Sales of illegal software last year hit US $63.4billion. Was it YOU?

Some placed where
software copyright
is infringed
To accept the licence terms,
press "paws"
This Kat is aware that many other people use unauthorised software, however she was not aware of the numbers involved until she read the Business Software Alliance 9th annual Global Software Piracy Study. The Study found that, globally, 57% of personal computers use illegal software. The commercial value of this software in 2011 was US $63.4 billion (up from US $58.8 billion in 2010). This increase was due to emerging economies extending their share in the global PC market: emerging economies took 56% of last year's PC shipments and emerging economies have a high rate of illegal software use (68% in emerging economies as opposed to 24% in developed economies).

According to the BSA press release other key findings were:
  • There is strong global support for IP rights and protection in principle, but a troubling lack of incentive for pirates to change their behaviour in practice. Just 20% of frequent pirates in mature markets — and 15% in emerging markets — say the risk of getting caught is a reason not to do it.
  • The most frequent software pirates are disproportionately young and male — and they are more than twice as likely to live in an emerging economy as they are to live in a mature one (38% to 15%).
  • The most frequent software pirates also are the most voracious software users. They report installing 55% more software on their computers than do non-pirates. This gives them an outsized impact on the global piracy rate.
  • Business decision-makers admit to pirating software more frequently than other users — and they are more than twice as likely as others to say they buy software for one computer and then install it on additional machines in their offices.  
  • By its sheer scale, China has the most troubling piracy problem. China’s illegal software market was worth nearly US $9 billion in 2011 versus a legal market of less than $3 billion, making its piracy rate 77%. Moreover, buyers in China spend just $8.89 per PC on legal software, less than a quarter of the amount buyers spend in other BRIC markets.
In response to these findings, BSA President and CEO Robert Holleyman stated:
'If 57 percent of consumers admitted they shoplift, authorities would react by increasing police patrols and penalties. Software piracy demands a similarly forceful response — concerted public education and vigorous law enforcement'.
The IPKat has been musing over the statement of Robert Holleyman that, "if 57 percent of consumers admitted they shoplift, authorities would react by increasing police patrols and penalties". That's true but, if the authorities did react in that fashion, consumers would soon stop admitting that they were shoplifting ...

Merpel says, it would be a very good thing if computer users respected software copyright -- but it would also be good if software companies did more to make themselves lovable.  Having twice been stung by having to pay automatic renewal fees for software which she had ceased using, and having also been frustrated at having to pay for bundled software that included loads of unwanted functionality as well as the bits she did want, she thinks she can understand why many consumers feel little sympathy towards software houses when faced with the opportunity not to enrich them further.
Sales of illegal software last year hit US $63.4billion. Was it YOU? Sales of illegal software last year hit US $63.4billion. Was it YOU? Reviewed by Catherine Lee on Friday, May 18, 2012 Rating: 5


  1. On the reliability of software piracy statistics

    Of course, there is no legitimate reason to abuse proprietary software licence restrictions (but please stop calling it piracy or theft).

    Use F/OSS

  2. (but please stop calling it piracy or theft)

    Why? No really, why?

    I hear the usual argument of IP theft not being "real theft", because of the IP remaining available to its owner.

    On the other hand, that same argument would also be valid for public transportation fare-dodgers. After all, they don't "take away" public transportation from those who take their tickets, and their individual cost to the public transportation authority is also negligible: after all, if the bus or train is running anyway, the extra fuel consumption and wear caused by an additional passenger is nearly zero.

    The problem is that, if a high enough proportion of passengers dodge the fare, the public transportation authority won't be able to break even, and neither buses nor trains would run.

    It would thus be theft: there would be victims, as honest users would be deprived of their public transportation.

    Now, if you want to stay with this analogy, you could try to run an "Open Source" public transportation system, in which some people would provide pieces of the buses and trains for free and try to earn a living charging the passengers for maintaining and driving the vehicles. I suspect it would be rather messy and not necessarily suitable for all public transportation users.

    I can only see one reason not to call IP "fare dodgers" thieves and pirates, and that is namely that of trivialising the actual harm they cause.

  3. Are ‘piracy’ and ‘theft’ really good terms for copyright infringement?

  4. Anonymous at 2.05:

    I think you have answered your own question. It is the same as fare dodging. Fare dodging is not the same as stealing public transport. Fare dodgers are not pirates - they don't steal from the bus or hold the driver hostage.

    Hope that helps. Although Gentoo may have his own reasons.

  5. Ok Anon, why it's not theft.

    For a start, 'fare dodging', is using a limited service with actual costs. If you're sitting on the bus or train, then you're taking the spot of someone else. The 'reduced sales capacity' standard. Or to put it another way, that space you're taking is one that can't be sold to someone else. At the same time, you're adding weight to the vehicle which increases the vehicles running costs (however marginal)

    Now, copyright infringement, does not take away a good or service from the seller, and prevent it from being sold. NOR does it impact the cost of running said product or remove one for sale (as theft of services or goods would)

    Of course, there's another reason it's not theft, and that's because copyright holders, especially the lobby groups like the BSA, don't want it considered as theft for enforcement purposes. Why?
    That would mean that they would have to file a complaint with the police. Tell me how much effort police are likely to put into 'detecting' a case with only an allegation like this? Not much.

    OK, let's assume they go for it. Let's take Jammie Thomas, for instance. 24 tracks. Let's assume that it was 24 CD's (since they were different artists) then. At a value of $10 per CD, it was $240 of goods 'stolen', which is considered petty theft.
    Now, at court, the case would be over in 6 months, and let by the state. Thomas would get a lawyer provided for her, and the state would have to prove beyond reasonable doubt (after how many years, they barely have enough to win a civil case). No motions to spend the case to a settlement after what, 6 years? Finally, do you know what the punishment for Thomas would be? At MOST a $1000 fine and 30 days in jail. Millions in damages don't even enter in to it.

    In short, having it as theft means they have to have real evidence, they can't drag the case out to force settlement, they don't get to control the case (and do things like pretext the school of the defendant's children) and at the end of it, there would only be a pittance, that wouldn't even exceed the statutory minimum for a single infringement.

    The ONLY way it's 'theft' is in the Press releases of those groups. And that's why you shouldn't call it theft.

  6. Yes it was me. I have to also admit to normally paying for public transport tickets, but anon at 2:05pm has convinced me of the error of my ways. Looking forward to my free trip to the Bahamas tomorrow courtesy of BA.

    Copyright infringement is not theft simply because it is not theft. Post your email address and I'll send you a scanned copy of the OED at no charge.

    I also hope Anon is busy clickingaway on all of those website ad links and then purchasing goods from those linked online stores because that is what pays for the internet. Anything else is simply dirty free-loading, which may one day be made a criminal offence. Hopefully, bleating copyright owners will be outlawed too.

  7. Back to gentoo's original point on the accuracy of the statistics, what's the betting that the BSA also lumps in all the software made by US companies which is being used quite legally in places like Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and N Korea, but obviously without any financial benefit to the US because there is no reciprocal copyright legislation.

  8. How can one be "disproportionately young and male"?

  9. Anonymous at 4:48 wants to know how you can be "disproportionately young and male". Once you've done it a few times, it's quite easy :-)


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