Why be a pirate? Use open source software instead

Business decision-makers who get their proprietary software illegally need to wake up and check out the free alternatives.

Close to half of all computer users around the world tend to get their software illegally, and business decision-makers are no exception.

That's one finding from a recent survey commissioned by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) lobby group, which reported the results in a blog post last week.

"An especially troubling finding in the surveys is that business decision-makers exhibit similar attitudes and say they would engage in similar illegal behaviors to other computer users," the report reads. "This finding is significant because software piracy in enterprise settings accounts for a disproportionate share of the overall software piracy problem in terms of commercial value."

34 Percent in the United States

Back in May, the BSA reported the results of its 2010 Global Software Piracy study, which asserted that the commercial value of PC software theft had leapt 14 percent worldwide last year to $59 billion. Now, as a follow-up, the group just recently hired Ipsos Public Affairs to survey some 15,000 PC users in 32 countries for a better understanding of the attitudes and behaviors behind this phenomenon.

Among its findings were that a full 47 percent of computer users globally acquire their software illegally most or all of the time, including 34 percent in the United States, 30 percent in the U.K. and 27 percent in Canada, the group reports.

Such figures were higher in developing countries, reaching 86 percent of PC users in China, 81 percent in Nigeria and 76 percent in Vietnam.

'A General Lack of Awareness'

Particularly notable is that business users are apparently no different. Piracy rates among business decision-makers in those same three developing nations, for example, were 85 percent, 82 percent and 79 percent, respectively.

Companies with fewer than 500 employees were found to be more likely to get their software illegally, particularly in developed markets, the BSA notes.

"Similar to all computer users, business decisionmaker pirates believe that legal software is better than pirated software because it is more reliable and secure," the report notes. "But, like other computer users, they exhibit a general lack of awareness about which ways of acquiring software are legal and which are not."

A World of Free Alternatives

It's no secret that I think software patents are a scourge that needs to be gotten rid of, and I'm by no means alone in that opinion. In this era of lawsuits and revenue models based heavily on patent licensing fees (I'm looking at you, Apple, Microsoft and Oracle), the harm they're doing to innovation is right before our very eyes all the time.

Regardless of your opinion on patents, however, the fact remains that there's simply no need to get proprietary software illegally and risk legal action. On MoneyTalksNews, Brandon Ballenger highlights a few specific alternatives, but in fact there's a whole wide world of open source software available to you, generally for free.

Even besides the Linux operating system -- which is available in flavors for every taste and purpose -- there are great alternatives for just about every proprietary package you may be used to. Not only are they typically free, but they also offer numerous benefits for businesses, including flexibility, customizability, interoperability and freedom from restrictive licenses and vendor lock-in.

It's easy to keep repeating past mistakes out of sheer habit -- 'Microsoft Trained Brain Syndrome' is one perfect illustration -- but once you start looking around, it's just as easy to break free.

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Katherine Noyes

PC World (US online)
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