so only administrators can install applications on network computers.
  • Another tool to use is network monitoring software, which can notify your administrator when applications are installed. This type of software will tell your administrator the PC, date, time, and name of the software installed.
  • Firms should consider running software auditing tools to compare installed applications with licensed applications. Implementation of prevention and monitoring tools can help management limit their risk and exposure to software pirating.

Matthew D. Murphy, CPA, Partner, Rosen Seymour Shapss Martin & Company LLP, shares his firm's strategies: 

  • We use a software control sheet that lists all software purchased by the firm, including a description of the product and its uses, which department uses the product, the number of licenses, and term of the license, etc., in order to maintain control of the inventory of products on hand. This not only helps ensure products are updated timely, but also assists to determine licensing needs for each product.
  • The IT department deploys software products to be installed to specific user groups and monitors the workstations for network activity and usage, and they will investigate any unusual activity.
  • Many firms are moving toward a virtual desktop environment, which allows for even greater control for the IT department and overall security with regards to programs to be installed for the employees.
  • Insurance companies also look to have evidence of internal or external reviews of software licensing for employee workstations.

A Look at Piracy Rates around the World

  • United States: 19 percent
  • Japan: 21percent
  • Australia: 23 percent
  • Canada: 27 percent
  • EU regional average: 33 percent
  • Mexico: 57 percent
  • India: 63 percent
  • Russia: 63 percent
  • Venezuela: 88 percent

 "IP [intellectual property] theft is a global economic drain, stifling not only IT innovation, but job creation across all sectors of the economy", said BSA Senior Vice President of Anti-Piracy Jodie Kelley. "Governments, especially in emerging markets where most of the theft is taking place, must take steps to modernize their IP laws and expand enforcement efforts to ensure that those who pirate software face real consequences."

Full copies of the study, plus additional information about methodology and findings, are available for download on BSA's website

BSA conducted the annual study of global software piracy in partnership with the research firms of IDC and Ipsos Public Affairs. The study methodology involved collecting 182 discrete data inputs and assessing PC and software trends in 116 markets. This year's study also included a survey of nearly 15,000 computer users in 33 countries that together account for 82 percent of the global PC market.

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