In a 2014 study sponsored by Microsoft and conducted by IDC and the National University of Singapore, based on a survey of 1,700 IT professionals, government workers, and consumers in 15 markets, revealed that the cost of software piracy to businesses hit $491B. Almost two thirds of this cost, or $315B, was the result of organized crime.
Types of Software Piracy
Software Piracy includes the following:
- Softlifting: Borrowing and installing a copy of a software application from a colleague.
- Client-server overuse: Installing more copies of the software than you have licenses for.
- Hard-disk loading: Installing and selling unauthorized copies of software on refurbished or new computers.
- Counterfeiting: Duplicating and selling copyrighted programs.
- Online piracy: Typically involves downloading illegal software from peer-to-peer networks, Internet auction or blog.
The Ethics of Piracy
There are differing views on the ethics of software piracy.
One view states that there is nothing wrong with software piracy based on the concept that information should be free and that piracy is a victimless crime.
The opposite view cites the loss of jobs and the costs of software development as reasons for paying for software, arguing that it is not, after all, a victimless crime, considering the loss of revenues for software companies and the resulting layoffs that occur.
In addition to the latter argument, piracy has the effect of raising the price of legal software, to counteract the losses that developers incur. This, in turn, increases the incidence of piracy, putting the price of legal software beyond the reach of ordinary users.
How to combat piracy
Software developers like Microsoft have enlisted the aid of governments in curbing piracy, emphasizing the need for laws and regulations that make the use of pirated software risky. In response, the Philippines has drafted the Optical Media Act and the Intellectual Property Act and and directed the Optical Media Board and the National Bureau of Investigation to raid and seize pirated software copies.
Another way to combat piracy is to offer a limited trial for the use of software, but this has been defeated by crackers using key generation software that allow users to enter these keys into the software.
Microsoft has tried to combat the threat of piracy by refusing to update its pirated copies of its popular operating system Windows, providing unique security keys to each copy. It has also recently offered its new operating system free of charge to legal owners of its previous software. While these have been successful, it has not altogether curbed software piracy.
However, until software becomes cheap enough or incomes rise high enough that ordinary users can afford legal software, piracy will remain a problem.