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Software pirates cost $9.7bn in Europe - BSA

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The software piracy rate in the UK hit 29 per cent last year, with the rate of bootlegging in Europe also on the rise. Piracy in the EU region is running at 37 per cent, according to the Business Software Alliance's Global Piracy Study 2003, out today. This equates to a cost to software publishers of more than $9.7bn in Europe ($1.6bn in the UK), the BSA claims.

The study was conducted for the first time by IDC, using a different methodology from previous years. The analyst firm looked at piracy of operating system software and in the consumer sector as well as illicit use of business applications, which remains the greatest source of missed revenues.

Thirty-six per cent of the software installed on computers worldwide was pirated in 2003, representing a loss of nearly $29bn, according to the BSA's study. While $80bn in software was installed on computers worldwide last year, only $51bn was legally purchased. For its analysis, IDC drew upon its worldwide data for software and hardware shipments, conducted more than 5,600 interviews in 15 countries, and used its in-country analysts around the world to evaluate local market conditions.

This year's figures are not directly comparable with last year's, but Mike Newton, UK spokesman for BSA, reckons that software piracy is on the rise.

The BSA states that a reduction in software piracy by 10 per cent could bring over 250,000 new European jobs and in excess of €18bn ($22.3bn) in tax revenues by 2006. The economic basis of this argument is questionable: it is predicated on a number of assumptions such as everyone paying top dollar for software that they could no longer steal. It also neglects the effect that increased IT spending would have on the wider economy. That's not to say software piracy isn't a genuine problem for software suppliers, though.

The BSA wants to get teachers to teach kids about the evils of piracy.

"We need to engender greater respect of IP, starting in schools. When children grow up and work in creative fields they should expect their work to be respected rather than ripped off," said Newton. In Ireland a scheme is already underway to promote the value of software and the need to be licence compliant to teachers and secondary school pupils.

The BSA also wants to highlight the security risks of using pirated software and to promote good software asset management (practices. "The vast majority of software piracy is inadvertent and due to poor controls and asset management," said Newton. The BSA is also calling on governments to implement recent (and controversial) EU enforcement and copyright directives. ®

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