Expanding Internet Access Driving Software Piracy, Study Says


The global software piracy rate rose to 41% in 2008 from 38% in 2007, costing rights owners an exchange-rate adjusted $50 billion, according to a joint study between the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and IDC released last week.  One of the factors driving greater piracy is increased high-speed Internet access, particularly in emerging markets where piracy rates are the highest.  Software piracy is rampant on many Internet channels, including peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, auctions sites and websites.  On auction sites alone, software piracy is estimated to be between 50% and 90%, according to an earlier BSA report.

Other key findings from the May 2009 joint study include: 


  • Even though global software piracy increased overall in 2008, the piracy rate actually dropped in 52% of the 110 countries studied and stayed the same in 35% of them

  • The impact of the global economic recession on software piracy is so far mixed, as reduced buying power is just one of many factors affecting piracy

  • Sites offering access to pirated software also spread malware.  According to a 2006 IDC study, 29% of websites and 61% of P2P sites offering pirated software attempt to distribute malware.

  • While the US has the lowest piracy rate in the world – 20% – it suffered the largest revenue loss in 2008 due to piracy given its leadership position in the global software industry


Brand owners are not standing by idle, however.  There have been a number of recent lawsuits against popular BitTorrent sites used to disseminate software, movies and music; just last month, the owners of the world’s most high-profile file sharing site – the Pirate Bay – were found guilty of copyright infringement and sentenced to one year in jail and fined $4.5 million.  Brand owners in conjunction with the Department of Justice have also been successful in obtaining 34 convictions involving the selling of pirated software on auction sites.  The BSA itself has been active in sending more than 1.9 million takedown notices in 2007 to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to remove illegal software and has successfully shutdown thousands of illegal online auction listings.  

So, what can other brand owners from software and other industries learn from this?  Keep fighting the fight.  While piracy increased overall and in emerging countries, piracy actually went down in 57 countries and didn’t get worse in 39 countries.  This is due to the proactive brand protection efforts – both online and off – of leading global corporations.  By actively enforcing their rights online and implementing proven strategies involving consumer education, customer and channel programs, technology advances, and government partnerships, brand owners can reverse the tide in the illegal distribution of their brands.

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Alison Simpson
With more than 13 years’ experience in the domain industry, Alison has managed all aspects of Corporate Domain Managem... More