U.S. software makers have long complained that people are stealing their software. Now a new survey released Tuesday provides evidence from a compelling source: computer users themselves.
In the Business Software Alliance's ninth annual survey of global software piracy, 57 percent of computer users admitted they used pirated software.
"If 57 percent of consumers admitted they shoplift, authorities would react by increasing police patrols and penalties," BSA President and CEO Robert Holleyman said in a statement. "Software piracy demands a similarly forceful response -- concerted public education and vigorous law enforcement,"
The survey found that 42 percent of software used globally in 2011 was pirated. BSA estimated the commercial value of this pirated software reached $63.4 billion, up from $58.8 billion in 2010.
The report found that piracy is much worse in emerging markets than in developed countries, with piracy on average reaching 68 percent in emerging countries compared to just 24 percent in more developed countries. "Emerging economies, which in recent years have been the driving force behind PC software piracy, are now decisively outpacing mature markets in their rate of growth," the report said. "They took in 56 percent of the world's new PC shipments in 2011, and they now account for more than half of all PCs in use."
China continues to pose a huge problem. The report found that 77 percent of the business software used in China was pirated, compared with 19 percent in the United States, which had the lowest piracy rate.
The report also found that the typical software pirate is most likely to be a young male who tends to install more software on his computer than other users.
BSA has tried to use its annual reports to drum up attention to the problem and lobby the U.S. government to put pressure on other countries to penalize pirates.
"There is strong global support for [intellectual property] rights and protections in principle, but a troubling lack of incentive for pirates to change their behavior in practice," BSA said. "Just 20 percent of frequent pirates in mature markets -- and 15 percent in emerging markets -- say the risk of getting caught is a reason not to do it."
The report, which was conducted by the research firm IDC, is based on data on computer and software trends in 116 markets. For the first time, the report also included a survey of nearly 15,000 computer users in 33 countries, which was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs.
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