Losses from software piracy exceed $51 billion in 2009

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The unauthorized copying and distribution of software remains an urgent issue, one that is saddled with significant economic impacts and malware risks, according to a joint study released Tuesday by Business Software Alliance (BSA) and IDC.

The global software piracy rate reached 43 percent in 2009, meaning more than four out of every 10 software packages installed during the year were unlicensed or illegal, according to the seventh annual Global Software Piracy Study.

The overall rate of software piracy increased two percent compared to 2008, a spike that primarily can be attributed to the rapid growth of the consumer PC market in Brazil, India and China, the report says. Overall, the commercial value of global software theft exceeded $51 billion in 2009.

“This is a global issue, impacting the economy at the local, country and global level,” Matt Reid, vice president of communications at the BSA, told SCMagazineUS.com on Thursday. “It stifles innovation and job growth.”

In addition to the economic impacts, software piracy can also lead to malware infection, Reid said.

A 2006 IDC study showed that at least a quarter of websites that provide access to pirated software also offer malware embedded into some downloadable products. Moreover, 59 percent of counterfeit software found on peer-to-peer (P2P) sites contained malicious code.

Those who use pirated or unlicensed software also do not typically have access to patches or updates, making them more susceptible to exploits, Reid said.

In the study released this week, IDC researchers analyzed PC and software trends in 111 countries. On the encouraging side, researchers found that some progress has been made in the fight against piracy. During 2009, unlicensed PC software use decreased in 49 percent of the nations studied.

“We are seeing some progress in a significant amount of countries,” Reid said. “The concern is that we are seeing very incremental progress.”

The United States had a 20 percent software piracy rate, the lowest out of all countries studied. In addition, Japan and Luxembourg had piracy rates of 21 percent. Countries with the highest piracy rates included Georgia, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Moldova, each with a piracy rate above 90 percent.

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