The UK’s numbers are in. According to a recent Piracy Study released last month, installations of pirated software on personal computers (PCs) in the UK remained at 27 percent, giving the UK the sixth lowest piracy rate in the world. The US had the lowest rate at 20 percent and Georgia the highest at 95 percent. However, the commercial value of the illegal software which made its way into the UK market amounted to £1 billion.
Although the UK has one of the lowest piracy rates in the world, 27 percent is nothing to be proud of. £1billion is an awful lot of money to lose in a recession, and ultimately this will have an impact on the software industry and the UK economy, which is bad news for the UK, a country that takes pride in its place in the global technology landscape.
But this is an issue that affects more than industry revenues, as lowering PC software piracy can have significant economic benefits. A 2008 IDC study on the economic impact of reducing software piracy found that lowering the software piracy rate by ten percentage points over four years could generate over 13,600 new jobs, £1.08 billion in tax revenues and contribute £4.46 billion to the UK economy.
Piracy also puts consumers and businesses at risk by compromising their computer security, since pirated software often contains malware and is unsupported by manufacturer warranty. A piracy rate of 27% is far from acceptable. There is much to be gained if we embrace the benefits a strong tech sector can bring to our economy, as we, like so many others, recover from the global recession.
The reality is PC software piracy affects much more than industry revenues. In fact, IDC estimates that for every dollar of legitimate software sold in a country, another $3-$4 of revenue is generated for local service and distribution firms. Piracy also puts consumers at risk by compromising their computer security, since pirated software often contains malware. One learning from the BSA report stands out in particular: the need for sustained anti-piracy efforts and a long term vision for lowering software piracy.
In the UK, the software industry is taking the problem seriously through. In recent years, regional campaigns have been run in Glasgow, Manchester and London in an effort to crack down on software pirates and raise awareness of the risks it poses to business.
But we can do more. We all have an economic and legal obligation to reject the culture of unlicensed software use. There is a false belief in some companies that unlicensed software use is acceptable because it does not hurt the IP owners or the economy – but this could not be further from the truth. Software piracy deprives the software industry of much-needed revenue and jobs.
Our economy thrives on technology innovation – most do. Software in particular drives productivity and innovation across every economic sector, and helps businesses of all types perform better in good times, and in bad.
As the UK continues to recover from the worst recession in two decades, now is the time to demonstrate that we will not tolerate the theft of intellectual property such as software. In doing so, we can have a positive affect within our own borders, as well as set an example for others, and generate benefits for the global economy. That’s what being a good global technology citizen is about.