While the recording industry has been fighting a fierce battle to deal with the piracy of music, the software industry has been engaged in the same fight, though not as openly.
The Business Software Alliance (BSA) has been keeping a track of piracy figures relating to software in Australia, and its recent research paints a sobering picture of how locals acquire the software on their PCs.
By the way of the BSA’s and IDC’s <i>2011 Global Software Piracy Study</i>, it found that 23 per cent of software installed on PCs in Australia is pirated.
While this figure means that that the commercial value of pirated software in Australia in 2011 is estimated to be worth $739 million, the revelation does not surprise BSA Australia co-chair, Clayton Noble.
“We have been conducting this study for a number of years now, and the absolute proportion has been falling over the years, which is great news,” he said.
“The proportion of new copies installed that are pirated has been falling in Australia over a number of years, and that’s a positive development for the software industry and for the Australian economy.”
For Noble, the results mean that people are buying genuine copies of software more often, and this is not only helping members of the BSA that may have developed the product, but also helping out the channel partners and retailers that are “part of the eco-system” that each of those BSA members relies on in Australia.
However, it is an undeniable fact that one-in-four software packages are being pirated in a developed nation such as Australia, which is something that Noble feels is not right.
“It’s unacceptable that such a high proportion of software installed and used in Australia is pirated,” he said.
To combat this, the BSA is trying to communicate to other people that there are a lot of risks for consumers in using non-genuine software.
“People think they can save a few dollars by getting a cracked copy of software from the Internet, but they will get a surprise when they have security problems later on, such as data corruption, identity theft, or malware infecting their computers,” Noble said.
If a consumer didn't buy genuine software, they could be in for a nasty surprise.
“So many people take the chance on using pirated software that they can’t be sure on what they are getting,” Noble said.
“It’s a worry for us and for our consumers, as much as for our members’ businesses and the eco-system of resellers.”
Fortunately, the report found that Australia is the only country in APAC where piracy has consistently dropped over the last eight years, at a rate of one percentage point per year.
While a constant reduction is nice, Noble admits that finding ways to increase this trend is something the BSA and its members were “struggling with”.
“We need to do more to get the message out to people about the benefits of genuine licensed software, and the risks of using pirated software,” he said.
“You don’t know what you’re getting with that mysterious download or white label DVD.”
Raising awareness among consumers and businesses alike about the risks of using dodgy software, and the benefits of using genuine, is one thing that Noble thinks the BSA can do in the industry to reduce the piracy rate.
“Apart from that, the BSA also undertakes enforcement on behalf of all its members,” he said.
For Noble, it comes down to getting the message out to businesses that if someones want to take the chance on not paying for software, then the BSA does take action on it to make it “not worth the risk”.
“The harm to your business reputation, the damages you can be liable for, it’s not a good economic decision to wait and see if you get caught,” he said.