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Software Piracy on an International Scale

Software Piracy on an International Scale

Copyright has become a huge issue and talking point recently with continual legal challenges, the introduction and defeat of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and considerations for future legislation, challenges and controversy.  The United States leads the world in having some of the toughest copyright laws on the books.  The issue of copyright has become forefront in nearly every aspect of the online world and continues to make headlines as groups opposed to more restrictive laws clash with organizations claiming the necessity for stricter legislation to protect their digital assets.  In a study taken on by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) in 2011, startling findings revealed that well over half of the world’s personal computer users admit to having pirated software.  BSA (2011).  This number includes 31% of those who claim to use pirated software in on ongoing basis.

Nation Master Crime statistics provides a graphical chart demonstrating the severe nature of software piracy especially within international countries.  The chart measures the total amount of units of pirated software per country divided by the total number of units installed.  The numbers puts the United States at the bottom of the pile with claiming 20%, while the top offender, Armenia, claims 93%.  Nation Master (2007).  The chart also demonstrates an apparent trend whereby countries of lower overall income levels and smaller economies tend to reveal a higher rate of piracy.  This really isn’t surprising when you consider an average piece of software can range anywhere from $50 upwards.  The latest version of the Microsoft operating system, Windows 8 professional, costs $199 for the upgrade.  Putting this into perspective if we pick the top rated country in terms of piracy from then nation master crime statistics, Armenia, we can determine from sources, the average yearly salary is just over $3600.  Comparing the average salary in the United States, which is just over $42,000 (about 11 and a half more than Armenia).  While software organizations sometimes provide different pricing overseas, there is still a huge disparity in terms of buying power in these less developed countries.  Couple this with the fact that most less developed countries have little or no laws that address intellectual copyright claims, you begin to understand why there is such a high rate of piracy.  This also has a knock on effect on the cultural values or norms, which are often influenced by laws.  The perception of what is right and wrong in terms of making a copy of a piece of software in order to provide better services, tools and resources for citizens of a developing nation, becomes a more complex issue.

So what can be done to help reduce piracy in these countries?  Digital copyright protections is one method, however it seems the more sophisticated they become, the more sophisticated the pirates who make a living breaking such systems also become.  Setting pricing based on information from sources, such as the United Nations economic data, will help software organizations provide better incentives for legal licensed software purchases.  Sun Microsystems did just this with its software products in 2004.  Colley (2004).  Several years back, Microsoft announced a program for selling copies of its operating system to developing nations for $3.  Blass (2007).  Since software developers within the United States do not have any legal protections within foreign countries, pricing strategies seem to be the best way to begin curbing piracy, however until more comprehensive laws are put into place in these countries, piracy will most likely be around for many years to come.

References:

  1. Blass, E. (2007). Microsoft will sell $3 software to developing countries.  Engadget.  Retrieved from: http://www.engadget.com/2007/04/20/microsoft-will-sell-3-software-to-developing-countries/
  2. Business Software Alliance (2012).  2011 BSA Global Software Piracy Study.  Ninth Edition, May 2012.  Retrieved from: http://globalstudy.bsa.org/2011/downloads/study_pdf/2011_BSA_Piracy_Study-Standard.pdf
  3. Colley, A.  (2004). U.N. Guides Sun Software Pricing in Developing World.  ZD Net.  Retrieved from: http://www.zdnet.com/u-n-guides-sun-software-pricing-in-developing-world-1139149367/
  4. Nation Master (2007).  Crime Statistics – Software Piracy Rate (Most Recent) By Country.  Retrieved from: http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_sof_pir_rat-crime-software-piracy-rate

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