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Theft of software for personal computers leapt 14 percent globally
in 2010 to a record commercial value of $59 billion, the Business
Software Alliance (BSA) reported in its 2010 BSA Global Software
Piracy Study. That amount has nearly doubled in real terms since 2003.
Emerging economies are the driving forces behind the trend, the report
found, because that is where PC shipments are growing fastest.

Software piracy is escalating in value even though large majorities of
PC users around the world believe in intellectual property rights and
prefer legal software to pirated software, according to surveys of
approximately 15,000 PC users in 32 countries, conducted by Ipsos Public
Affairs as part of BSA’s report. But the company noted a startling
finding is how many people do not realize they are using unlicensed
copies.

The report found the most common form of software piracy is buying a
single license for a program and installing it on multiple computers:
60 percent incorrectly think this is legal at home, and 47 percent
think it is legal at work (including 51 percent in emerging economies).
However, eight PC users in 10 say they value legal software over
pirated software because it is more reliable and secure.

“The software industry is being robbed blind,” said BSA President and
CEO Robert Holleyman. “Nearly $59 billion worth of products were stolen
last year—and the rates of theft are completely out of control in the
world’s fastest-growing markets. The irony is people everywhere value
intellectual property rights, but in many cases they don’t understand
they are getting their software illegally.”

While the number of PCs shipped to emerging economies in 2010 accounted
for more than 50 percent of the world total, paid software licenses in
emerging economies accounted for less than 20 percent of global sales.
The global piracy rate for PC software was 42 percent in 2010. That is
the second-highest global piracy rate BSA has found in the eight years
it has been conducting annual studies with market research and
forecasting firm IDC. In 2009, the global rate was 43 percent.

“Software piracy is an urgent problem for the whole economy, not just
the software industry, because software is an essential tool of
production,” Holleyman said. “Businesses of all sorts rely on software
to run their operations. Properly licensed companies are being unfairly
undercut when their competitors avoid overhead costs by stealing
software tools.”

Around the world, solid majorities see clear economic benefits from IP
rights and protections: 59 percent think IP rights benefit local
economies, 61 percent think they create jobs. Seven PC users in 10
support paying innovators for their creations to promote more advances,
while just three in 10 say no one should control technologies that
could benefit society.

“The software industry is doing everything it can to promote legal
software use,” Holleyman said. “We need governments to step up their
efforts on this issue by supporting public education efforts, enacting
and enforcing strong intellectual property laws, and leading by
example.”