Software piracy and you

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"Software theft exceeded $51 billion in commercial value in 2009. The public and private sectors need to join forces to more effectively combat an epidemic that stifles innovation and impairs economies on a global scale.” –Robert Holleyman, president and CEO, Business Software Alliance

A lot of businesses (except for software providers, of course!) probably don’t get too worked up over piracy as an issue.

Let’s face it: making sure you’re using a legitimate version of Microsoft Word or 20 other software programs isn’t high on the daily “to do” list. All you want is for the blessed technology to work so you can get your job done so you can make money, thus surviving and hopefully thriving for yet another day.

But consider this for a moment: The rate of global software piracy climbed to 43% last year, a two-percentage-point increase from 2008, according to the seventh annual Business Software Alliance (BSA) IDC Global Software Piracy Study.

A 43% piracy rate means that for every $100 worth of legitimate software sold in 2009, an additional $75 worth of unlicensed software also made its way into the market. “Now, how many businesses do you know can withstand that much of their product being stolen every year?” Matt Reid, BSA’s vice president of communications, told me.

Reid explained that one of the biggest software piracy side effects businesses like truckers should think long and hard about is security.

“If you are using pirated software, you are not getting the regular security updates and patches,” he stressed. “That’s going to increasingly leave your systems more and more vulnerable to hackers, malware, viruses and worms. And the repercussions of a cyber attack or data theft are far more expensive to deal with.”

Now, true, most businesses out there – truckers included – use completely legit software. But you just never know what might slip through.

China saw the largest increase in the commercial value of pirated software of any country last year, according to the BSA-IDC study – ballooning by $900 million to top $7.6 billion in 2009. That’s still a lot, even though China – with India and Canada – achieved the greatest improvement in reducing software theft, notching a 3 percentage point decline in their piracy rates last year.

And while software piracy in the U.S. remains at 20% – the lowest level of software theft of any nation in the world – given the size of its PC market, the commercial value of pirated software in the U.S. topped $8.4 billion in 2009.

Now, much of the piracy going on affects consumer-grade personal computers (PCs). In fact, the BSA-IDC found that global PC shipments to consumers rose 17%in 2009, while shipments to businesses, governments and schools dropped 15%. And it’s no surprise that the PC markets in Brazil, India and China accounted for 86% of the growth in PC shipments worldwide.

There’s also the broader economic impact to consider as well. BSA’s Reid told me that for every $1 spent on legitimate software, another $3 to $4 gets spent on technological support (probably not what trucking companies want to hear, though.)

“Lowering software piracy by just 10 percentage points during the next four years would create nearly 500,000 new jobs and pump $140 billion into ailing economies," said John Gantz, IDC’s chief research officer. “That ‘s why software theft hurts not just software companies and the IT sector, but also the broader economy at the local, regional and global levels by cutting out service and distribution firms.”

BSA’s Reid told me the businesses can help alleviate piracy on their end by using ‘software asset management” tools to not only help verify that their software is compliant and legal, but also is up to snuff in terms of security updates.

“Security is really a number one security here, for who knows what a hacker might do if they get their hands on a trucking company’s data,” he said.

"Given the economy, 2009 piracy rates are better than we expected,” added Robert Holleyman, BSA's president and CEO. “But incremental improvements are not enough. Few if any industries could withstand the theft of $51 billion worth of their products. To foster innovation and maximize the economic impact of the IT industry, governments must act – particularly those in fast-growing, high-piracy countries.”

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Trucks at Work: Sean Kilcarr comments on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry.

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