Chance is most effective weapon against software piracy

A PricewaterhouseCoopers study has found that software audits and security measures are not the most effective methods for detecting unauthorised software

Software pirates are more likely to be caught by accident than by security measures or software audits, according to a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC).

The PWC Product Piracy Survey 2003, published on Wednesday, discovered that more than one in three cases of piracy only came to light because of an accident, while security measures and software audits accounted for around one in four and one in five cases respectively.

Software piracy is a large and growing problem because it is so easy, said David Marston, lead partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers Licensing Management Practice. "Any company which licenses its intellectual property and has global distribution is at a high risk," he said, claiming there are still too many countries where piracy is culturally accepted, making it very difficult to catch offenders.

Siobhan Carroll, regional manager of northern Europe at the Business Software Alliance (BSA), told ZDNet UK that in the UK, around one in four applications are not legally licensed, something she argued other industries would not accept. "The US has the lowest piracy rate (23 percent) but this it is still unacceptable. If you look at retail, the rate is between 1 and 3 percent -- and they are throwing their arms up," she said.

According to Carroll, there are two types of illegal software users: intentional and unintentional. "We understand that companies do not always go out to flout the law. It can be because of high growth and sometimes ignorance," she said.

Marston said that when piracy occurs, it is often because applications go "missing" and are then distributed, licence-free. "This is not easy to detect unless companies do a regular and systematic reconciliation of products sold," he said.

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