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Social attitudes toward software piracy put Canadian small businesses at risk

By Daniel Kosir |

When it comes to stealing software, Canadians stand out.

The 2010 Global Software Piracy Study found that 28 per cent of software used on PCs in Canada is pirated. That's well below the results in 116 areas studied that had software piracy rates of 62 per cent or higher, as well as the overall global average of 42 per cent. But before we pat ourselves on the back, we should consider that our piracy rates are still higher than 13 countries, including the US, Japan, and Australia.

The report, done by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), also found that the majority of PC users around the world believe intellectual property (IP) rights and protections hold economic benefits, with 59 per cent of respondents believing IP helps local economies and 61 per cent saying IP creates jobs.

Canadian Attitudes

A new component of the survey, now in its eighth year, looked at social attitudes and behaviours related to software piracy.

The results suggest a strong support for intellectual property rights in Canada, with 68 per cent of respondents saying inventors should be rewarded for their creations in order to promote technological advancement.

The majority of Canadian PC users also felt that IP benefits local economies (60 per cent) and creates jobs (55 per cent), on par with the global average.

Don't think "if" you are reported, think "when"

With IP gaining more attention, any Canadian business that thinks it wont get caught pirating software should think again.

Even though the percentage of stolen software had decreased to 28 per cent, the commercial value of pirated software has increased, accounting for roughly $1.1 billion in lost revenue. BSA wants to push these numbers down and have launched an aggressive marketing campaign that encourages people to report companies that steal software.

The incentives are high and the motivation plays on social attitudes Canadians have towards piracy:

  • Anyone who wants to report piracy can do so by phone or online at nopiracy.ca;
  • Reporting is confidential, with additional materials on the site making it clear that the person who reports piracy will be protected; and
  • Rewards are offered as an incentive, if the information provided leads to the BSA receiving a monetary settlement from the company being reported.

While the ads target people who report piracy, the message to Canadian businesses is clear: Use legitimate software or face the risk of substantial fines if you are caught.

Penalties much more costly than legitimate licences

According to the BSA website, whether done purposefully or otherwise, software theft can have serious legal repercussions, resulting in civil or criminal charges.

Improper software management can also cost a company financially, and decrease productivity and efficiency. It can even destroy computers and data, due to the risk of picking up a computer virus with your pirated software. That's a payload you can't afford.

Companies that have to settle a claim for unauthorized copying of copyrighted software have to pay for:

  • Statutory damages, which can go as high as $20,000 per unlicensed copy; and
  • The cost of purchasing legitimate licensed copies of the software.

The company will likely also have to commit to implementing software asset management (SAM) practices going forward.

Free tools can help you self-assess license compliance

Allison Dewhirst a spokesperson on behalf of the BSA says it is important for a business to outline an effective software asset management strategy to ensure they have the right licensing and to avoid the negatives that come with using unlicensed software.

The BSA website provides valuable resources for businesses that wish to learn more about proper software implementation, including free software audit tools and a Software Asset Management (SAM) program.  The website stresses that it does not gather or receive any identifying information from these audit tools.

The BSA also suggests obtaining genuine disks, manuals, and licence documentation while purchasing software, being wary of online software auctions as many are illegal, and ensuring that the software is installed and used in accordance with licence agreements.

To access tools that will help your business perform a free software audit, visit the BSA website at: http://www.bsa.org/country/Tools and Resources/All Tools.aspx.



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