Enterprises still a factor in software piracy, BSA says

Canadian IT leaders can play a huge role in creating morethan 6,000 new high-tech jobs and generating US$3 billion in new economicactivity over the next four years, according to a Business Software Alliancecommissioned study. The only way to do this, the BSA said, is to get a betterhandle on software licences.

The IDC study, which was sponsored by the software industrywatchdog, found that reducing the piracy rate for PC software by 10 per centover the next four years would lead to US$142 billion in added economicstimulus and create over 500,000 new high-tech jobs worldwide.

If Canada,which IDC said had a 2009 piracy rate of 29 per cent, was to meet the 10 percent over four years target, it would create 6,445 jobs and generate nearly 1.5billion in new taxes. The report added that 85 per cent of these benefits wouldremain in the Canadian economy.

By reducing piracy by 10 per cent over a two year period, Canadawould add $4.7 billion in new economic activity, and $2 billion in new taxes,the report found.

The study indicates that, on average, the software piracyrate in non-producing countries is far higher than in software producingcountries. But while covering the benefits that could be gained by the ITindustry if more money was spent on software, the BSA report did not addressthe fact that much of the software pirated globally comes from North Americanand European countries

Also, all of these estimates are based on the assumption that unlicenced software usage would switch to legal, proprietary software use, which some industry observers have suggested is unreasonable. 

The greatest opportunity for improvement in Canada,according to BSA, could be at enterprise IT departments, which have actuallybeen a major part of the global software piracy problem. The industry groupfound that more than four out of every 10 software programs installed onpersonal computers around the world in 2009 were pirated, with a significantamount of this unauthorized usage occurring at otherwise law abidingbusinesses.

“Businesses are purchasing a couple of licences andinstalling it on hundreds or even thousands of computers,” said Matt Reid,vice-president of communications at BSA.

While Canadais definitely moving in the right direction in terms of legislation andeducation from the federal government, Reid said, a greater emphasis onensuring proper software licencing at Canadian businesses would probably helpout the most, he said.

“It goes back to software asset management and ensuring youhave the right tools, the right training and a workforce that is really aware,”Reid said.

If tasked with a senior IT leadership position at a largeenterprise, Reid said he would first start with a self-audit to make sure hiscompany knew exactly what every desktop was using, why it’s being used and whatlicences are in place. Education and communication with both IT and non-ITstaff is also essential, he added.

Once those steps are completed, it will fall to senior ITleaders such as the CIO to take or delegate responsibility for software licenceoversight.

The software piracy issue isn’t going away anytime soon asit made international headlines earlier this month when Microsoft Corp. wascatapulted to the middle of a scandal where Russian police seized computers ofactivist groups suspected of using pirated Microsoft software. In the aftermathof the raids, Microsoft-hired lawyers were accused of defended the raidsfollowing a New York Times story, prompting Microsoft General Counsel BradSmith to call for an investigation.

“Whatever the circumstances of the particular cases the NewYork Times described, we want to be clear that we unequivocally abhor anyattempt to leverage intellectual property rights to stifle political advocacyor pursue improper personal gain,” he wrote in a blog post.

As a result, the company has issued blanket softwarelicences to non-profit groups and journalists outside of the U.S.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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