Software piracy rate up 2% in 2009, study finds

Expanding PC sales in emerging market is increasing the rate of software piracy, according to a recent study by industry watchers.

Expanding PC sales in emerging market is increasing the rate of software piracy, according to a recent study by industry watchers.

The rate of global software piracy in 2009 was 43%, meaning that for every $US100 worth of legitimate software sold in 2009, an additional $US75 worth of unlicensed software also made its way into the market, according to a recent study by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and IDC. This is a 2-percentage-point increase from 2008, and is fueled largely by expanding PC sales in emerging markets, the study found.

Software theft exceeded $51 billion in commercial value in 2009, according to the BSA. IDC says lowering software piracy by just 10 percentage points during the next four years would create nearly 500,000 new jobs and pump $140 billion into "ailing economies."

Despite the uptick, 2009 piracy rates are better than expected, according to BSA. Still, "Few if any industries could withstand the theft of $51 billion worth of their products," said BSA President and CEO Robert Holleyman, in a statement.

In the United States, software piracy remained at 20%, the lowest level of software theft of any nation in the world. However, given the size of the PC market, the commercial value of pirated software in the United States was $8.4 billion in 2009, the groups said.

Other findings of the BSA/IDC study were:

  • Piracy rates increased in 19 global economies, up from 16 in 2008.
  • The factors driving up the global piracy rate include growth in the consumer PC base and in emerging markets — both segments with high piracy rates.
  • Globally, PC shipments to consumers rose 17% in 2009, while shipments to businesses, governments and schools dropped 15%.
  • The PC markets in Brazil, India and China accounted for 86% of the growth in PC shipments worldwide.
  • For every dollar of legitimate software sold, another $3 to $4 in revenue is created for local firms.
  • China saw the largest increase in the commercial value of pirated software of any country — growing $900 million to $7.6 billion.
  • India, Chile and Canada each saw the greatest improvement in reducing software theft, each achieving a 3 percentage point decline in their piracy rates in 2009.
Holleyman called on governments, particularly those in fast-growing, high-piracy countries, to enact programs to combat piracy, foster innovation and maximize the economic impact of the IT industry.

IDC analyzed 182 sets of data from 111 countries around the world to develop the software piracy study.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

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Jim Duffy

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