Software piracy sails on in Canada

Despite efforts to relay the message that software stealing isn’t alright, the Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft (CAAST) reports an increase in program piracy in this country.

Software piracy rates, 2003 to 2004

Canada: 35% – 36% U.S.: 22%- 21% Sweden: 27% – 26% U.K.: 29% – 27% China: 92% – 90% Vietnam: 92% – 92%

CAAST notes that Canadian software privacy rates increased from 35 per cent in 2003 to 36 per cent in 2004, while the global software piracy rate decreased.

“I don’t think the increase is something to be alarmed about,” said Jesse Feder, director of international trade and intellectual property at the Business Software Alliance (BSA) in Washington, which worked with CAAST and IT research firm IDC to conduct the study that provided the aforementioned metrics. “But we are looking at higher piracy losses, because the software market’s getting bigger.”

The bigger the market, the larger the loss. In the global situation, for example, the world spent more than $73 billion on commercial, packaged computer software in 2004, up from $63 billion in 2003, according to CAAST. But computer owners the world over installed $112 billion worth of programs in 2004, up from $99 billion in 2003.

Get out your calculator. In 2003 a higher percentage of software was stolen compared to 2004 — 36 per cent versus 35 per cent — but 2004 witnessed a greater monetary loss in software sales: $39 million compared to $36 million in 2003. In the end software piracy rates may be down, but the industry ended up losing more in 2004 than it did in 2003.

As for our country’s situation beside others, “Canada has been hovering a good 10 per cent above the prevailing U.S. rates for a number of years,” Feder noted. “That’s something we’d like to see improve.”

Earlier this year the federal government announced plans to crack down on intellectual property and copyright infringements with new laws akin to the oft-decried U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which some people call draconian. The BSA and CAAST are all for Canada’s upcoming legal changes.

“We’re very pleased the Canadian government announced it is going to table legislation later this year, hopefully in the next month or so, to address some of these issues,” Feder said. “That should help. One of the things causing upward pressure on piracy rates around the world is greater availability of pirated software on the Internet.”

CAAST notes that piracy rates increased in 34 countries and decreased in 37. Countries with the highest piracy rates included Vietnam (92 per cent), Ukraine (91 per cent) and China (90 per cent). Countries with the lowest rates included the U.S. (21 per cent), Austria (25 per cent) and Sweden (26 per cent). Canada remains one of 20 countries with the lowest piracy rates, despite the 2003-2004 increase.

Asked if perhaps software is too pricey for people in “poor” countries to purchase, Feder said, “They have computers….If the funds are available to buy hardware, surely they can be made available for software.” He added that the prime challenge is funding for enforcement. Not every country has the financial wherewithal to police software theft as effectively as do the U.S. and other low-piracy nations.

IDC research John Gantz backs up that notion. “We’ve learned from nations such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that adopting policies to protect intellectual property is key to curbing piracy,” he says in a statement. “With a lower piracy rate than that of Canada at 34 per cent, UAE is the only emerging economy listed among the top 20 low-piracy nations, likely attributable to policy measures on intellectual property enacted in the 1990s.”

Feder said CAAST’s and the BSA’s obligation is “getting the message out there” that software piracy, although a faceless crime, “really is stealing.”

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Related links:

Canada lags U.S. in software piracy fight

Philippines to push against government software piracy

Study: Software piracy rates remain high in Asia

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