Survey: Software piracy rates remain high

Eastern Europe led the world in software piracy last year, followed closely by the Asia-Pacific region, the only area to see a rise in software copyright infringement, according to a new survey released by an industry trade group.

The "Global Software Piracy Study," released last week by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), found that after declining for six years, piracy rates worldwide remained level last year, at about 37 percent.

Piracy in the Asia-Pacific region jumped from 47 percent to 51 percent, resulting in a loss of US$4.1 billion, according to the study. Vietnam had the highest rate of pirated software at 97 percent, followed by China at 94 percent and Indonesia at 89 percent.

Bob Kruger, vice president of enforcement at the Washington-based BSA, attributed the increases in part to a slowing economy.

"Businesses under pressure financially might not be as rigorous in assuring they have licenses on all software installed on their computers," he said.

Eastern Europe continued to have the highest piracy rate, at 63 percent, leading to a loss of nearly $404 million. By country, Russia and Ukraine have the highest regional piracy rates, at 88 percent and 89 percent, respectively. Poland, the third-largest country in the region, reduced its piracy rate between 1999 and 2000 by 6 percent, to 54 percent.

The survey, conducted by Maynard, Mass.-based International Planning & Research Corp., showed that losses resulting from software theft worldwide dropped 3.5 percent, from $12.2 billion in 1999 to $11.8 billion last year. The drop was mainly the result of a decline in the U.S., the largest software market in the world, where piracy rates fell to 24 percent last year, down 1 percent from the previous year. Piracy rates in Canada dropped 3 percent, to 38 percent.

Charles Kolodgy, a research manager at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass., said the vendors hurt most by the thefts aren't the big players, such as Microsoft Corp., but smaller competitors whose products are less expensive. For example, he said, corporations are more likely to illegally copy Microsoft Office than to buy a new copy of Sun Microsystems Inc.'s StarOffice or Ottawa-based Corel Corp.'s Office. "It's just as easy to rip off what everyone else is using, rather than using some cheaper version," he said.

According to the BSA, education and law enforcement have made the biggest dents in the areas where piracy fell. In the U.S., for example, companies can be fined up to $150,000 for each piece of pirated software. "Clearly, this is not a traffic ticket," Kruger said.

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