New Research Exposes the State of Global Software Piracy in 2010

Recently the Business Software Alliance (BSA) released a new study on the increasing volume of software theft worldwide. The research presents the state of software piracy rates in 116 countries, public opinions on the benefits of intellectual property (IP) rights and strategies for addressing the growth of IP theft globally.

The BSA report, conducted with IDC, is titled, “The 2010 BSA Global Software Piracy Study,” and found that last year the commercial value of software piracy rose 14% globally to almost $59 billion in 2010. Of particular note is the degree to which piracy in emerging economies has contributed to the global increase. Six years ago, emerging economies were responsible for less than a third of the global commercial value of PC software theft, but in 2010 those economies accounted for more than half, reaching a value of $31.9 billion. It is revealing that as the volume of computers exported to emerging countries advanced to 50% of the global total, the value of paid software licenses within those markets represented less than 20% of sales worldwide.

In a discordant counter note, the Chinese Patent Office recently announced that software piracy in China is down from 14% to 12%. Notably, this conclusion was based on a survey sent to individuals and companies (but not government entities), apparently asking them to identify themselves as pirates. BSA’s study took a more scientific approach and concluded that China suffers from a piracy rate of 78%.

BSA report also included the results of public opinion data collected by IPSOS Public Affairs. Encouragingly, 70% of those asked believe that IP owners deserve to be paid for their creations. The survey found that 59% of PC users believe IP rights support local economies and 61% believe they create jobs. However, many consumers are confused about what is legal. The most common occurrence of software piracy is the use of a copy licensed for a single computer on multiple machines. BSA’s study shows 57% of users in developing economies, and 63% in advanced economies, mistakenly think this act is legal if completed at home. Additionally, as many as 51% of users in developing countries, and 47% of users overall, think the action is legal when conducted at work. Within emerging markets, a total of 46% of PC users think software acquired via peer-to-peer networks is most likely legal, but in advanced economies this number drops to 21%. The report also cited back to the 2010 BSA-IDC Piracy Impact Study, which concluded that reducing the global piracy rate by 10% over four years would generate half a million new jobs.

The bottom line is that the scope of software piracy is tremendous and, especially in emerging markets, on the rise. This illegal activity steals not only from the legitimate companies, but deprives people around the world of high-paying jobs in a modern sector of the global economy. Based on the stats, it is clear that education needs to be part of the solution, but not the only part. This should be a priority for governments around the world to correct. And the U.S. Government should continue to lead by providing the best example.

Subscribe for updates from GIPC