CAAST looks to curb software piracy

Businesses in Montreal and Quebec City were being reminded last month that they had less than two weeks left to review their software programs and obtain licences for all pirated software. However, one analyst believes the problem – at the enterprise level – will diminish on its own over time.

The notice was issued by the Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft (CAAST), which declared a “software truce” that started March 1 and was slated to end on March 31.

CAAST is a non-profit organization consisting of software vendors whose goal is to reduce software piracy in Canada through education, public policy and enforcement.

Thus far, CAAST said the campaign has generated a strong response, indicated both by the volume of phone calls it has received and the number of hits recorded at its Web site.

Pierre Chadi, spokesperson for CAAST and the Quebec regional manager at Microsoft Canada Corp., said these campaigns are conducted to increase the awareness of piracy, and to allow enterprises to take advantage of one-month-long grace periods.

In order to make companies in metropolitan Montreal and Quebec City aware of the truce campaign, Chadi said between 15,000 and 17,000 companies had been sent notification letters explaining its purpose. CAAST said that last year, Canada’s economy lost $289 million in software theft. The group urged businesses to participate in its truce campaign. Software piracy can result in civil and criminal prosecutions and fines of $20,000 or more – fines that are often higher than the cost of legally purchasing the software, CAAST says.

In addition, CAAST says unlicensed software is more vulnerable to viruses; is more likely to fail, resulting in data loss; and leaves businesses vulnerable to raids and seizures of mission-critical hardware and software. Also, unlicensed software is not entitled to free upgrades.

However, Alister Sutherland, director of software research at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, said software piracy at the enterprise level is next to impossible.

“In the enterprise market, where there is licensing and maintenance, there is very little in the way of software piracy because there is no opportunity to do it. You can’t just take an SAP license and propagate it – it doesn’t work like that, you need to integrate,” he said.

He added that the nature of the software itself makes it less conducive to piracy.

“I think the nature in which software is delivered to business is in the process of changing and transforming,” Sutherland said. “So the licensing scheme will have changed over the years and the way of delivering upgrades will not be anything other than a download situation and there will be an increasingly more traceable way of finding out how many ways a licence has been utilized.”

Chadi said studies indicate that corporate software piracy level sits at about 38 per cent, but he said there was no breakdown by enterprise size. He said some companies don’t have processes in place to ensure they have permission to use the software before it is deployed, nor an inventory procedure to ensure that all software running in the company is legal.

However, he said it is usually individual workers who pirate software, and that it is extremely rare to see a large corporation’s IT department illegally copying software as a policy.

According to the results of a study released in October 2002 by CAAST, the national piracy rate sits at about 38 per cent, and has not changed since 2000.

Below this national average are Quebec and Alberta, while Prince Edward Island sits on top at 51 per cent. Manitoba and British Columbia slightly exceed the national rate at 39 per cent and 41 per cent, respectively, while in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and the three Territories piracy rates all exceed 46 per cent. Ontario’s rate is equal to that of the national average.

Comprised of software vendors whose goal is to reduce software piracy in Canada through education, public policy and enforcement, CAAST says so far this campaign has generated a strong response through phone calls to its hotline, e-mail inquiries, and visit to its Web site.

Businesses attempting to determine if they are running unlicensed software can download a free Software Audit Tool at or call the Truce hotline at 1-866-667-4722. Chadi assured Network World Canada that everything on the site is informational and that CAAST does not gather information for follow-up investigations.