Asia's software piracy costs still greatest

Region's piracy rate dropped last year, but dollar losses went up US$1.5 billion, says Business Software Alliance.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Asia still tops the global charts in dollar losses from software piracy, despite a drop in the piracy rate in the region last year, said the Business Software Alliance (BSA).

In a briefing Tuesday, Jeffrey Hardee, vice president and regional director for Asia-Pacific at the BSA, said PC software piracy in the region last year fell from 61 percent to 59 percent.

However, the survey, conducted by IDC, found the global average rose from 41 percent to 43 percent.

Hardee explained that the global rise was due to a boost in PC shipments for emerging markets with higher piracy rates, namely Brazil, India and China.

Conversely, the region's drop in piracy was a result of governments stepping up enforcement and campaigning efforts against illegal software, he added.

In the same study conducted last year, the global PC software piracy rate rose 3 percent over the previous year's 38 percent. The Asia-Pacific region's average of 61 percent was also an increase from 59 percent the year before.

However, 2008's losses amounted to US$15 billion, while last year's hit US$16.5 billion, said Hardee. Globally, the dollar loss from piracy amounted to US$51.4 billion, down from US$52.9 billion the year before.

He attributed the region's losses to a rise in consumer spending on PCs, which tend to have a higher proportion of pirated software installed within.

While companies were slowing PC and software deployment in response to the recession, consumer spending continued to rise by 4 percent, pushing up the latter's overall share of the PC market from 50 percent to 53 percent, he said.

"A lot of consumer PCs are sold preloaded with pirated content," he said.

The BSA has worked with governments to enforce anti-piracy drives. It has a hotline for individuals to notify the association about companies guilty of using illegal software, and has handed out bounties to entice members of the public to come forward.

Hardee said the BSA sent 7.3 million take-down notices to ISPs (Internet service providers) last year worldwide, notifying them of illegal activity conducted over their networks.

Limited impact of SaaS, open source software
The survey took into account software deployed as a service in the cloud, as well as open source software.

Victor Lim, IDC Asia-Pacific consulting operations vice president, acknowledged the potential for software-as-a-service (SaaS) and open source software as forces to help push down piracy rates, although the survey findings seem to indicate that the impact of the two was "muted".

This is because SaaS and open source software adoption is higher on the consumer side but still "very limited" in enterprises, said Lim.

"Businesses still want paid software because of support and certain technology efficiencies, compared [with] self-maintained software," he said of open source software.

Companies have also been cautious moving to the cloud as a proportion of their overall software deployment, with SaaS impact remaining very small for enterprises at present, said Lim.

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