Software piracy in Australia has risen to 33 per cent, up 1 per cent from last year, according to the Business Software Association of Australia.
While 1 per cent may not seem much of an increase, it is a figure not to be scoffed at says BSAA chairman, Jim McNamara, especially when other countries with similar IT markets are in the mid-20s with their figures decreasing.
While he is unsure why Australia's software piracy rate is increasing, he is quick to point out the serious nature of the issue, saying it could affect Australia's reputation.
"Australia is at risk of attaining Third World status in terms of its approach to intellectual property," says McNamara.
While he admits this statement is sensational he insists it is valid, saying third world countries usually sit between a 35-60 per cent rate of piracy, and Australia is not far behind with 33.
The worst offenders are Vietnam (98 per cent), China (91 per cent) and Indonesia (85 per cent), but McNamara says Australia can't really compare with these countries due to the size difference in IT markets.
"Australia is more on a par with the US and UK where the piracy rate is decreasing," he says. "The US has a rate of 25 per cent, down one per cent from last year, and the UK has a rate of 26 per cent."
McNamara says the main offender in Australia is corporate piracy, next being counterfeit operations and - specific to resellers - hard-disk loading.
According to McNamara, the BSAA is very serious about bringing offenders to justice, revealing it is planning to "throw everything we can in terms of litigating" once their 60-day software truce ends on June 30.
The BSAA is fully funded by their members (who include Adobe, Apple Computer, Compaq, Dell, IBM, Intel, Macromedia, Microsoft, Network Associates, Novell, Sybase, and Symantec) and they are currently lobbying the Federal Government to change Intellectual Property law in line with overseas law, which will make legal proceedings less time consuming and more effective. McNamara is confident these changes will happen this year.
Worldwide, piracy is estimated to cost software companies such as Adobe and Microsoft $US11.75 billion a year - with $US4 billion being specific to the Asia-Pacific region, which is the only region to have shown an increase. From a study of 65 countries, the average rate of piracy is 37 per cent and Australia sits in the bottom 10 per cent of countries.