In 2009, more than four out of 10 software programs installed on personal computers around the world were stolen, with a commercial value of more than $51 billion. Unauthorized software can manifest in otherwise legal businesses that buy too few software licenses, or overt criminal enterprises that sell counterfeit copies of software programs at cut-rate prices, online or offline.
However, the impact of software piracy goes beyond revenues lost to the software industry, starving local software distributors and service providers of spending that creates jobs and generates much-needed tax revenues for governments around the world.
Curbing piracy has the reverse effect, sending ripples of stimulus through the whole information technology (IT) economy. And lowering piracy faster compounds the benefits. “The Economic Benefits of Reducing Software Piracy” documents these gains in 42 countries, which represent 93 percent of the global market for PC software. Below are the key findings:
- Reducing the piracy rate for PC software by 10 percentage points — 2.5 points per year for four years — would create $142 billion in new economic activity while adding nearly 500,000 new high-tech jobs and generating roughly $32 billion in new tax revenues by 2013.
- On average, more than 80 percent of the benefits of reducing PC software piracy accrue to local economies — and in some cases it is more than 90 percent.
- Front-loading the gain by lowering piracy 10 points in the first two years of a four-year period would compound the economic benefits by 36 percent, producing $193 billion in new economic activity by 2013 and generating $43 billion in new tax revenues.
- Software has a ripple effect on the broader IT industry because selling, servicing and supporting software creates downstream economic activity. In the 42 countries covered in the study, the commercial value of unlicensed PC software put into the market amounted to $45 billion in 2009, resulting in total losses of revenue, employment and taxes from related sectors in excess of $110 billion.
Clearly, concerted action to ensure strong protection for intellectual property (IP) and to reduce software piracy should be a priority for governments — sooner rather than later.
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