IT Employment

Majority of APAC computer users admit to participating in software piracy

Sixty-three percent of computer users in Asia Pacific admit to software piracy, above the global average of 57 percent.

Software piracy in the Asia-Pacific region has risen to a record high of nearly US$21 billion, says the Business Software Alliance (BSA) in a media briefing held earlier this week in Singapore. The statistics were furnished as part of the ninth edition of BSA's Global Software Piracy Study, conducted in 33 countries with data from about 15,000 consumer and business PC users. You can download the executive summary with statistics given by individual countries here.

In total, 63% of computer users in the region - or three in five computer users - admit to acquiring pirated software. This is noticeably higher than the global average of 57%. A quick glance through the statistics compiled in the report shows more developed countries in the region with a lower piracy rate, with Japan (21%), New Zealand (22%) and Australia (23%) near the bottom of the list. On the other hand, Bangladesh (90%), Indonesia (86%) and Pakistan (86%) scored at the top of the chart. In contrast, the piracy rate in the U.S. is pegged at just 19%, while Singapore came in at 33%.

Roland Chan, senior director of marketing for Asia-Pacific at BSA told Ryan Huang of ZDNet Asia that while tougher laws "sound like a good idea in theory," it may actually end up discouraging trade. Instead, Chan advocated the use of awareness and education.

Of course, software piracy in Singapore has steadily declined over the years as a result of continued enforcement measures including police raids, which have been taking place more frequently since the country's Copyright Act has been revised to make the selling of unlicensed software a criminal offense in 2005. In Singapore, the penalties of software piracy are harsh: An offender with five or more pirated items could be jailed for up to five years and fined up to SG$100,000 (US$78,500).

In addition, the BSA has also adopted a tactic of issuing written warnings to companies using software that infringes on the license of its members, offering the option to either license their software or be hauled off to court. The small size of Singapore means that any cases involving a business will likely make it to national headlines, though the frequency in which BSA issues such warnings is not known.

Overall, I'm not too surprised by some of the high piracy rates in some of the Asia Pacific countries. Having travelled to some of the neighboring countries with high piracy rates, it's common to find shops peddling CDs and DVDs of bootleg movies and software. These are sold at about at just a few dollars per disc, with some packed with multiple unlicensed software.

I agree that the only way to lower piracy rates is by gradually changing the mind set of users, coupled with a realistic pricing strategy. However, the large disparity in income levels and increase of computer ownership and usage in the region may mean that it will be some time yet before piracy rates fall.

About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

3 comments
Jacdeb6009
Jacdeb6009

"...noticeably higher..." The maths say it is only 10% higher than in the rest of the world. Actually, the suprise is that the overall percentage (if correct) is so low... I have lived in Vietnam for 10 years now and the problem is easy to understand. When you consider that the annual per capita income here is about $ 1,000 (or slightly less than $3 per day), and you then look at the fact that more or less everyone uses computers, it is clear that at the cost of typical software, pirated software is going to be the order of the day. Open Source software is not an "easy" sell as more or less everyone is peddling a skill set based on Microsoft (and related) based products. A good example are schools that do not teach people how to use word processors or spreadsheets, but Microsoft Word and Excel. "No sir, your son/daughter cannot use Open Office / Libre Office / etc., we teach Microsoft." What is the average parent with an average income likely to do? While education regarding IP and IP rights may go some way to addressing the problem, the main issue is cost, and until realistic pricing levels are available for software sold in this part of the world, piracy will remain an issue. As for the losses quoted, this is silly. If I can't afford to buy the software and I can't pirate it (for whatever reason), I won't be buying it either, so there is no loss. The figures are likely to be a simple extrapolation of pirated software turned into sales revenue. Not likely. Piracy, whether software, music, movies and the like is not going to go away until the underlying question of cost is resolved.

beaverusiv
beaverusiv

lol @ the numbers; 21bil!?! Whatever. The problem with having numbers like that is everyone who tries to 'calculate' it has a bias and an agenda. I would like to know how much companies spend on anti-piracy, though.

paulmah
paulmah

@Jacdeb6009 I think you've nailed the problem on the head with reference to GDP and the cost of software - which remains more or less the same around the world. For all the energy and funds poured into curbing software piracy, it is somewhat surprising that nobody has come up with a better plan yet.