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Three Questions: Software Piracy and Asia

  • Paul Westpheling

A new report claims that the unauthorized copying and sale of computer programs cost the computer industry some $50 billion in 2009. Software makers have long complained to foreign governments about the costs of software piracy, but now the Business Software Alliance argues that cracking down on pirates will create local jobs and boost tax revenue.

Randolph Court, communications director for the Washington, D.C.-based industry trade group, says Asian nations with some of the world’s highest software piracy rates also have the most to gain. Court claims that countries that prosecute piracy keep more than 80 percent of the crackdown’s economic benefits.

What are the projected economic benefits for cracking down on piracy?

“If you cut the global piracy rate by 10 percent over the next four years, you could create $142 billion in new activity and nearly 500,000 new jobs plus about $32 billion in tax revenue for governments… The job creation that is identified in this study is job creation that will be happening in the legal market for software sales, distribution and services.”

What are the hidden costs of using pirated software?

“There are labor costs for using pirated software that isn’t supported and the productivity, or capital costs, that come from a greater prevalence of viruses or security breaches. And there [are] legal costs associated with operating in violation of the law. So it’s not as simple as ‘I have free software.'”

Do foreign governments have the ability to go after software pirates?

“Most of the tools that are required to bring down the piracy rate by 10 percentage points are in place. It’s just a matter of robust implementation. Take a country like China, where four out of five of the programs being used there are not paid for. China has copyright laws on the books. It has an administrative process for enforcing them. You can bring copyright infringement cases in the courts there, but there’s just not enough resources applied to make all that work.”